The Prisoners’ Dilemma

In ‘Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration,’ John Pfaff takes what he calls the “standard story” to task. Pfaff presents a compelling account of mass incarceration, backed by robust statistics, to argue that current reforms are merely low-hanging fruit and will fail to bring about any meaningful reduction in the incarcerated population. Rather, to address the 2.3 million American prison inhabitants, reform efforts must address the relevant problems on a more fundamental level.

A Most Violent Year

The Donald Trump of the 1856 presidential election was a celebrity explorer named John C. Frémont, nominated by the recently founded Republican party. The Hillary Clinton was a tired old perennial presidential candidate named James Buchanan, chosen by the Democrats—although they had to dump Franklin Pierce to do it. Pierce’s convention defeat marks the only time in American history a sitting president has lost a campaign for renomination by his own party.

Thoroughly Modern Coolidge

In the spring of 1927, the modern world was born. Or at least the great interconnectivity of modern social life rose up and declared itself in the spring of 1927, with two key events. The first was Charles Lindbergh winning the race to make a solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic from New York to Paris. The second was President Calvin Coolidge’s decision to spend the summer in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Leaders of the Free World

Both John Paul II and Reagan were well aware of one preeminent commonality: their shared “dubious distinction” of having suffered, and survived, assassination attempts. We have already noted the many parallels between their near-death experiences. When the two men sat down one on one, they would find that the experiences shaped them in strikingly similar ways.

Down Among the Dead Men

Back in 1864, a French historian named Fustel de Coulanges published a book called “The Ancient City,” in which he argued that urban life began with graveyards. Nomadic peoples found themselves needing ways to care for and memorialize their dead. The social unity of the tribe, the sense of their families, and the force of their religious cults depended at least in part on an enduring feeling for heroic figures from the past and an objective symbol of a people who extend through time. Graveyards gradually grew into temples, and temples gradually flowered into cities.

Murder Becomes Her

If you thought Odysseus had it bad, taking years to win his way back to Ithaca after the Greek triumph in the Trojan War, at least he eventually found his way to fond reunion with his wife, son, and small island kingdom. The rest of the Homecoming tales about the heroes’ return to Greece tend to be less cheery. Odysseus had a woman named Penelope waiting for him. Agamemnon had a woman named Clytemnestra.