Smell ya later, Philadelphia!

Philadelphia, 10th and Spruce Streets, April 15, 2017

I just spent 22 hours in Philadelphia this weekend, and I have to say that I was charmed by its persistent Philly-ness. It still is, and may always be, the Philadelphia that I loved and left nearly 25 years ago.  At the time, I was thrilled to get out, but on my brief visit I was even charmed by some of the nastier details of life in the city.

I’m sure it’s because I no longer have to live there, and because I was on a high from my visit to give a book talk and meet students at Bryn Mawr College, my alma mater, but I was charmed by the somatic and sensory aspects of city life that I recognized instantly.
First, there’s the cigarette smoke on the street–surprisingly, that hasn’t changed in 25 years.  (My hotel room also had a faint trace of cigarette smoke–that was less charming, but I’m kind of a bloodhound when it comes to my powers of smell detection and analysis.)  Even the pee and vomit scents I detected in the daylight hours at many turns inspired nostalgia, probably because those aren’t smells I run into all that often in my life in Colorado. Continue reading

Neil Gorsuch is a plagiarist.

Neil Gorsuch, plagiarist.

I was alerted to this via a Storify that Kevin Gannon posted this morning. Here’s the original Politico article–you be the judge, but I agree with Kevin that it’s “theft and erasure, full stop.”

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch copied the structure and language used by several authors and failed to cite source material in his book and an academic article, according to documents provided to POLITICO.

The documents show that several passages from the tenth chapter of his 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” read nearly verbatim to a 1984 article in the Indiana Law Journal. In several other instances in that book and an academic article published in 2000, Gorsuch borrowed from the ideas, quotes and structures of scholarly and legal works without citing them.

The findings come as Republicans are on the brink of changing Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch over the vehement objections of Democrats. The documents could raise questions about the rigor of Gorsuch’s scholarship, which Republicans have portrayed during the confirmation process as unimpeachable.

.       .       .       .       .

However, six experts on academic integrity contacted independently by POLITICO differed in their assessment of what Gorsuch did, ranging from calling it a clear impropriety to mere sloppiness.

“Each of the individual incidents constitutes a violation of academic ethics. I’ve never seen a college plagiarism code that this would not be in violation of,” said Rebecca Moore Howard, a Syracuse University professor who has written extensively on the issue.

Elizabeth Berenguer, an associate professor of law at Campbell Law School, said that under legal or academic standards Gorsuch’s similarities to the Indiana Law Journal would be investigated “as a potential violation of our plagiarism policy. It’s similar enough to the original work.”

“I would apply an academic writing standard,” said Berenguer, who teaches plagiarism and legal writing. “Even if it were a legal opinion, it would be plagiarism under either.”

Wait–what’s this about “under legal or academic standards?”   Continue reading

Filibuster this.

mushroomcloudTo all of the very worried Democrats and Republicans fretting and rubbing their hands about the possible end of the filibuster: who cares?

The filibuster is a patently anti-democratic parliamentary tactic that should never have existed. The senate is anti-democratic enough to begin with that we don’t need to include all of these bullcrap measures that are about as timely and as fashionable as spittoons and antimacassars.

To liberals on fainting couches: have you reviewed the history of the filibuster? To conservatives huffing and puffing like the Big, Bad Wolf: go ahead and blow the senate down. You won! You get your pick for the Supreme Court!  That’s how it works!  That’s about all you’re going to get out President Human Stain, so enjoy your new Associate Justice of the Supreme Court–those Trumpstains probably won’t come out of your Federalist Society lab experiment, but I’m sure you’ll live happily with the shame. Continue reading

Happy birthday Esther Wheelwright, with remembrances of other American ladies on this date in history.

Esther Wheelwright, c.1763 (oil on canvas), 55.7×45.5 cm; © Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

It’s Esther Wheelwright’s 321st birthday! She was born March 31, 1696 (Old Style).*  Since Esther has been dead for 237 years, I was thrilled to accept a birthday present on her behalf in the form of a rave review of my book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright, at the Christian Century!  (H/t to friend and blog reader Susan for passing it along.)  In “Women Who Do Things,” Margaret Bendroth, the executive director of the Congregational Library and author of The Last Puritans:  Mainline Protestants and the Power of the Past (among many other titles), gets my book exactly right.  Check out her lede, which is just perfect:

An offhand remark can change everything. I still remember a graduate school professor’s consternation at the idea of “women’s history.” “They don’t do anything,” he protested. The comment passed without notice in a room full of male professors and students, but it took up permanent residence in my head. I was hooked, not just by his attitude problem but by the nagging reality that in the categories this well-regarded historian recognized—wars and politics and all that—he was right.

Writing women into history isn’t easy. It’s one thing to add an occasional sidebar in a textbook or praise a heroine whose brave exception proves the rule, but that doesn’t change the overall story line. The narrative still belongs to men who “do things,” driving the engines of change by waging wars and winning elections.

I am so touched that readers and reviewers really get where I’m coming from, and are moved to share their own stories of alienation and feelings of displacement in graduate school.  The discipline of history isn’t just heedless or careless about women and women’s history–it’s actively engaged in denial and erasure. Continue reading

Oh, FFS! Security theater harassment of U.S. families.

LOLsobs for political blogger and trained historian Joshua Micah Marshall, whose eight year-old son was pulled aside for extra scrutiny at Kennedy airport last night in New York:

Someone either from the airport or perhaps the TSA (I think not actually CBP [Customs & Border Patrol]) kept asking/insisting* repeatedly suggesting that the rest of the family go sit in some separate waiting area while Daniel waited in the line alone. This got me, I confess, somewhat belligerent. We all waited together, obviously.

When we finally got to the CBP officer, the fact that Daniel is eight seemed to put a pretty quick end to the whole thing. Daniel answered a few questions, was asked to sign his passport and we were off.

Recent events have made me increasingly see the CBP as something along the lines of a rogue federal agency. I have a very negative sense of the whole organization. That said, the guy we dealt when we finally got through the line with was friendly, professional and pretty chill.

We learned in a subsequent line that Daniel’s is a “common name” and what had happened was that some law enforcement or intelligence agency had put a hold on someone by that name. (I’m wiilling to believe “Daniel Marshall” is a common name; “Daniel Eytan Marshall” I’m not so sure.) And that’s how we ended up in that situation. Will this happen again if we have to return to the US from overseas? Depends. Depends on what? How long the hold is in place.

It’s nice to know the system isn’t advanced enough to cross check for age.

WTF?

Continue reading

Alert the Media: Spring & summer book talk dates!

Yale University Press. 2016

For your convenience, here’s a list of my spring and early summer North American book tour stops. I hope to meet more of you in person, finally!  Most of these events are free and all are open to the public:

Thursday March 30–tomorrow night!–I’ll be at the Longmont Public Library to give a talk about The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright at 7 p.m.

Thursday April 13 I’ll be at Bryn Mawr College to give a talk about the book.  Stay tuned for more details as they arrive–as you might imagine, this trip will be a sentimental favorite, as it’s my own college and therefore a special honor to be asked to return as a guest.

Thursday April 27, I’m one of five invited authors to participate in a book reading at the opening reception of the Western Association of Women Historians in San Diego, California.  The Strawberries and Champagne Book Launch runs from 7-9 p.m. at the Town & Country Resort and Convention Center.

Saturday May 6, I’m doing a book talk at the Morrin Center in Québec.

And finally, on Wednesday June 28 at 6 p.m., I’m going to present my book talk at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.  Come early for cocktails and snacks at 5:30, and stay to get your book signed afterwards!

 

“Complete with lasagna!”

From the Washington Post reportage on the failure of Trumpcare by Robert Costa, Ashley Parker, and Philip Rucker, we note this peculiar detail from the Human Stain’s outreach to Congress:

He cajoled and charmed uncertain members, offering flattery and attention to some and admonishment and the vague threat of political retribution to others. He invited members to the White House for bowling sessions, gave others rides on Air Force One (complete with ­lasagna) and grinned for pictures in the Oval Office, where he reminded lawmakers of his margins of victory in their districts.

Continue reading