Technology

by Jeffrey Herf Here are three more steps readers of the Open University can take in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre. 1. If Federal law had been enforced in Virginia, the killer would not have been able to purchase those two handguns. Faculty, students, and staff at colleges and universities and parents of students attending them should ask their administration--deans, provosts, and presidents-- how their institution complies with the federal laws that prohibit people who have been diagnosed as mentally ill from purchasing or possessing guns.

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Army In The Red

CongressDaily (sus req) today has a dispiriting analysis of the Pentagon's just-released National Defense Budget Estimates for FY '08: The impartial numbers show that [Lyndon] Johnson spent $2.1 trillion in FY08 dollars on the American military from FY64 through FY68 when both the Vietnam and Cold wars were raging. He put more than 500,000 troops on the ground in Vietnam from an active duty force of 3.5 million men and women, many of them low-cost draftees.

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Admissions Office

The WaPo's Marc Fisher answers a question that occurred to me: If Seung-Hui Cho was so obviously disturbed even as a young child, how did he ever get into Virginia Tech? Blame it on a depersonalized admissions process. According to Fisher, Tech seeks students with at least a B+ average and an SAT score of at least 1130. Fisher writes: Virginia Tech makes its admission decisions purely and entirely on the basis of those numbers. Its application includes no requirement for interviews or teacher recommendations.

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by Jeffrey Herf One of the historian's favorite words is "conjuncture." It refers to the simultaneous presence of causal factors that leads to an outcome that none on their own would have produced. It is our alternative to simplistic, single-cause explanations of events.

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Back in 1994, after Susan Smith drowned her two children, Newt Gingrich made an ass out of himself by saying: "I think that the mother killing the two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we need to change things. . . . The only way to change is to vote Republican." Now, alas, it's Joe Biden's turn. Speaking to Al Sharpton's confab this week, Biden said: "I would argue, since 1994 with the Gingrich revolution, just take a look at Iraq, Venezuela, Katrina, what's gone down at Virginia Tech, Darfur, Imus. Take a look.

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Everyone knows that John Ashcroft was fully committed to fighting the all-crucial War on Porn. But what about Alberto Gonzales? He wasn't one of those porno-king sympathizers found so frequently on the Western left, was he? Hardly, Salon's Mark Follman reports today. Not only did Gonzales make adult obscenity a "top priority" for the Justice Department during his tenure, but two of those fired U.S. attorneys may have actually been sacked for being soft on internet nudity: Two of the fired U.S.

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Mike Nizza has an interesting update from Virginia Poly on the New York Times web-site. It relates to the point I made last night about the isolation and insularity of troubled people on a campus. No one takes responsibility for anyone. Except that the poet Nikki Giovanni, who teaches at the university, tried.

Obama Hits Bottom

If you are one of those people who thinks Barack Obama is the most electable Democrat out there, and if you think he is capable of being a powerful and moving speaker, you still have to face up to the fact that his speeches can be really, really grating. Here's Ben Smith from The Politico's website: But while Obama mourns the slain students, he takes the massacre more as a theme than as a point of discussion."Maybe nothing could have been done to prevent it," he says toward the end.So he moves quickly to the abstract: Violence, and the general place of violence in American life."There's also a

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John Edwards released some good news with his weekend Quarter 1 expenditures disclosure -- he didn't spend a cent on pollsters; his campaign manager is working for free -- but then this cringe-worthy story had to go and show up on CNN's home page: Looking pretty is costing John Edwards' presidential campaign a lot of pennies.

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Small Pleasures

by Christine Stansell How bad can it get? Really bad. Ever since the U.S. attorney scandal started to heat up, it's been a pleasure to read the morning news. Last year this time, the initial suspicions and revelations would have flared up and died down in a couple of news cycles, one more blip on the outrage radar. It's not that the press is so much brighter--although they do seem to be waking up and shaking off the torpor (remember back when the White House press corps got a kick out of Bush's good-old-boy nicknames?). It's that the Democrats have the power to hold committee hearings.

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