The SSA has a nice site that lets you look up all sorts of statistical info on naming patterns. Among other things it allows one to predict that 70 years from now very few baby girls will be named Isabella, Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava, or Emily (people who study this kind of thing have noted that girls’ names associated with the generation of women who are now grandmothers tend to be very unpopular, apparently because they’re now strongly associated with old age. Hence the current scarcity of Doris, Ruth, Shirley, Jean, Betty, Dorothy etc.).
But what about Paul? Paul was a remarkably consistent name for the first seven decades of the 20th century, always coming at between 12th and 20th in popularity. Then in 1969 it began a steady decline, to the point where it’s now outside the top 150.
My theory as to why:
Nobody wants to associate their newborn with a dead guy.
What I especially like is his willingness to conclude that his mistake in judgment on a specific issue was a product not merely of idiosyncratic circumstances, but of a structurally flawed way of thinking about the world, and specifically an over-willingness to trust elite opinion (this is especially impressive for for someone from Yglesias’ background, i.e. upper class Harvard grad etc.).
Grasping the precise semantic distinction between “combat troops” and “the 50,000 remaining U.S. troops that will go on combat missions with Iraqi troops (if asked), plus an unspecified number of special forces that will continue to engage actively in combat operations against ‘terrorists’” would have strained the literary critical faculties of Frank Kermode (RIP).
My favorite detail about the Shot Heard Round the World is that after the game Thomson rode the subway home (apparently major league ballplayers in New York in the 1950s routinely rode the subway to and from games).
This little vignette is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it’s almost certainly false (among the many quite incredible details my favorite is the writer’s claim that he had never told the story to anyone before). Second, it’s a glimpse into the rich fantasy life of a denizen of Nixonland. Third, it raises the question of why CBS Sports allows one of its writers to publish an obviously false story, and moreover a story that the putative author requested not be published. I say putative because I suspect Dodd actually composed this preposterous vignette himself and then passed it off as an anonymous email — a method which is rapidly replacing the anonymous talkative cab driver as the favorite device of journalists who find the depths of hangover intersecting with the demands of a deadline.
I’m toying with the idea of watching the second season debut of Jersey Shore, after recommendations from certain aficionados of trash TV (I didn’t see any of the first season). Apparently, there will be some discussion of federal tax policy:
There are the occasional, oblique references to the cast members’ new off-camera fame. For instance, Snooki’s bonding with Sen. John McCain over their opposition to the tanning-bed tax that emerged from the healthcare-reform effort. McCain—who, ironically, has been outspoken about skin-cancer prevention after a bout with melanoma—tweeted his support for Snooki after she criticized the tax in a preview of season two. And here Snooki tells us why she (despite pulling in an estimated $10,000 an episode, with a hefty raise coming) has been economically driven to mere spray-tanning:
I don’t go tanning tanning anymore because Obama put a 10 percent tax on tanning. I feel like he did that intentionally for us. McCain never would have put a 10 percent tax on tanning, because he’s pale and he would probably want to be tan. Obama doesn’t have that problem. Obviously.
In all semi-seriousness, when the internet started destroying the media’s traditional business model editorial oversight was pretty much the first thing that got cut. “Don’t they have editors?” used to be a rhetorical question. Now it’s a straightforward one, and the answer is “no.”
It’s hard to understand how this kind of thing gets published in a world that includes editors, higher cognitive function, and/or common decency.
My favorite bit from the comments, defending the author’s use of a definition of lynching that limits it to hangings:
“Regardless of the dictionary’s definition, English is considered the most nuanced of languages because each word has a specific, unique meaning giving context and emotion to any written or spoken idea or statement. I don’t need a dictionary to instruct me on the accepted meaning of the word ‘lynching.’”
This article addresses what should be a puzzling question: Why did Barack Obama nominate Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court? Not only has Kagan never been a judge, but, far more problematically, she has over the course of a 25-year legal and political career taken almost no public positions on any significant legal or political questions. This latter fact would, at first glance, seem to disqualify her from consideration for a lifetime appointment to one of America’s most powerful political institutions. That it has not tells us a great deal about deep-seated cultural myths regarding the possibility of separating law from politics, and about the elite institutions that have molded Obama, Kagan, and so many other members of America’s contemporary legal, political, and economic establishment. Ultimately, in one sense Kagan remains, on the eve of her confirmation by the Senate, as much of a blank slate as ever. Yet in another we, like Barack Obama, can venture a good guess regarding what sort of Supreme Court justice she will make. That we can do so reflects both the cultural and ideological power wielded by the elite institutions that are producing the contemporary American establishment, and the relatively narrow range of political views those institutions generate among those who go on to become part of that establishment.
The Elena Kagan story, as presented by both the White House and her supporters throughout the legal world, is that of a brilliant academic and administrative career, whose trajectory has been ever-upward, until it has placed her on the doorstep of the Supreme Court a few months after her 50th birthday. This story is actually a serious oversimplification: Kagan has gotten to her present position despite a series of early career reversals, which culminated in the loss of her position on the University of Chicago faculty, and a brief period in which she was almost frantically scrambling for a job. Her rather abrupt transformation from a soon-to-be unemployed former law professor to dean of the Harvard Law School, and her subsequent ambiguous track record in that position, is a tale that reveals academic politics at their most byzantine. The real story, in other words, is more interesting than the narrative being put forth for public consumption. In some ways it makes Kagan a more attractive figure than the almost robotic paragon of flawless professional advancement concocted by the public relations machine. Over the last few weeks I’ve spoken to a number of former colleagues of Kagan’s in Chicago, Washington, and Cambridge. On the basis of those conversations, as well as the public record, the following story emerges.*
Since I’ve said several mean things about him over the years, which I’m sure has kept him up at night, wandering the halls of his wife’s 30,000 sq ft mansion, justice requires it be noted that this is a good column.