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ChineseTacoma.JPG.jpegAs a followup to these posts (1, 2), and in honor of The West Wing, I note that Tacoma, Washington, was the recipient not only of electricity from the United States Navy, but, 45 years earlier, occupation from the United States Army.

In the winter of 1885, anti-Chinese sentiment swept the west coast. In Tacoma (and elsewhere) that sentiment took the form of a pogrom against the city’s ethnic Chinese residents, who were summarily and violently evicted from Tacoma in the first week of November:

At nine o’clock on the morning of November 3, 1885, steam whistles blew at the foundries and mills across Tacoma, to announce the start of the purge of all the Chinese people from the town. Saloons closed and police stood by as five hundred men, branding clubs and pistols, went from house to house in the downtown Chinese quarter and through the Chinese tenements along the city’s wharf. Sensing the storm ahead, earlier in the week, about five hundred Chinese people had fled from
Tacoma. Now the rest were given four hours to be ready to leave. They desperately stuffed years of life into sacks, shawls, and baskets hung from shoulder poles–bedding clothing, pots, some food. At midday, the mob began to drag Chinese laborers from their homes, pillage their laundries, and thrown their furniture into the streets….The mob marched the Chinese through heavy rain to a muddy railroad crossing nine miles from town. [3]

Some were able to pay passage on the next passenger train that came through; some hitched on freight trains; some struggled on foot to Portland.

U.S. Army troops were sent to restore order, which, the New York Times announced, had quieted the city:

The rabid, riotous anti-Chinese talk ceased with the arrival of the troops. Those who had so freely indulged in this chatter, who had discoursed so pathetically on this havoc created by the dreadful Chinaman and the danger of utter extinction to the American citizen by his presence, all at once became wonderfully scarce. The cry “The Chinese must go” was suddenly hushed, and the number of truly good and law-abiding citizens became unusually large.[4]

The unit was the 14th (U.S.) Infantry Regiment, who would be fighting Chinese, rather than protecting them, fifteen years later. [5].

(There’s a map of the mob’s route here. Warning: PDF!)


This nonsense from Clark Hoyt cracked me up. The NYT reported that James O’Keefe “made his biggest national splash last year when he dressed up as a pimp and trained his secret camera on counselors with the liberal community group Acorn.” O’Keefe dressed as a pimp. O’Keefe trained his secret camera on counselors. When he filmed, though, he dressed in khakis and an oxford.

[Hoyt replied to this criticism by saying]—with emphasis in the original— that “The story says O’Keefe dressed up as a pimp and trained his hidden camera on Acorn counselors. It does not say he did those two things at the same time.”

Really brings me back. In grad school, I taught introductory logic courses, and one of the standard things we did was cover basic propositional logic and natural deduction. The idea is to teach formal logic by showing students how to work in an artificial language made of up of atomic propositions (symbolized with p, q, etc.) and truth-functional connectives (&, v, -, etc.). A connective is truth-functional just in case the truth value of a compound sentence made with this connective is determined entirely by the truth values of the component sentences and the way the connective works. For example, suppose we’re dealing with “&” in our artificial language. p&q is true just in case p is true and q is true: that is, all you need to know is the truth values of p and q, and you’ll know what the truth value of p&q is.

And here the Hoyt-type examples come in. I used to use examples where temporal relations mattered to suggest that the artificial language “&” is not really the same as the ordinary-language “and.” It’s kind of like a crude approximation. A classic:

(i) John and Mary got married and had a baby

is different from

(ii) John and Mary had a baby and got married

The natural language version either says or suggests that the events happened in that order, while our “&” doesn’t care about that– all that matters is the truth values of “John and Mary got married” and “John and Mary had a baby.” The lesson to take from this is that our artificial language is different from spoken English in just this way: only the artificial connectives are truth-functional. It’s great to see this old chestnut of a point in the news. Next: Clark Hoyt wonders about justified true belief!

(There are some debates about whether the ordering is just an implicature or part of the truth conditions of the ordinary language sentence. Some people will die in the last ditch arguing for the the truth-functionality of the English “and,” but, if the best the public editor can do is to say “we didn’t print something false; we printed something that was, strictly speaking, true, that we knew ordinary readers would misunderstand,” well, he’s still lousy.)

The older boy’s second grade class is apparently doing a unit on Lincoln this week. So, after finishing his homework, which I have to say is pretty onerous, the boy just explained to me that if he becomes president when he grows up, he’ll “emulate [emulate?] Lincoln in some ways but not in others.” “Oh, in what ways will you emulate him?” I asked. He answered that “if there are slaves then I’ll emancipate [emancipate?] them.” “Good idea,” I said. “But in what ways won’t you emulate our greatest president [it’s never too soon to begin indoctrinating them].” He paused as he thought about it and then replied, “I won’t go to any plays.” Fair enough.

I happened to be in Disneyland on Lincoln’s actual birthday, February 12, and decided, in a particularly sadistic moment, to take my kids to see the new, revised “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” which just opened in December.  I had fond memories of the last iteration of the show, from the early 2000s, which featured a surprisingly good film and a robotic-yet-stirring rendition of the Gettsyburg Address (Ari informs me that the real Lincoln was actually a robot – “true fact”, he says – and suggests that the imagineers were just being authentic).   Surprisingly, my children did not believe that listening to an animatronic president speak on death and destruction was the best use of scarce Disneyland time, but I cheerfully dragged them out of the southern California sunshine and waited to be transported back in time to the Civil War….

Only to discover that the show is really about more recent wars, notably the Cold one.  The new version is actually a recreation of the original, 1964 “Great Moments” that debuted at the New York World’s Fair, and features not the Gettysburg Address, or the second inaugural, or any number of memorable Lincoln moments.  Instead, it features a pastiche of Lincoln quotes over a twenty-five year span, hacked from their context and smashed together, to create a rather disquieting figure who seems more Joe McCarthy than Honest Abe:

What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not our frowning embattlements, our bristling sea coasts. These are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.

At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, that if it ever reach us, it must spring from amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be the authors and finishers. As a nation of free men, we must live through all times, or die by suicide.

According to Wikipedia, the whole speech – this is just a part – combines sentences from 1838, 1852, 1858, 1860, and 1864. What would cause someone to choose quotes about enemies within, instead of using an actual speech by a man who, I’m told, wrote some pretty good ones? In today’s climate, the speech comes across like some sort of Tea Party screed.

*Sorry, Ari.


Symbols often have long histories, even ones that have become synonymous with evil. The Nazi appropriation of the swastika overwhelmed any later sense of that long history, and so there is shock at seeing Rabbit Maranville, an baseball player in the early 20th century, wearing a cap with a swastika on it:6CC7A3BE-2CA8-45A4-9C60-FF483AB65638.jpg

Was Rabbit Maranville a Nazi? Should be referred to as Herr Maranville, or better yet, “Hare” Maranville?

The answer is, of course, no, but the investigation at Baseball Researcher is well-worth reading. Nor was the usage confined to baseball players. A quick search of the New York Times prior to 1918 revealed a sailing boat named “Swastika”, an antique Chinese rug on auction with a lovely “swastika border,” and a “Swastika edition” of the works of Rudyard Kipling.

(Updated title per this kind correction)

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a series of articles on the virtues of private, for-profit education as offered by the University of Phoenix, DeVry, and similar institutions. Such private-sector, market-driven outfits are “nimble,” much more so than their stodgy public-sector, nonprofit ancestors.

As Chronicle veteran Stephen Burd says, in effect, “wait, what?”

The Chronicle fails to note that all of that “personal attention” doesn’t pay off for many of their students. In fact, less than one third of first-time, full-time students who attend the University of Phoenix graduate within six years…. The Chronicle articles fails to acknowledge that some of the largest publicly-traded for-profit higher education companies have in recent years come under intense scrutiny from federal and state regulators and have faced numerous lawsuits by former employees, shareholders, and students over allegations that they have engaged in misleading recruiting and admissions tactics to inflate their enrollment numbers. With all of the glowing praise for the University of Phoenix throughout the package, one would expect that there would at least be some mention of the $78.5 million settlement that the university’s owners reached recently in a False Claims lawsuit that accused the institution of routinely violating a federal law that aims to prevent schools from aggressively recruiting unqualified students.

Such concerns have prompted the U.S. Department of Education to start a process of rewriting its student aid regulations to strengthen a federal ban on colleges compensating recruiters based on their success in enrolling students. Department officials are also planning to add teeth to the rules requiring for-profit colleges to show that graduates are finding “gainful employment” in their fields of study and to regulations that forbid schools from willfully misleading prospective students. Incredibly, the Chronicle articles make no mention of the Education Department’s efforts. The Chronicle has dutifully reported on the recently completed negotiated rulemaking sessions on these topics — so this omission is absolutely mind-boggling. In a package of stories that runs nearly 7,000 words, the federal government’s concerns about many of these institutions certainly merit attention.

Finding evidence that students are not always being well-served is not that difficult. For example, Corinthian Colleges recently announced that nine of its Everest College campuses have 2008 cohort default rates exceeding 25 percent, including two topping 30 percent. In other words, an alarming number of the schools’ former students who entered repayment on their federal student loans during the 2008 fiscal year defaulted on them within two years. Moreover, Corinthian expects that 56 to 58 percent of the private loan funds that the company provides to high-risk students with sub-prime credit records will eventually end up in default.

This doesn’t make the Chronicle sound fair and balanced.

Title from DeVry’s ad campaign for their new “don’t get pwned” motto slogan.

This post thanks to an email tip.

The Smiths’ second album released 25 years ago on Valentine’s Day. Some reflections from younger musicians here. And here’s Rusholme Ruffians.

I think the album holds up pretty well. There’s lots of good playing and the lyrics are twee but funny enough to age all right. “Scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen– this means you really love me.” Verdict: nothing to be ashamed of!

(Would that were true of all the music I was rocking out to at the time; Martin Gore, I’m looking at you. Warning: may cause seizures.)

The CIA has released documents confirming that it used an alleged deep-sea mining vessel called the Glomar Explorer to raise part of a sunken Soviet submarine from the floor of the Pacific Ocean in 1974.  This is a step forward for the agency, which in the past has refused to confirm or deny its connection to the Glomar Explorer, but agency officials are still declining to say how much the project cost, how much of the sub they recovered, and what, if any, intelligence they gleaned from the project.

The Soviet submarine sank for unknown reasons about 1,500 miles from Hawaii in March 1968, taking its crew and three nuclear missiles to the bottom of the Pacific.  A year and a half later, the CIA established a task force to study the feasibility of harvesting the 1,750-ton vessel from the ocean floor, some 16,500 feet down.  The task force concluded that it needed to build a huge, specially designed ship with winches that could lower a sling beneath the sub and gently hoist it to the surface.  The government hired Howard Hughes’s Summa Corporation to build the Glomar Explorer, which was disguised as a deep-ocean mining ship.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the mission: the Cold War began to cool down.  As U.S.-Soviet tensions began to ease, some White House advisers ordered a review of the project, “in light of increasing concern that … the developing political climate might prohibit mission approval.” The nation’s top defense officials were uniformly critical of the project.  The Chief of Naval Operations, the assistant secretary of defense for intelligence, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all judged the program to be dangerously provocative, absurdly expensive, and unlikely to produce much valuable intelligence.  But CIA director Richard Helms convinced President Nixon to ignore his top military advisers and give the green light to the project. Read the rest of this entry »

(First part here)

020367.jpgIn the winter of 1929-30, as the United States economy sank into the Great Depression, a continuing drought in Washington state made things even more difficult for the city of Tacoma. Tacoma relied for its electricity on power generated by a series of dams in the interior of the state. The drought, “unequaled for thirty-nine years,” reduced the water level behind those dams to such a low level that the city’s electricity supply was reduced to 10 percent of the requirement. The situation was so dire that some local churches had organized prayers for more rain, though at least one minister was not best pleased:

‘God planted timber for water conservation,’ declared the Rev. M, E. Bollen of University Baptist Church. ‘We cut it for profit and ask God to make up the difference. For Seattle to ask God for rain without bringing forth fruits of repentance is sheer hypocrisy and rank paganism. Rain-making preachers…have so enlarged the theological eye of the needle that it resembles a triumphal arch over the boulevard and limousines dash through six abreast.'[1]

By coincidence, the Lexington was at the Puget Naval Yard being overhauled, and in late November, the cities asked that she be used to provide power. Secretary of the Navy Adams rejected the proposal, saying that “‘many considerations’ made it inadvisable.”[2] Undeterred, a group from Washington appealed to President Hoover. Though the President told them that the decision was up to Adams, Hoover seems to have pressured the Secretary of the Navy during the following week, because Adams relented. He was still not best pleased by the idea, saying that losing the Lexington to such a task would be a “serious blow to the Navy.”[3], but he reluctantly agreed to release the aircraft carrier to the city for a “period not exceeding thirty days.”[4]

020247.jpgThe Lexington tied up in Tacoma on December 15th, barges serving as bumpers between her and the dock, and a special-built electric substation sitting nearby. Crowds gathered at the dock and on nearby hills to watch. The next day, the ship started providing electricity, 12 hours per day. It was not a complete replacement, but it was enough to keep the city and the city’s industries running, no small thing in the middle of an economic downturn.

During the month, the Lexington was visited by troops of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Read the rest of this entry »

My only thought about the Amy Bishop thing is that I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often. Academics are weird, and tenure denial can be awful. The kind of focus needed to make it on to the tenure track can produce a kind of tunnel vision that blinds one to other parts of life, and, in that mindset, the failure of one’s central project can seem like the kind of blow that might as well be life-ending. (No, I never thought about shooting anyone, though I did contemplate, without much endorsement, taking an enormous crap on a colleague’s desk.)

A friend who teaches at UA-H knew Bishop a bit and reports that she was very weird before this, too. I can’t imagine what departmental life will be like going forward.

Glenn Reynolds has a post on this which contains the following update:

UPDATE: From “This class was great. Bishop makes the class interesting by talking about her research and her friends research. That speaker she had for class was hard to understand but smart. She expects alot and you need to come to every class and study. She is hot but she tries to hide it.And she is a socalist but she only talks about it after class.”

Reader George Berryman writes: “I’m guessing the ’she’s a socialist’ part won’t get talked about much in the MSM. But if she had been a conservative it’d lead every evening news cast for two months.”

In other adventures in loathsomeness, Ta-Nehisi Coates gets some interesting comments.

I am currently hanging in effigy a printed off picture of you, Tee-hee-hee, over my computer with the words ‘Lynch Coates’ written on the photo. Discern that.

The odd thing here is that the comment purports to be from Tim Sumner, who runs a website that asks to be taken seriously. I hope he was drunk, or something.

Today we remember the hapless epicure Adolf Frederick I, a twig from the Holstein family tree who reigned as King of Sweden from 1751 until his death in on this date in 1771. His two decades on the throne were significant only to the extent that he presided helplessly over the decline of the Swedish kingdom.

As sovereign, Frederick I was almost completely powerless and functioned more or less as an ornament while the riksdag managed the affairs of state, which included Sweden’s commitment to the Seven Years’ War — the first truly global war in human history, provoked by a poisonous mixture of European internal politics and colonialism.  Sweden’s contribution to the struggle consisted mainly of throwing a series of tiny, scrofulous armies into the field against Frederick II of Prussia.  The Prussian ruler was so unimpressed with the Swedish effort that when hostilities ended in 1762, he expressed mock surprise upon learning that he had been at war with Sweden in the first place.  The war upended Swedish national life, resulting in the temporary collapse of the political hegemony enjoyed by the upper nobility (known as the Hats); the lower nobility (known as the Caps) assumed power over the government but faced feirce resistance from the Hats as well as constant foreign interference from Prussia, Russia and Denmark.  King Adolf Frederick was irrelevant to the plot.  An avid woodworking hobbyist, he spent most of his time playing with his beloved turning lathe.

Among his other passions in life, Frederick was an avid collector of biological specimens. During his years as the Swedish crown prince, he served as an important resource for Carl Linnaeus, who studied the prince’s cabinet while sorting out the details of his famous taxonomic system. On February 12, 1771, Frederick’s two decades of idle monarchy came to an end. That night, he celebrated Fettisdagen — better known to us as Fat Tuesday — by gathering his final collection of specimens for a titanic pre-Lenten feast of lobster, boiled meats, caviar, sour cabbage, smoked herring, turnips and champagne. For dessert, the king gobbled fourteen servings of semla, a traditional wheat pastry usually served in warm milk with cinnamon and raisins. He died that night — propped up on Queen Louisa Ulrica’s knees — of a massive digestive event, the details of which have sadly not been preserved in Swedish historiography.

lex1925-bld.jpgThe American aircraft carriers Lexington and Saratoga were built in the 1920s, converted from the unfinished hulls of battlecruisers made redundant by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. One of their innovative aspects was a relatively new kind of engine, the turbine-electric. Rather than driving the propellers through a series of gears, the steam boilers in the Lexington and Saratoga drove electrical generators. The electricity then powered electric drives in the rear of the ship which turned the propellers. This new set-up was supposed to have advantages of economy, efficiency, the ability to reverse the propellers quickly, and better low speed operations. Popular Science proudly labeled the new engines as a “major revolution in shipbuilding.” [1] Read the rest of this entry »

If you liked Sokal, you might enjoy this: Bernard-Henri Levy cites Jean-Baptiste Botul approvingly in his new book. Sadly Botul is a fictional creation.

There were clues. One supposed work by Botul — from which BHL quoted — was entitled The Sex Life of Immanuel Kant. The philosopher’s school is known as Botulism and subscribes to his theory of “La Metaphysique du Mou” — the Metaphysics of the Flabby. Botul even has a Wikipedia entry that explains that he is a “fictional French philosopher”….

But Mr Lévy, a leader among the nouveaux philosophes school of the 1970s, was unaware. In On War in Philosophy, he writes that Botul had proved once and for all “just after the Second World War, in his series of lectures to the neo-Kantians of Paraguay, that their hero was an abstract fake, a pure spirit of pure appearance”….

Appearing on Canal+ television, he said he had always admired The Sex Life of Immanuel Kant and that its arguments were solid, whether written by Botul or Pages. “I salute the artist [Pages],” he said, adding with a philosophical flourish: “Hats off for this invented-but-more-real-than-real Kant, whose portrait, whether signed Botul, Pages or John Smith, seems to be in harmony with my idea of a Kant who was tormented by demons that were less theoretical than it seemed.”

Can fictional authors die?

Via Brian Leiter.

Blueprint America is a massive new PBS undertaking to document the past, present, and future of America’s infrastructure.

Blueprint America is a precedent-setting multi-platform initiative — developed and produced by Thirteen/WNET, and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation — that will harness the power of public broadcasting’s most prestigious programs, primetime documentaries, community and educational outreach, and the web to shine an unyielding spotlight on one of the most critical issues facing our country, yet one that has been under-reported by the traditional news media: America’s decaying and neglected infrastructure. We hear about infrastructure only when it results in a catastrophic bridge collapse or levee failure, but in fact, it is placing our quality of life and our ability to compete in a global economy at risk.

Please don’t think the less of it because parts feature, uh, me.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Check your local listings, as they say.

Don’t be. The United States Naval Institute fills the need:






Read the rest of this entry »

In picking the soundtrack of a Super Bowl for the second line, blackink implies no Nevilles are necessary. Well, okay, but:

Granted, beating up on the burnt-orange and burnter-orange Bucs was not such a recommendation. Still.

“Brother John” b/w “Iko Iko” and ObMuppets under the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Crazy story in the NYT: bank robber goes to prison, becomes a fine legal mind.

[Shon Hopwood] prepared his first petition for certiorari — a request that the Supreme Court hear a case — for a fellow inmate on a prison typewriter in 2002. Since Mr. Hopwood was not a lawyer, the only name on the brief was that of the other prisoner, John Fellers.

The court received 7,209 petitions that year from prisoners and others too poor to pay the filing fee, and it agreed to hear just eight of them. One was Fellers v. United States.

“It was probably one of the best cert. petitions I have ever read,” said Seth P. Waxman, a former United States solicitor general who has argued more than 50 cases in the Supreme Court. “It was just terrific.”

And I love this twist:

Mr. Hopwood was released from prison in the fall of 2008. Mr. Fellers was out by then, and he owned a thriving car dealership in Lincoln.

“Here,” Mr. Fellers said, presenting his jailhouse lawyer with a 1989 Mercedes in pristine condition. “Thank you for getting me back to my daughter.”

Now he’s thinking about going to law school. He’s like the Saul Kripke of constitutional law.

Sure, Football/Healthcare Jesus, Peyton Manning is a very fine quarterback. And he played well tonight (that throw to Tracy Porter was heaven-sent). But it’s also worth remembering that other than one Super Bowl victory over a badly outgunned team, Manning hasn’t won anything in his entire life. Nothing. So, I ask you, who will be the first journalist courageous enough to call him overrated? “When considering all-time greats, he’s probably in the Dilfer quartile, or somewhere thereabouts.” I really can’t wait to read a sentence like that.

Also, with good having trounced evil tonight, can we assume that comprehensive healthcare reform is just around the corner?

I am glad to see this.  I’m not much for counting calories (absolutely no patience for it), but it’s been such a little glaring piece of marketing gimick as almost everything under the sun is not new, to the swift, or actually eaten in 150 calorie increments.   Anything can look like an acceptable indulgence if its serving size is artificially reduced, but no one eats a third of a candy bar at a time.

Meditate on that, o bhikkhus, as you eat your Superbowl guacamole (in my experience, serving size roughly the mass of Earth, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.)

I’m a thoughtful person, I am:

The war in Afghanistan feels foreign to Americans: a far distant land, a confusing and alien culture, and combat against a shadowy enemy. That feeling is mistaken. America has spent much of its history fighting wars like the one in Afghanistan. So much so, in fact, that Afghanistan would be familiar to an American in 1900, and conventional wars such as World War II would seem strange.

From the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.

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