August 2, 2014
Movie Review: Prohibition (2011)

Title: Prohibition
Release Date: 2 October 2011
Director: Ken Burns and Lynn Novick
Production Co: Florentine Films
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: Documentary | History
Rating: ****

This Ken Burns documentary illustrates the United States’ experiment with banning alcoholic beverages. The story is told in three parts.

Part I documents the adverse effect alcohol consumption had on…

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July 7, 2014
"One of the few areas where the Framers approached a consensus was a belief that their Constitution shouldn’t be fetishized. According to Lepore, it was none other than Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human.” And in Federalist 14, James Madison wondered if it was “not the glory of the people of America, that… they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons or their own experience?”"

July 4th Note to Tea Partiers: Your Politics Would Baffle the Founding Fathers | Blog | BillMoyers.com

May 28, 2014
"The Second Amendment begins, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” and that’s where Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, begins, too. He has gone back into the framers’ original arguments and made two essential discoveries, one surprising and the other not surprising at all. The surprising discovery is that of all the amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, the Second was probably the least debated. What we know is that the founders were deeply opposed to a standing army, which they viewed as the first step toward tyranny. Instead, their assumption was that the male citizenry would all belong to local militias. As Waldman writes, “They were not allowed to have a musket; they were required to. More than a right, being armed was a duty.” Thus the unsurprising discovery: Virtually every reference to “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” — the second part of the Second Amendment — was in reference to military defense. Waldman notes the House debate over the Second Amendment in the summer of 1789: “Twelve congressmen joined the debate. None mentioned a private right to bear arms for self-defense, hunting or for any purpose other than joining the militia.” In time, of course, the militia idea died out, replaced by a professionalized armed service. Most gun regulation took place at the state and city level. The judiciary mostly stayed out of the way. In 1939, the Supreme Court upheld the nation’s first national gun law, the National Firearms Act, which put onerous limits on sawed-off shotguns and machine guns — precisely because the guns had no “reasonable relation” to “a well-regulated militia.”"

What Did the Framers Really Mean? - NYTimes.com

April 27, 2014
Photopost: Colonial Virginia

Some of my favorite photos from our recent trip to Virginia are below.  See the complete photo album on my website.

View of Duke of Gloucester Street from the Capitol Building.

For Spring Break, my son Peter and I traveled to Virginia to visit my mother and play tourist at Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestowne, and Go-Karts Plus.  It was  three-day trip but it felt like we saw and learned a…

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April 19, 2014

The Midnight Ride of William Dawes
by Helen F. Moore 
I am a wandering, bitter shade,Never of me was a hero made;Poets have never sung my praise,Nobody crowned my brow with bays;And if you ask me the fatal cause,I answer only, “My name was Dawes”'Tis all very well for the children to hearOf the midnight ride of Paul Revere;But why should my name be quite forgot,Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?Why should I ask? The reason is clear —My name was Dawes and his Revere.When the lights from the old North Church flashed out,Paul Revere was waiting about,But I was already on my way.The shadows of night fell cold and grayAs I rode, with never a break or a pause;But what was the use, when my name was Dawes!History rings with his silvery name;Closed to me are the portals of fame.Had he been Dawes and I Revere,No one had heard of him, I fear.No one has heard of me becauseHe was Revere and I was Dawes.

The Midnight Ride of William Dawes
by Helen F. Moore 

I am a wandering, bitter shade,
Never of me was a hero made;
Poets have never sung my praise,
Nobody crowned my brow with bays;
And if you ask me the fatal cause,
I answer only, “My name was Dawes”

'Tis all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear —
My name was Dawes and his Revere.

When the lights from the old North Church flashed out,
Paul Revere was waiting about,
But I was already on my way.
The shadows of night fell cold and gray
As I rode, with never a break or a pause;
But what was the use, when my name was Dawes!

History rings with his silvery name;
Closed to me are the portals of fame.
Had he been Dawes and I Revere,
No one had heard of him, I fear.
No one has heard of me because
He was Revere and I was Dawes.

March 30, 2014
Book Review: The Information by James Gleick

Book Review: The Information by James Gleick

AuthorJames Gleick
TitleThe Information
Publication Info: New York : Books on Tape, 2011
Summary/Review:

The Information is a sweeping historical / scientific / technological account of information across time and disciplines.  From talking drums, language, DNA, telegraphs, and bytes to  Claude Shannon, Charles Babbage, Ada Byron, Samuel Morse, Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins and…

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March 26, 2014
Book Review: Where God Was Born by Bruce Feiler

Book Review: Where God Was Born by Bruce Feiler

Author:Bruce Feiler
TitleWhere God Was Born
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2005)
ISBN: 9780060888572
Summary/Review:

Feiler’s book is a unique combination of travelogue, history, theology, and personal growth.  Feiler documents his journeys to Israel, Iraq, and Iran to visit the sites of places mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures.  There’s a lot of interesting discussion of the Israelites and the…

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March 25, 2014
Book Review: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

Book Review: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

Author: Reza Aslan
TitleZealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Publication Info: Random House (2013)
ASIN: B00BRUQ7ZY
Summary/Review:

I’ve not read a lot about the historical Jesus so this short summary of his life and times was engaging and enlightening.  ”His times” is an important part of the title as few historical documents survive outside the scriptures (canonical and otherwise)…

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March 18, 2014
Book Review: A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico by Amy S. Greenberg

Book Review: A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico by Amy S. Greenberg

AuthorAmy S. Greenberg
TitleA Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico
Publication Info: Knopf (2012)
ISBN: 9780307592699
Summary/Review:

Like many Americans, I know very little about the Mexican War, which is a shame since what I learned from this one-volume history, we Americans keep repeating the same mistakes our nation made in this war.  Greenberg writes a…

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March 8, 2014
Worst Night of the Year Won’t Go Away

Worst Night of the Year Won’t Go Away

Believe it or not it’s been three years since I posted how much I hate Daylight Saving Time, and particularly the night in which we must “spring forward” the clock 1 hour.  I’m not looking forward to waking up tomorrow and dragging myself through the day.

I’ve nothing new to write, but here are my previous four posts on the topic:

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February 23, 2014
Book Review: Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston by Michael Rawson

Book Review: Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston by Michael Rawson

Author: Michael Rawson
Title: Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston
Publication Info: Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, c2010.
ISBN: 9780674048416
Summary/Review:

This wonderfully researched and well-written history, explores the making of Boston by focusing on the social and environmental factors that shaped the city, its human ecology.  There are five sections of the book:

1.…

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February 7, 2014
Photo of New Haven after the Blizzard of 1888.

Makes me think of two things:

1. All the people who say “OMG it’s snowing, what about global warming” (whether they’re serious or joking) need more historical perspective.

2. Look how clean that sidewalk is.  Imagine if the priority today was to make sure that the city was a safe place to walk after the storm instead of just digging out cars.

Photo of New Haven after the Blizzard of 1888.

Makes me think of two things:

1. All the people who say “OMG it’s snowing, what about global warming” (whether they’re serious or joking) need more historical perspective.

2. Look how clean that sidewalk is. Imagine if the priority today was to make sure that the city was a safe place to walk after the storm instead of just digging out cars.

January 6, 2014
"Over a century after he was first recorded using the word, we still ask that question — is she or isn’t she racist? — in situations where no clear answer would ever present itself. We argue about the composition of the accused’s soul and the fundamental goodness or badness therein. But those are things we can’t possibly know. And as we litigate that question, other more meaningful questions become obscured. Racism remains a force of enormous consequence in American life, yet no one can be accused of perpetrating it without a kicking up a grand fight. No one ever says, “Yeah, I was a little bit racist. I’m sorry.” That’s in part because racists, in our cultural conversations, have become inhuman. They’re fairy-tale villains, and thus can’t be real. There’s no nuance to these public fights, as a veteran crisis manager told my colleague, Hansi Lo Wang. Someone is either a racist and therefore an inhuman monster, or they’re an actual, complex human being, and therefore, by definition, incapable of being a racist."

The Ugly, Fascinating History Of The Word ‘Racism’ : Code Switch : NPR

January 6, 2014
The US declared war on poverty 50 years ago. You would never know it | Nicolaus Mills | Comment is free | theguardian.com

January 6, 2014
"If the history of gun laws in America has any relevance to the definition of modern gun rights — and the Supreme Court in its Second Amendment rulings has said it does — then virtually no gun laws, including outright bans, are beyond the pale. While gun ownership is as old as America, so are gun laws. Early gun laws restricted native Americans, slaves, indentured servants, vagrants, non-Protestants, those who refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the government, felons and foreigners from owning or possessing guns, and placed numerous restrictions on the recreational use of them. Early laws also regulated the manufacture, inspection and sale of firearms, as well as placing restrictions on gun storage and discharge. Others prohibited not only the firing of guns in or near towns, but firing after dark, on Sundays, in public places, near roads or while under the influence of alcohol. As weapons became more prolific in the 19th century, state regulations also proliferated, commonly criminalizing not only the carrying of firearms, but the mere brandishing or display of guns, such as a law against exhibiting “the said deadly weapons in a rude, angry or threatening manner.” Other laws made it a crime to “draw or threaten to use” a firearm. After the Civil War, six states banned handguns outright, and one state, Wyoming, banned all firearms from “any city, town or village.” In the early 20th century, most states banned fully automatic weapons. And as if anticipating the current, much-disputed semi-automatic assault weapons restrictions, at least seven states in the 1920s and early 1930s banned semi-automatic weapons entirely, as well as certain gun accessories like silencers and — you guessed it — large-capacity bullet magazines. Finally, consider this state law: “every person within the state … who owns or has in his possession any fire arms or weapons shall make a full, true and complete verified report … to the sheriff of the county in which such person lives, of all fire arms and weapons which are owned or possessed by him or her or are in his or her control, and on sale or transfer into the possession of any other person such person shall immediately forward to the sheriff of the County in which such person lives the name and address of that purchaser and person into whose possession or control such fire arm or weapon was delivered … For the purpose of this Act a fire arm or weapon shall be deemed to be any revolver, pistol, shot gun, rifle.” While this might read like a tough new state gun law, it was “An Act providing for the registration of all fire arms and weapons and regulating the sale thereof” enacted by Montana. In 1918. Next to this, the SAFE Act looks pretty tame."

A history lesson for foes of N.Y. gun law  - NY Daily News

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