John Dickerson

John Dickerson is a CBS senior national correspondent and Chief Political Analyst. He is also a Contributing Writer to The Atlantic and is co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest.

  • 03/25/2023: In the days of easy poison

    When people dropped dead for any variety of reasons, it was much easier to poison your enemies,and have your murder written off as just another one of those episodes where a person was dropping dead because people dropped dead all the time. This seems to have been what happened. In the case of. William Longespee the First Earl of Salisbury.

    File:William Longespée.jpg - Wikimedia CommonsHubert De Burgh and Billy Long, as no one called him, got crosswise with each other. They were both loyal subjects to the kings during the 13th century. But De Burgh didn’t think Longespee was sufficiently loyal. They had a set-to and ultimately De Burgh backed down. To make it up to Longespee, De Burgh invited him over to his house for a feast. Several days after the repast, Longespee turned up dead.

    Oh well, people die all the time in the Middle Ages. It is, after all, the 13th century and the lines at the pharmacy for leaches were notoriously long, even for nobles.


    Fine. Then, in 1791, during the refurbishment of the Salisbury Cathedral, William Longespee’s tomb was opened and the mummified corps of a rat was found in his skull. The rat displayed serious arsenic poisoning.

    The mummified rat is still on display at the cathedral because it was assumed that the rat died from the arsenic that was placed in Billy Long’s dinner by Hubert De Burgh.


    More from the Salisbury Journal.

    This entire episode was kicked off by a notation I found in one of my notebooks from June, 1990 when I was traveling through England as a junior in college:

    Notebook rat skull

  • More Notions

  • 06/04/2024: When a person has been convicted by a jury, what do you refer to them as?

    I asked Claude AI: After a person has been convicted by a jury in a criminal trial, they are referred to as a “convicted criminal” or simply a “convict.” More specific terms may include: Convicted felon – if the crime they were convicted of was a felony offense. Convicted misdemeanant – if the crime they […]
  • 01/08/2024: How he drinks his coffee

    A small pleasure: one of my children and I are working together at the dining room table. We’re both writing. It’s hard for both of us, but we’re typing, so we’re both on the right road. I realize after a bit that I am witness to his writing tics. I have them. Lots of them. […]
  • 01/04/2024: A piece on the personal quality of restraint from 2015 that never ran

    I wrote it for Slate and was just reminded of it. This is a very rough draft. I wish it had run: On a recent Saturday, I listened to the audiobook of The Marshmallow Test while doing chores. In the famous experiment, children were given a choice between candy they could eat immediately, and a larger reward […]
  • 12/07/2023: Is enforced loyalty a good recipe for achievement?

    You: What is the historical record of operations founded on loyalty where the person to whom everyone must show loyalty has a record of almost no reciprocal loyalty? ChatGPT: The historical record of operations or regimes founded on loyalty to a central figure who does not reciprocate that loyalty is marked by instability and often, […]
  • 12/05/2023: I asked Chat GPT to offer guidance to lawmakers offering their endorsement

    You: Pretend I am a lawmaker and I have taken an oath to defend the constitution, how should I decide whether to endorse a candidate for president who will take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. ChatGPT: In your role as a lawmaker who has taken an oath to defend the Constitution, […]
  • 12/05/2023: Hello! I see you sent me a text message!

    Hello! I see you’ve sent me a text! Is it urgent? If so, please call me. If not, please send me an email, that way I won’t think that in this world of constant interruption where we must have our guard double ready against mindless incursions, that you value my time so cheaply and yours […]
  • 12/02/2023: Discovering the photography of Saul Leiter

    Social media is a scourge, obviously. But I have been trying to respond to the negative effects of social media (cortisol-driving, attention-shredding, ego poking) with long-looking. Long-looking is the practice of spending a lot longer on an idea, piece of art, song, etc. than you normally would so that it give up additional meanings. If […]
  • 11/13/2023: What good is criticism

    I like this idea of criticism. (Colors are from my note taking).  It’s from an essay by Morgan Meis that can be found here. “Criticism does not stand outside the work of art, but stands alongside, maybe even inside, the work of art, participating in the work in order to further express and tease out […]
  • 11/03/2023: Thoughts on covering Donald Trump

  • 11/03/2023: Ray Bradbury punk rock graduation.

    Ray Bradbury was so poor growing up that in order to dress up for his graduation he had to wear his uncle’s suit. His uncle had died recently. The suite was the one he wore when he died. His uncle was shot. The suit still had the bullet hole in it. I learned that from […]