Archive for September, 2008

1900 Galveston Hurricane

Now that Hurricane Ike has passed, Galveston once again faces a massive rebuilding/restoration program. For those who do not know, the reason for such trepidation with Hurricane Ike can be traced to the 1900 storm that battered Galveston, leaving 8000 dead. The New York Times has extensive material from its archives available for free perusal, along with pertinent links;  CNN also has a good site. There are three books, almost “instant” books that can be read on this devastating storm. All three were published in 1900 within weeks of the disaster. The books are: The complete story of the Galveston horror; The great Galveston disaster : containing a full and thrilling account of the most appalling calamity of modern times; and Galveston, the horrors of a stricken city . They can be read here.

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Political Fact Checking

“Fact-checking the candidates has long been an important part of campaign coverage. When news organizations blow the whistle on false statements by candidates, it tends to have an impact, said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. ‘I think it’s an extremely valuable role, keeping the players honest.’ ” This observation comes from an excellent article on fact checking written by the public editor for the New York Times, Clark Hoyt. With so much rhetoric and hyperbole being tossed around, how can we the voters be sure that what is being said is true? Luckily, there are several fact checking sources available to us. The most quoted site is, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Another reliable source is a product of the St Petersburg Times and the Congressional Quarterly – Here is the home of the “Truth-O-Meter” which indicates the veracity of candidates’ statements. The Washington Post has also started its own fact checking service – The Fact Checker– which features “The Pinocchio Test” for truthfulness. If you want to know where candidates stand on the issues, you can look at their voting records at VoteSmart, which also includes a look at all candidates running for the US Congress as well. Speaking of Congress, please also look at OpenCongress where “Everyone can be an insider.  And do not forget SourceWatch which cuts through the PR spin as it is generated on many levels. The latter two sites are sponsored by the Center for Media and Democracy. Other sources to consult include: Federal Election Commission for detailed listings of campaign funding; and The Message Machine from NPR. Read/listen to Presidential Politics, The Media and the Search for Facts from the Diane Rehm Show. For New Jersey political fact checking, PolitiFact has a New Jersey section; a few other states are also covered.

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Online State Encyclopedias – Alabama

In two previous posts (here and here), we highlighted online state encyclopedias. We now welcome the state of Alabama into this growing field, bringing the total number of these electronic resources to 14.

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IMDb Finally Adds Video Content

From the “it’s about time” file, IMDb, considered one of the best movie(and now television) databases, has announced the availablity of 6000+ movies and tv shows that can be seen for free. This subsidiary will show video on a rotating basis within the United States only, due to licensing concerns. Shows as new as Heroes or as hoary as the original Star Trek may be viewed here. We ourselves were pleased to see that Master and Commander, based on two of Patrick O’Brian’s(one of our most favorite authors EVER) novels, was offered for viewing. While you are perusing IMDb, check out its On This Day movie history section.

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Osama bin Laden Statements Released

This 300 page volume contains interviews and statements by bin Laden from 1994 to 2004. They were compiled and translated by the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service(FBIS), now part of the Open Source Center. Additional information on bin Laden can be found at the New York Times, National Public Radio, PBS, and the Library of Congress.

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Constitution Day

“In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered…” Such were the words of Benjamin Franklin delivered before the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787 as reported by James Madison. Franklin, who was so weakened by infirmity that he had to be carried into each session in a sedan chair, had his fellow Pennsylvanian James Wilson read his words to those assembled. On that day, the Constitution was signed and copies were then subsequently made to make their rounds in the state legislatures for the acts of ratification.

The Library of Congress has an excellent site for this holiday; included in this site are: Farrand’s Records of the Federal Convention of 1787; Elliot’s Debates…on the Adoption of the Constitution; and the Federalist Papers, among others.  For biographical information on the delegates, including those from New Jersey(which included William Paterson), the National Archives has a very informative page.

Did New Jersey and its delegates play a prominent role at the Convention. Ever hear of the New Jersey Plan?  As presented by William Paterson, this was an attempt to close a rift between the representatives of the larger populated states versus the representatives of the smaller populated states, who feared that the larger states would have more representational power in the new national legislature. For additional information on this and the other plans submitted at the Convention, please consult A Multitude of Amendments, Alterations and Additions. More of New Jersey’s presence can be seen in the Notes of William Paterson, and the Credentials of the State of New Jersey. If you want a more extensive look at New Jersey’s historical constitutional process, consult this Rutgers site. And lastly, if you want to know how New Jersey arrived at the Convention, please read these works: New Jersey’s Revolutionary Experience; New Jersey in the American Revolution, 1763-1783: A Documentary History; and Crossroads of the American Revolution in New Jersey

There are several additional constitutional sites which should be consulted for their depth and extent: the American Constitution document collection at the Avalon Project; Constitution of the United  States, Analysis and Interpretation; CRS Annotated Constitution(with thousands of links); and The Founders’ Constitution, a veritable goldmine of writings by those who hammered out this document and by those whose thoughts influenced these people(essential reading!!). A still influential work on the Constitution is Charles Beard’s book An Economic Interpretation of The Constitution of the United States.  The constitutions of other countries can be found at Constitution Finder, while U.S. state constitution are here.

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Today in History: Henry Hudson Sails Upriver

399 years ago after entering what is now New York harbor, Henry Hudson captained his ship the Half Moon up a river that will later bear his name – the Hudson River. This was his third trip(he would make four altogether) of exploration.  Following in the wake of previous English sailors( whose exploits may be read in Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, a multi-volume work that Hudson might have read), Hudson was searching for a  shorter water route to Asia which would cut down on the transit time of ships having to round the Cape of Good Hope. Employed by the Dutch East India Company, Hudson’s third voyage was supposed to explore the European northern latitudes in an attempt to find a quick passage to Asia. Leaving Amsterdam in April 1609 he journeyed north, but blocked by the cold and ice, Hudson sailed west, landed in Maine for provisions, sailed down to the Delaware Bay, and then returned north, and arrived in New York in September. In the hopes that the river would prove to be the way to Asia, he traveled up until he reached the shallower waters around Albany. Disappointed that the river was not the route to the East, he returned down the river and returned to England in November 1609. While he kept a ship’s journal in his role as captain, this document has never seen the light of day. The speculation is that this journal, which would have become the property of the Dutch East India Company, was sold along with the company’s archives in the early 19th century after the company had been previously dissolved. So the only eyewitness document we have of Hudson and New York is contained in the journal of Robert Juet(the original 1625 edition of Purchas His Pilgrimes, the successor to Hakluyt, is where Juet’s journal first appeared), Hudson’s first mate on his third and fourth voyages, and one of the mutineers that put Hudson, Hudson’s son, and some fellow crew members adrift in a small boat in the cold region of what would be called Hudson’s Bay. The abandoned party was never heard from again. The most comprehensive site on Hudson is The Life and Voyages of Henry Hudson. A replica of the Half Moon is at the New Netherland Museum, while the official quadrennial site will be found here. Many monographs have been written on Hudson; a couple of worthy online ones are: Thomas Janvier’s Henry Hudson… which contains excerpts of the trial of the mutineers(they were acquited by the way), and Henry Murphy’s Henry Hudson in Holland which contains translations of Dutch documents. Continuing to explore original sources, those interested in pre-British New York should consult the Narratives of New Netherland.

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