Tuesday, July 31, 2007

our newest (and oldest) graduate

Something pretty cool happened at our graduation ceremony yesterday (we have graduation after every term, including summer): As reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kennesaw State University awarded a diploma to our oldest graduate ever:

Arthur Harris attended college for barely two months--when he was 17--before dropping out and joining the Navy. Decades later, while he was working in the skin-care business, he went to Georgia State University.

Now, at 81, he's finally earned his bachelor's degree.

Harris . . . received his diploma from Kennesaw State University on Monday. In a school that always has attracted nontraditional students, Harris was as nontraditional as it gets: He is the oldest student ever to graduate from the Cobb County university. . . .

For the past three years, not unlike his classmates, Harris took two or three classes a semester and stayed up late to write papers on his computer. He even went to Italy this summer in a study abroad program.

He was an English major. Now, according to the story, Harris is considering going back to school to get a second degree in psychology. I guess he heard those rumors about how tough it is for English majors to get jobs.

A story that has bothered me even more than I thought it would

This story (from The Primate Diaries):

The shocking news that four more critically endangered mountain gorillas were killed last week should make all primates of good conscience wince. Furthermore, one of the females was pregnant and another was nursing a five month old infant who is not expected to live.

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, there are an estimated 700 mountain gorillas alive in the wild. The loss of these six gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo represents 0.86% of the total population. This would be the equivalent of slaughtering 5,910 endangered African elephants or 60 million human beings in a single week. In human terms this is the death of every man, woman and child in England (and nearly as many as the population of Congo).

Actually it was probably the images rather than the story itself.

Monday, July 9, 2007

"Bush justice is a national disgrace"

This past week, the Denver Post carried an op-ed piece by John S. Koppel, identified as "a civil appellate attorney with the Department of Justice since 1981." I came across it on TPM's Muckraker.com, and I've seen it nowhere else.

It begins:

As a longtime attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can honestly say that I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time.

The public record now plainly demonstrates that both the DOJ and the government as a whole have been thoroughly politicized in a manner that is inappropriate, unethical and indeed unlawful. The unconscionable commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence, the misuse of warrantless investigative powers under the Patriot Act and the deplorable treatment of U.S. attorneys all point to an unmistakable pattern of abuse.

In the course of its tenure since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has turned the entire government (and the DOJ in particular) into a veritable Augean stable on issues such as civil rights, civil liberties, international law and basic human rights, as well as criminal prosecution and federal employment and contracting practices. It has systematically undermined the rule of law in the name of fighting terrorism, and it has sought to insulate its actions from legislative or judicial scrutiny and accountability by invoking national security at every turn, engaging in persistent fearmongering, routinely impugning the integrity and/or patriotism of its critics, and protecting its own lawbreakers. This is neither normal government conduct nor "politics as usual," but a national disgrace of a magnitude unseen since the days of Watergate - which, in fact, I believe it eclipses.

Koppel's piece deserves much wider circulation.

UPDATE: "I've seen it nowhere else" referred to a quick search of printed media. Turns out Koppel's piece has been reported in several dozen blogs in the last couple of days. Go blogosphere!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Neal Boortz is an idiot, and he's paid way too much

Folks have noted Neal Boortz's ranting this past week in which he claimed--repeatedly, even after a caller tried to correct him--that "Scooter Libby and Bill Clinton got sentenced and convicted for exactly the same crime."

But what really got me is this Boortzism: "Scooter Libby was sentenced to pay a $250,000 fine. That's a quarter of a million dollars, that's more than a lot of people make in a year." No, Neal. $30,000 is more than a lot of people make in a year.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Last week, in response to a meme tag from Ed Darrell, I mentioned a couple of facts about my genealogy-- lots of Methodist preachers and at least one presidential assassin (alleged).

Of course, the family tree is just one sort of genealogy. There's also one's academic genealogy. In graduate school, I was a George Tindall student-- "Our father, who art in Chapel Hill," as Bob McMath, another Tindall student, once said. Bob's right; one's grad school advisor is much like a parent figure, guiding and protecting, shaping the student's research, preparing the student for the world of the profession, etc. Tindall was a Fletcher M. Green student, which makes me Green's academic grandson. (I never met him, but I have Grandpa Fletcher's original American Nation series.) Green was a student of Joseph Gregoire de Rhoulhac Hamilton, who in turn was a student at Columbia of William Archibald Dunning, a fact that amused more than impressed my students as we discussed Reconstruction historiography.

And then there's blog genealogy. Blaine Bettinger, writing at The Genetic Genealogist, recently announced that the site has been given a Thinking Blogger Award. Recipients of the award have to name the next generation of winners. Blaine is in the 70th generation, and if one traces his line back to the original (as Blaine does on the site), Another History Blog is number five, the great (times 60-something) grandparent. (And I just realized I'm late coming to this party. Elementary History Teacher, who is number six, has already left a comment at Blaine's site, "I'm one of your blog great grandmothers....") Those seventy blogs would make a very interesting evening's reading!