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A note from my classmate Peter Britton ’56 …

A man of no conscience.

I awake on Tuesday to find a sociopath has endangered every living organism on our planet.

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AP Photo/ Charlie Riedel

Now, go to goggle and search “man of no conscience” and “sociopath.”

For prior proof search “EPA and energy,”  “at-risk populations” and “CO2 and rising seas and “carbonic acid.”  And Trump.

For the most powerful man on earth has made sadism and masochism his very own trademarks.

And only a man of zero conscience and empathy could do that where seven billion humans and trillions of other living things are concerned.

But, perhaps the rising seas will reach only the 20th floor of Trump Tower.

Here are two recent song-videos on this turn of events:

CO2 BLUE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeMT9QO0azo

GORDIAN KNOT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HxRrk6LH4g

And a thought from the Appalachian Mountains:

Mother Nature’s brilliant plan
Sequestered all black rocks;
Then mankind’s selfish mind
Unlock’ t Pandora’ s  box

CLIMATE CHANGE is not a joke or a hoax. In 1972 I wrote a story on “weather” for Exxon’s house organ, The Lamp.

During my research I found a company plan to pave the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia with asphalt, blacktop and hydrocarbon discards to create rain for local farmers and, incidentally, enable in – depth study of global warming/climate change.

This story never ran and as far as I could tell, the project fizzled.

But reviving XL and Dakota Pipelines, dismantling Obama’s energy initiatives and Exxon’s $22 billion Gulf Coast investment in 11 new oil refineries brings back Dr. James Hansen’s recent and most dire warning: If Canada’s tar sands flow to Texas, “Game Over” for climate change …

Nota Bene from Dick Swart ’56    My classmate Peter Britton is a committed environmentalist. He expresses his concerns musically in themed albums like …

MI0002799857 … this and others are available online https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/peterbritton

and his book …

9781626757707_p0_v1_s437x700 available online  https://www.amazon.com/Coal-Aint-Culprit-Peter-Britton-ebook/dp/B00D3NU6OG

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Doctor of Rocket Science

Congratulations to Joe Shoer ’06 on successfully defending his dissertation. I like this:

The funniest thing about this to me is that I know that the research I’ve been working on isn’t done. There are more investigations to pursue, more refinements to write into the code, more variations to try in simulation, and more experimental verification to perform. Research never stops. But at some point, we grad students have to decide, with our advisers, when we have made a sufficient contribution and should wrap up our work into a complete dissertation. Still, it doesn’t quite feel like I’m “done,” because I know that the research has much further to go!

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Recent additions to Eph Planet

  • The Williams College Council
  • Andrew Quinn ’13: Backing Uphill, which seems to be a conservative political blog
  • Meghan Stetson ’07 is blogging her training to run the Boston Marathon at Call me crazy
  • Blake Schultz ’10 is blogging about playing basketball for Hertener Löwen, a Bundesliga team
  • Yours truly, who will be posting photographs (mostly of NYC) and prose of indeterminate quality at unknown times
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A Holiday Recipe from Porter McConnell ’00

Happy Thanksgiving! Looking for a regional favorite to complement your turkey? Check out Porter McConnell ’00’s blog, “Slow Christmas,” which features a delicious Kentucky Thanksgiving favorite: Oyster Casserole. A little background:

In Louisville, it’s tradition to serve oyster casserole at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a curious thing, given Kentucky is a land-locked state and tinned oysters must’ve been pretty expensive back in the day. But if you’re going to splurge, it makes sense that you’d put them in a creamy casserole:  relatively few oysters are enough to impart a delicious aroma throughout the dish.

If this sounds delicious, follow the link over to Porter’s blog, where you’ll find the recipe, which she recommends serving at other times with green lentil and tomato stew.

And remember, on the occasions when posting is a little slow at EphBlog, you can always find something interesting in the “Eph Planet” feature on the left sidebar — which contains the latest posts from Porter and dozens of other Eph bloggers worldwide.

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“Live-Blogging” Game 5 of the 1976 ALCS. Yankees v. Royals

I really wasn’t going to do another one of these.

Simply really. The last one got a lot of positive feedback and, frankly, in a lot of ways, I’ve moved away from baseball (and most other professional sports) to soccer and college athletics, so why not quit while I was ahead? But the death of George Steinbrenner has made me want to “live blog” this particular game: Game 5 of the 1976 American League Championship Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees, October 14, 1976. For George, this was his first real triumph as Yankees owner: the first time the Yankees had been to post season in twelve years. For me, it was a watershed game. This was the first Royals team I followed avidly, and the amount of civic pride in their accomplishment was just insane. This particular game started my life lessons that, no matter how much a nine year old wants to believe, sometimes his heroes don’t win. And so, off we go to a chilly October night in the Bronx….

Read more

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New Invisible Hand Podcast on… Statistics (and breakfast with Kane & Swart)

So, my wife and I had breakfast this morning here in Portland with both Dave Kane AND Dick Swart and in between my shameless monopolizing of the conversation, which I apologize for publicly here in this forum of forums, Dave asked if I would post more of my content on Ephblog. This made me laugh a little, because the current episode of The Invisible Hand deals with statistics. I promised Dave I would mention him in this post, but also state that he does not necessarily endorse this episode (he hasn’t heard it yet). I teased him that, as Williams’ most celebrated statistician, his rub would help the show.

This book, How To Measure Anything, is a fantastic book on how to think about measurement, particularly those things that may be thought intangible by those looking for answers. You will hear me early on decrying my own statistical training, which was a collision of my undeveloped cerebrum and their antiquated pedagogy. That’s not a mix to ensure success. The show runs 35 minutes. TIH 109- How to Measure Anything

Now then, you may be wondering what breakfast was like with these two Eph titans. Well, they almost ordered exactly the same thing (eggs over easy, bacon) but Swart got pancakes and Kane got sourdough toast. Drinks were orange juice, milk and a latte. For all my talking, I was rewarded with extremely interesting business ideas from both of them (I will one day tell the story of little Jimmy Vuvuzela, Hedge Fund Manager from the Lower East Side), but the highlight was seeing Dick perform a one man pantomime of Verdi’s “La Traviata”, quite a feat in a crowded dining room. And for those who remember my last meal with Swart, yes, he wore THOSE shoes again.

I had a great time and if you ever have a chance to have a meal with either Dave or Dick, I highly encourage you to go. It was a blast.

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Quick Links

  • An excellent proposal for the future of social networking, from Miles Klee ’07:

    The Problems: Software cannot compensate for multivalence of human language or extract opinion from complex syntax. User-provided information insufficient to form 100% accurate/effective ad mosaic. Social networking still dominated by non-commercial data, i.e., quotidian/creative user content.

    With Miles’ plan, we can finally extinguish non-commercial content.

  • Steve O’Grady ’97 has a good post on the commodification of journalism and the future of news:

    Reporting as the art of regurgitating the traditional who, what, where and when’s demise probably began with the rise of TV, maybe even the radio. Today, everybody knows everything. Fast.[…]

    What everybody doesn’t know, however, is what it means. What’s the significance? What’s the context? And so on. I honestly could care less who was first had the news that the healthcare bill had passed, but I’ll put a premium on someone with the ability to put the enormous bill in context, whether that’s for me or in the historical sense.

    Context is king.

  • Ariel Ramchandani is looking forward to civet-poop coffee becoming trendy.
  • Stephen Rose ’58 optimistically thinks that the venting season may be over.
  • Peter Nunns ’08 on the conceptual and political impossibility of the term “slums”
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Ephs in Beijing

Thanks to Prof. Sam Crane for sending this in:

I thought Ephblog might like this photo, taken last night (Beijing time), Wednesday, March 24. It includes alums Thomas Jones, Jenn Lee and Joe Kauffman (and his wife Angie and little girl Avital); current students Jackson Lu, Cadence Hardenberg, Jessica Harris and Caroline Ng; uber-parent CK Shen (father of alums Clarissa, Geraldine and current student Loretta); and me. I was visiting in Beijing to, among other things, give a talk to the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, and Jenn and CK organized a dinner at a local Italian restaurant (a nice break from the ubiquitous, and quite excellent, Chinese food). CK brought the colors that we displayed throughout the evening. A good time was had by all…

Ephs in Beijing

(click for larger)

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Choose your own adventure

Mile Klee ’07 writes a Choose Your Own Adventure blog post.

Oh, and bonus Eph connection.

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Salute and respect

David Kaiser makes the case for repealing DADT in response to this editorial by Gen. McPeak.

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Appeal to Authority

Miles Klee ’07 on is now a contributor at fancy elite blog The Awl (one of my very favorite blogs on the internet! Add it to your daily reading list now!). His first article was The Oscars are Next Week and Nope, I Still Haven’t Seen ‘Avatar’ and his most recent is The Five Kinds of Appeal to Authority You Meet on the Internet, which covers such tropes as:

  • The Misappropriated Founder
  • The Overwhelming Fan Consensus
  • The Borrowed Moral Imperative
  • The Untouchable Artistic Gospel
  • The Useful Tautology
  • I particularly liked the bit on the artistic gospel:

    AKA The Strunk & White. There are plenty of tips out there for being a good stand-up comedian, or painter, or musician. Most help the aspirant to hem in that paralyzing freedom, lay a groundwork of productive habit and then to polish middling material. Most do not pretend to be a priori truths, except those provided by Robert McKee. Still, the essence of creativity is not to be strictly bound by prescriptive ideals, right? Wrong. Here comes a New York Times user comment deploring an article’s split infinitives, immune to the fact that this is an artificial solecism cooked up by prudish Latin-lovers centuries ago to suppress an evolving English vernacular. Here comes Chuck Klosterman to inform us that F. Scott Fitzgerald would disapprove of the exclamation points peppering our interspace, because I guess an alcoholic crack-up artist I read in ninth grade should get the final say on web 2.0. What Klosterman can’t bring up is how Kurt Vonnegut gravely insulted the semi-colon; I myself could do without periods. Buried titans have plenty to teach us about aesthetic and craft, and tower with influence besides—must we be shackled by their pet peeves as well?

    Few internet arguments please me more than setting straight people who’ve read (or misread) Strunk & White and other prescriptivist poppycock.

    Read the whole thing

    (thanks to Brandi for the tip)

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    Dancing with an enormous machine

    This video by OK Go has been going around the internet for the last day or so:

    Dylan Tweney ’91 explains how it was made:

    In music, timing is everything. When you’re dancing with an enormous machine, it’s even more important to get the timing correct, down to the microsecond.

    Continue reading: How OK Go’s Amazing Rube Goldberg Machine Was Built

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    Applying a Williams Education

    May I invite you all to please scroll down on the link below and vote for my student, Dennis Medina. He’s written his way to the finals of a Take America to College, a Gates Foundation effort to bring the voices and struggles of non-traditional students to legislators and policymakers in Washington. He’s a Boston police officer on the gangs squad and a student in my midnight College Writing II class this semester Bunker Hill Community College. Click and listen to his story. Heck, listen to them all.

    Vote early and often for Dennis. Tell your friends. Post any and everywhere. Voting ends Tuesday, March 2. Thanks.

    http://www.takeamericatocollege.com/vote-for-a-finalist/

    I shall continue my crusade to persuade the Williams trustees to open the doors for a few such students. BHCC has two students thriving at Amherst, one at Dartmouth, one at Columbia, three at Smith. The deadline for transfer applications is coming up, and BHCC has fine students applying now to all these and more. Never give up, and this is a tough one.

    Dennis’s story (added by Ronit):

    See more stories here.

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    Crappy businesses

    Bo Peabody ’94 has an extended followup to his Washington Post piece about social networks from Oct. 2009. An interesting overview of the challenges faced by any web company in the communications business vs. the more easily profitable information business:

    Facebook And Twitter Will Always Be Crappy Businesses

    Possible objection: he might be extrapolating a bit too much from his experience with Tripod.

    (h/t Antone Johnson)

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    Drew Brees as a senior

    A nine-year-old article from the archives of SI columnist Tim Layden ’78. It reads in a different light today.

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    Tragic figure

    Evan Miller ’06 defends someone that, quite frankly, I didn’t expect to see anyone defending.

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    The greatest blog post of all time

    From psychologist Sam Sommers ’97.

    Quite a few of those themes should be familiar to EphBlog readers.

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    Little profiles of horrible people

    I enjoy reading Chad Orzel ’93 when he’s in a snarky mood.

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    Hate-filled opportunism

    Brother Spotless is angry.

    Go read the whole thing.

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    Will Slack’s new blog

    Is here

    Here’s the RSS feed

    Please add to your bookmarks/RSS readers. You can also follow Will on twitter

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    Democracy Blogging

    • Mike McGinn ’82, who is running for mayor of Seattle, reminds you to please mail or drop off your ballot: You can drop your ballot at any of King County Elections’ drop boxes by 8 PM on Election Day.
    • Dan Blatt ’85 analyzes the race in NY-23.
    • Mass MoCA says VOTE VOTE VOTE: “Too-close-to-even-hazard-a-guess elections for mayor in North Adams, Pittsfield, Northampton and probably many other towns and cities across the country that aren’t necessarily on our radar mean that voting is probably the most important thing you can do today.”
    • From Greylocknews: WilliNet to carry live commentary on N.A. mayoral election from 7 p.m. Tuesday / Twitter tag: #namayor
    • From Chap Petersen ’90, Virginia State Senator and Creigh Deeds backer: “Please everyone get out and vote.  Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.  in their usual locations.”
    • Marc Lynch published an article in The National about what happens when Islamists don’t get to be democrats.
    • Derek Catsam ’93 provides an update on elections in Tunisia and Mozambique, as well as other African political news.
    • Ken Dilanian ’91 looks at the impact of US foreign aid to promote democracy in Egypt.
    • Martha Coakley ’75 received an endorsement from the Massachusetts Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus.
    • Stephen O’Grady ’97 writes a heartfelt essay on why he’s voting No on 1 in Maine, which concludes thusly (read the whole thing):

      We have, sadly, not always lived up to the promise of our forefathers. It took us 191 years to guarantee people the right to marry irrespective of the color skin they were born with. It is my sincere hope that we don’t deny committed couples the right to marry for another 191 years based on the sexual preference they were born with.

      I am fortunate that the law says that I may marry the person that I love. I cannot imagine what I would do if it said otherwise. Please. If you are registered here in Maine and you believe in the rights that make this country worth dying for, vote No On 1.

      O’Grady also posts this video of WWII vet and lifelong Republican Philip Spooner:

    • Stephen Rose ’58: Prepping for A Democratic Bloodbath
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    Nobel reax

    Dan Drezner ’90 stops laughing long enough to write up the secret deliberations of the Nobel committee (Neil Patrick Harris was robbed!)

    Derek Catsam ’93 and Vermando ’05 try to make a case for the prize. Chad Orzel ’93 thinks that they’re trying to make American right-wingers’ heads explode. More discussion on WSO.

    Sam Sommers ’97 has an interesting psychological take:

    Most of the pro-Obama crowd I’ve read, heard from, and talked to is surprised as well. And nervous to boot. Because even the most ardent Obama supporter has to admit that he’s still shorter on accomplishment than on promise, and they’re worried that this award will only fuel the fire of the style-over-substance critique.

    If you ask me, this is the issue that should concern the Nobel Committee, given their apparent goals for today’s announcement. Because, yes, source credibility matters. But so does your audience. And when your preaching surprises and even distresses the choir, you may have a backlash problem on your hands. Not to mention the risk that all your future selections will be dismissed out of hand as well in some quarters, based on the precedent of this year’s choice.

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    Hurting America

    rory brings to our attention this piece by Dan Drezner ’90 on the current state of political discourse and whether or not Jon Stewarts “hurting america” moment led to a better or worse TV punditry:

    We’re coming up on the five-year anniversary of Jon Stewart’s verbal skewering of Crossfire in particular and the whole genre of left-right cable gabfests in general. Stewart said these kind of shows were “hurting America” because of their general blather and failure to ask politicians good, sharp questions.

    Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire generated quite the navel-gazing among the commentariat, and played no small role in the eventual disappearance of Crossfire, The Capitol Gang, Hannity & Colmes, and shows of that ilk.

    So, five years later, I have a half-assed blog question to ask — did Jon Stewart hurt America by driving these shows off the air?

    If you’re expecting a lengthy defense of the Crossfire format right now, well, you’re going to be disappointed. My point rather, is to question what replaced these kinds of shows on the cable newsverse. Instead of Hannity & Colmes, you now have…. Hannity. Is this really an improvement?

    Link to full article: Did Jon Stewart Hurt America?.

    rory comments:

    i’m always fascinated by the idea of unintended consequences/backlash. I’m not sure Jon Stewart really was as active a catalyst as drezner (and others) imply…a one-horse show was clearly the wave of the future before Stewart attacked Crossfire.

    Considering how discourse in America certainly hasn’t gotten better since the election (maybe briefly during the election. maybe. And I’ll let the jury decide whether or not it’s gotten worse. that doesn’t matter to my point, I don’t think) what, if anything, can be done to improve the generally horribly disappointing lack of discussion/debate? And what can be done to make the discussion/debate that does happen significantly less embarrassing to anyone with a brain (I assume others are embarrassed by the debate that goes on in society at the moment)?

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    PRC 60th anniversary celebrations

    Kim Fassler ’06 observes the parades in Nanjing:

    The missiles, the goose-stepping soldiers, the extravagant floats, the dancing minorities — all these were supposed to symbolize a country with nowhere to go but up. And despite China’s myriad problems, I imagine from the clapping and cheering in the room that my Chinese classmates were filled with pride about how far their country has come and where it’s going. And in the midst of this, doubt about where my own country is headed started to creep in. Reading about the bickering and political infighting in Washington in recent weeks really made me frustrated. When you’re already a superpower, the only direction to go is down.

    But who knows — maybe that was the desired effect. They say you only really begin to understand your country once you leave it, and I’m definitely learning that in Nanjing.

    Read the whole thing here.

    Prof. Sam Crane posts a couple of things you won’t see on PRC TV on National Day.

    Michael Greeley ’85 says China is on fire.

    In Newsweek International, Daniel Drezner ’90 asks: Can China’s Good Fortune Last?

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    Tributes to Senator Kennedy

    From Chan Lowe ’75.

    Ted

    From Derek Catsam ’93:

    I grew up in New Hampshire, so Kennedy was never literally my Senator, but for all intents and purposes he was the Senator who represented me, a liberal, in a state that was during the 1980s as solidly Republican as ever there was. I was stunned when I read about his death even when it was obvious for months that this moment was coming. I had to compose myself for a second, before diving in to read and remember why Ted Kennedy was such a vital figure in American political life for four decades.

    Also from Catsam:

    South Africa in the 1980s might well mark the most sustained American engagement with an African issue. It is easy to forget just how regularly South Africa appeared on the nightly news (kids, ask your parents) and how many column issues the tumult occupied, especially once the Vaal Triangle uprising in the last third of 1984 set off arguably the most intense sustained period of anti-apartheid activity. And Ted Kennedy was among the voices of conscience who translated those words intom concrete action. Kennedy was not alone, nor was he even the most important driving force behind the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1985. But it was one of hundreds of issues on which Kennedy took leadership in his long career. He truly was a giant in American political life.

    Hamba kahle, Senator Kennedy.

    From Chap Petersen ’90:

    In my parents’ lifetime, the election of John F. Kennedy as President was a seminal event — a younger generation taking control of a nation’s destiny. The life and death of Robert F. Kennedy was on the same historic arc. He had a vision for the nation that was bigger and broader than it had been.

    My siblings and I came of age in a different era, perhaps more cynical. The brand name “Kennedy” did not have the same magic. Those who tried to capitalize politically on that name in the last ten years have largely failed. Political dynasties do not last forever in this country and that’s a good thing.

    No matter. Ted Kennedy was able to span both eras, literally. He was there when “liberalism” was all the rage. And he was there when it was hopelessly out of fashion. Either way, he fought the good fight. He finished the race. He kept the faith.

    Sam Crane posts a Mencian thought:

    If you want to put my words into practice, why not return to fundamentals? When every five-acre farm has mulberry trees around the farmhouse, people wear silk at fifty. And when the proper seasons of chickens and pigs and dogs are not neglected, people eat meat at seventy. When hundred-acre farms never violate their proper seasons, even large families don’t go hungry. Pay close attention to the teaching in village schools, and extend it to the child’s family responsibilities – then, when their silver hair glistens, people won’t be out on the roads and paths hauling heavy loads. Our black-haired people free of hunger and cold, wearing silk and eating meat in old age – there has never been such times without a true emperor.

    Stephen Rose ’58 says health care reform was his great cause and that Kennedy was sounding the Obama message in the 1980s.

    From Dan Blatt ’85:

    He may have been a liberal, but, as the years passed, he did not treat his political adversaries as enemies, instead he saw many as colleagues who, though coming from different political and philosophical perspectives, were fighting the same fight, seeking to achieve the same goal–the welfare and well-being of the United States of America and its people.

    He was, as we all are, flawed, but, in the hour of his passing, let us remember his strengths. And they were many.

    From commenter nuts:

    Ephs who respect Ted Kennedy might enjoy listening to his eulogy for his brother Bobby. I have a great admiration for Ted’s compassion, his vision of public service and his ability to express himself in a powerful way.

    David Kaiser writes a fascinating essay about Kennedy in historical perspective – an extract:

    But the big news this week, of course, is the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, which has affected me far more than I would have thought. Of the three Kennedy brothers who at least made it to 30 he was the one I had not studied in detail, and I had never regarded him as presidential timber. His loss is however a shock because he is the only political figure of whom I had been continuously aware for more than 49 years, since I began reading about the Kennedy family in the 1960 campaign. He has been in the US Senate since I was 15, and he is a link, in many ways, to the more distant past. I shall now try to place him generationally and historically.

    Two things about Teddy stand out in historical perspective: he belonged to what Strauss and Howe called an Artist or adaptive generation–those who spend their childhoods in periods of great crisis–and he was for decades a critical figure in our national legislature who never became President. The previous analogous generations in our national life were the Compromise generation, born in the last third of the eighteenth century, and the Progressive generation, born from about 1842 to 1862. It is in the Compromise generation, I think, that Kennedy’s closest analogues can be found, specifically Henry Clay of Kentucky and John Quincy Adams from his own Massachusetts.

    Continue reading here.

    Feel free to add your own thoughts in thread.

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    Links, 08/18

    From Eph Planet:

    Some posts and discussions from EphBlog in the last week or two that are worth revisiting:

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    Notable links, 08/11

    Some of the most-clicked links from Eph Planet in the last few days:

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    Chris Murphy ’96 goes to the grocery store

    And this is what happens (Murphy shows up around 9 minutes in to engage with the crowd):

    Below the fold: a Williams namecheck, Murphy responds to the protesters, and some other Ephs weigh in with advice for both the left and the right. Read more

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    The most embarrassing thing published by an Eph this week

    An early contender (it’s still Sunday) is this, by Dan Blatt ’85. Don’t click unless you want to expose yourself to whargarbl. The comments thread over there is particularly worth cherishing, and it makes EphBlog comments look like the Algonquin roundtable in comparison.

    UPDATE: Blatt responds. I should note that I never intended to imply that he was a birther; rather, I think it’s problematic that he is keeping a controversy alive unnecessarily, even though he knows the truth of the situation, and lending legitimacy to the nutcases with the post linked above. I’ve found his blog to otherwise be perfectly sane even though I disagree with it most of the time.

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    Ephs in Exotic Places

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