<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Evening beer post 


In recent years I have become quite taken by craft-brewed India Pale Ale, and almost always default to it when it is available on tap. There are several brands in my fridge.

So, you can imagine how much I enjoyed the Wikipedia entry on the subject.


(12) Comments

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A couple of minor and obvious debt crisis observations 

A couple of fairly obvious debt crisis observations that nevertheless I have not seen elsewhere:

1. There is an argument popular in liberal circles that because the United States is virtually alone in requiring a separate political process to raise the authorized national debt we should change our system. The objection is that our system allows for the making of political mischief after the actual budget is done and legislated. There are, however, at least two reasons why that argument is not quite so brilliant as the big government liberals propose.

First, the other rich countries with the supposedly better approach to debt have parliamentary systems. The executive function is a mere extension of the legislature, so an incremental check makes no theoretical sense. In our system the executive branch is an entirely different source of power. It issues bonds, collects taxes, and coins money, but in each case only with the particular authorization of the legislative branch, the power of which countervails the executive. It is entirely reasonable for the legislative branch to put in place whatever mechanisms it deems reasonable to ensure that the executive branch does not act without authorization. Indeed, given the history that presidents of both parties have blown off both the Congress and the Constitution when circumstances warrant, a clear law to confine the President in the matter of burdening our posterity seems like a damned good idea.

Second, corporations that raise money by multiple means and regular issuance (such as in the commercial paper market) often if not almost always operate within an overall debt limit that has to be raised by the board in order for the management to raise more debt than authorized in the aggregate. Why? It is considered good governance for the board to assess and cap the aggregate debt that the corporate can incur, even if the board does not authorize each individual borrowing. That way, the corporation can act flexibly, taking advantage of favorable borrowing opportunities that might come along on very short notice, even as it operates within a budget approved by the board and under a debt limit imposed by the board. Well, if those practices are good governance for public companies, should they not also be true for governments?

2. Judging from the president's speech last night and all the bleating from the press, the freshmen Republicans are nuts, or at least profoundly unreasonable, for sticking to their convictions in the face of a widespread belief in Washington and probably elsewhere that they should "compromise." Hence their unpopularity among establishment politicians of both parties. It seems to me, though, that Washington's "problem" with the freshmen Republicans is precisely that many of them do not care if they are re-elected. They are amateurs doing what they think is right, acting in accordance with the commitments that they made in the campaign, damn the torpedoes. Annoying that might be, but isn't that exactly how big government romantics of all stripes, and especially in the press, believe that politicians ought to behave?

Release the hounds.


(16) Comments

Monday, July 25, 2011

The NFL has mercy on the country 


There will be a football season.

Thank freaking God. What with the debt gridlock, lectures on fiscal probity from the Chinese, the housing slump, permanent unemployment, the war on business, the Euro crisis, the sorry Republican presidential field, and the unreconstructed Vulcan we have in the White House, the country really needs to have a football season.


(8) Comments

O'Quiz!!! 


Yes, it has been ages since I have linked the O'Quiz. My bad! I scored a rollicking 7 out of 10, which would be unacceptably lame on a public school pop quiz but almost double the currently prevailing 3.88 average score for this week's O'Quiz.

Post your score in the comments. Even if it sucks. Integrity demands at least that much.


(35) Comments

Sunday, July 24, 2011

If you are from New Jersey, Pennsylvania is a tax haven 


There are only 49 states with a lower tax burden than New Jersey. People leave this state for Pennsylvania, which has higher taxes than a mere forty states, to avoid state taxes. I know, I've seen them do it.

Meanwhile, there are only five states with a lower aggregate tax burden than Texas, which has 30% more people than New York (which taxes slightly less aggressively than New Jersey) but which collects 60% less in taxes. Even if you believe that Texas does not do everything right, how can any principled New Yorker not be outraged, or at least ashamed, by the disparity?


(7) Comments

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tabulations 


A few open items for your consideration this Friday afternoon...



The horror!

The national debt, visualized.

A huge bomb explodes in downtown... Oslo? Who could possibly be responsible? Thinking, thinking... And we have an answer! UPDATE: Or another.

Yes, the Rosenbergs were guilty, and, yes, Salvador Allende actually committed suicide. When liberals accuse conservatives of myth-making fantasy, they must be projecting.

They said that if I voted for McCain a rogue Department of Justice would retaliate against its own whistle-blowers, and they were right!

Ann, er, asks whether the press applies principles of respondeat superior consistently. Her point: If Rupert Murdoch is guilty, so are a lot of other media CEOs.

Why wasn't Les Moonves responsible for CBS anchor Dan Rather trying to throw the 2004 presidential election with phony National Guard documents one month before the election?

Obviously phony documents, I might add.

TTYL.

(3) Comments

Not Perfect - Tim Minchin 

This is one of the sweetest songs I know. Makes me smile when I'm blue.


(1) Comments

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Autocorrect disasters 


Do you have problems with the autocorrect feature on your smartphone? Regardless, this is the funniest stuff I've read in ages...

And, yeah, I'm fairly sure I'm the last person in the world to have seen it...


(3) Comments

Market cap moment 


When will Apple Computer be worth more than ExxonMobil?

Both companies are astonishing monuments to human imagination and enterprise.


(3) Comments

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Facebook status of the night 


From my feed, the best FB status I have seen in a while: "When space shuttle lands, everybody wear ape suits. Pass it on..."

Your tastes may vary, of course.


(4) Comments

Monday, July 18, 2011

A small debt limit factoid 


For those few of you who have not already been to Instapundit this morning, a debt limit factoid to weigh in assessing which side is full of more horse pucky on this subject (an extremely close assessment in any case):

Flashback: Every Dem Senator Including Obama Voted Against Raising Debt Limit In 2006…

Of course, that vote was purely symbolic, insofar as those Democratic senators had no chance of winning their vote absent a filibuster (assuming that was a procedural option for that purpose), and they did not filibuster. But still.

What I would not give for a little bit of intellectual honesty from either side.

MORE: In a note about the closely divided politics, a good question:
Why doesn’t the GOP propose a 5% across-the-board cut in spending? I doubt that very many voters will believe that there’s not 5% that can be cut in any department of the federal government, and compared to the cuts most households have made it’s minor indeed. Then they could do it again next year . . . .

I have thought for a long time that an across-the-board cut might be the only solution within the grasp of our benighted political class. And toss in repeal of 5% of the "Bush tax cuts," just so everybody gets their bit.

Of course, with federal spending now at around 25% of GDP, a 5% reduction in federal spending would in the short term knock at least a point off GDP, which would essentially throw us in to an "official" recession. What incumbent president is going to agree to that heading in to an election year?

(28) Comments

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Semiotics post of the day: Sign of the times 


Easily the most famous motel sign in Austin...


Sign of the times


Yes, we were walking around South Congress this afternoon, taking in the sights and eating ice cream from Amy's.


(6) Comments

A "thank you" that may, or may not, be in order 

The top 1% are now paying more than half of all federal income tax collected by the United States Treasury. That is partly a function of the great progressivity of the "Bush" tax cuts, and partly because the top 1% are earning a higher percentage of the national income today than they did thirty years ago.


Fair taxes?


The question, of course, is whether this is a reason to thank the top 1% for their great contributions to GDP and the federal budget, or heap opprobrium on them and demand more. Your judgment in that probably depends on whether you believe that affluent people create their wealth, or appropriate it from more deserving people.


(10) Comments

Twenty links: Wandering down my Facebook feed 


I have an extremely eclectic group of Facebook friends -- many of whom are actual friends -- from more or less the entire American political landscape. For shits and giggles, the last 20 links on my feed with, er, instacommentary but no judgment.


The United Nations Security Council decides that being nice to the Taliban will make them like us more. Because that worked so well the last time.

A almost transcendent puff piece about John Kerry from the NYT that contains this absolutely spectacular bit:

Suddenly he was one of the leaders of the Senate. And then he was Massachusetts’ senior senator as well: Ted Kennedy’s death in 2009 removed both a cherished adviser and a giant shadow. Just about everyone who knows Kerry notes how much happier he is now than he was before.

I'm also happier now than I was before Ted Kennedy died, but I think it is a coincidence.

Chicago's Magnificent Mile just got that much more, er, magnificent.

Tit for tat. Literally.

"Malaise" redux?

Mexican narco-armor.

Mark Steyn on bargaining with Barack "Obluffer."

The United States House of Representatives stands up for traditional... light bulbs.

Gay-baiting in Boston.

The News Corp phone-hacking scandal spreads.

The Obama downgrade? Reminder: In brinksmanship, the most credibly irrational side wins. Is Barack Obama credibly irrational?

Obama's budget stimulates his "boyhood home."

Flash mob patriotism at a New England Stop and Shop. Must see!

The final theatrical trailer for the Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

I am not sure what this is about, but there it was, on my feed!

VDH on the demagogic style.

Ingratitude, they name is South Korea.

Michelle Bachmann raises $4.2 million, including from the Kochs.

Without pork belly futures, could there ever have been "Trading Places"?

A Japanese capitalist will sell you the crane to hang your enemies by. Or not.

(4) Comments

Friday, July 15, 2011

A walk around Austin 


I finished work a little after 3 this afternoon, so I walked north from the Stephen Austin Intercontinental, where I am staying, to the Texas State Capitol and the University of Texas campus. I took in an exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center -- a good idea if you are in town -- bought some souvenirs at the UT Co-op (pronounced the American way, rather than the Harvard way), and had a 512 IPA at Scholz Garten. A few stray pictures of Austin on a hot July afternoon follow...


Texas State Capitol


Austin from the capitol


The clock tower


Live oaks


More later. Or not.


(4) Comments

Will somebody please send the president some flowers? 


The WSJ has an interesting story that claims that in the midst of the debt-ceiling fight there has been some recent restoration of Nancy Pelosi's influence (yes, that is the actual picture accompanying the story -- no married man is going to like that image). Among other delightful bits, there is this:

[I]n a White House meeting, Ms. Pelosi noted that she had sent flowers to former President George W. Bush, despite their heated policy disagreements. That was a way of urging Republicans to show courtesy to Mr. Obama.

Now that we know what the country's senior Democratic legislator believes passes for courtesy to a president of the opposing party, it would be very helpful if some Republican would prove he or she respects President Obama by sending him some flowers. Or, perhaps, something he would actually want. Like a carton of Marlboros. Or some tasty food that Michelle won't let him eat. Or, if he wants to be a bit self-effacing, Paul Ryan could send him a bottle of 2004 Jayer-Gilles Echézeaux du Dessus. Take away the talking point, guys, and have some fun while you're at it!

(4) Comments

Tech bubble question of the day 


"Has Facebook missed its IPO window?"

I love Facebook. It is a great service and there is no question that it can be brought public at what normal people would consider an awesome valuation. But I suspect (as Ritholtz does) that the rapid success of Google+ has knocked billions, or even tens of billions, off its potential valuation.


(0) Comments

The 21st Century Keeps Getting Better 

Link.

The implications for this technology are staggering, if in fact true. If they can reproduce this technology on a widespread scale, it could have enormous consequences. For one thing, it'd make fuel exponentially less expensive, and for another, liberals wouldn't be able to claim that a War for Oil is even a thing. It could transform the economy.

I hope to God this news is real. It would ruin my day if it wasn't. Also, apparently it's old news, this article was written in January about something that happened in Sept. 2010.

(7) Comments

Wing-tips, but not shoes 

Wing tips. EWR at dusk on July 14...


wingtip1


And then aloft, flying to Texas.


wingtip2


(4) Comments

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cool post of the day 


Six "super cool" discoveries made using Google Earth. True dat.


(1) Comments

Barack Obama's health care prevarications 

Ann Althouse notes that Barack Obama pretty much made up the story about his mother's health insurance troubles out of whole cloth. In other words, he lied.

On the one hand, this seems like a larger-than-usual stretching of a personal truth in pursuit of a policy objective. It reminds us that argument by anecdote, at least for complex legislation, is misleading, and that we should look askance at any politician who plays that game. On the other hand, politicians exploit their families, dead or alive, for all sorts of purposes. See, e.g., John Edwards.

Egads.


(4) Comments

Michelle Bachmann's church 


Considering the reluctance of the mainstream media to examine the ideology of candidate Barack Obama's church, the speed with which the "respectable media" has jumped on the strong statements of Michelle Bachmann's Lutheran synod is, well, head-turning. Apparently, the churches of conservatives are legitimate targets but those of liberals are not. Perhaps because, deep down, reporters just don't believe that a liberal politician's church affiliation reflects actual beliefs.

Of course, Republicans who argued that Obama's decades-long association with Jeremiah Wright was a legitimate topic for partisan attacks -- and I was and remain absolutely in their camp -- cannot honestly object when liberals go after the Lutherans, however irritated they might be at the outrageous inconsistency of the media.


(16) Comments

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dream Theater - Learning to Live 

From their album Images and Words, performed live in New York 11 years ago.


They are my favorite band, and this is my favorite song of theirs.


(4) Comments

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Semper Fi indeed! 


Candidly, this seems like an improvement over the USO.


(1) Comments

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cloudscape over heartland America 

The Blackberry Torch really has a nice camera. Yesterday, while flying from Salt Lake City to O'Hare, I snapped this cloudscape:


Cloudscape over America


Not bad for a cell phone through a scratchy old airplane window.


(2) Comments

The CIA is sneakier than I had thought 


Whether or not it succeeded, this strikes me as a fairly creative black op:

The CIA organised a fake vaccination programme in the town where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding in an elaborate attempt to obtain DNA from the fugitive al-Qaida leader's family, a Guardian investigation has found.

As part of extensive preparations for the raid that killed Bin Laden in May, CIA agents recruited a senior Pakistani doctor to organise the vaccine drive in Abbottabad, even starting the "project" in a poorer part of town to make it look more authentic, according to Pakistani and US officials and local residents.

Not surprisingly, our "friends" the Pakistanis are not amused.
The doctor, Shakil Afridi, has since been arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) for co-operating with American intelligence agents...

The doctor is one of several people suspected of helping the CIA to have been arrested by the ISI, but he is thought to be the only one still in custody.

Pakistan is furious over being kept in the dark about the raid, and the US is angry that the Pakistani investigation appears more focused on finding out how the CIA was able to track down the al-Qaida leader than on how Bin Laden was able to live in Abbottabad for five years.

Props to the CIA for running the op, even if it may not have succeeded in getting Bin Laden family DNA, and brickbats to the Pakistanis taking our foreign aid money without finding Bin Laden in their own backyard. Don't they know they were being bribed?

(4) Comments

Roots 

Another Blackberry photo from my trip to Hawaii last week...


Roots


(2) Comments

Afternoon science note: Worms from hell! 


Cool:

After digging holes in the Earth's crust for nearly two decades, Princeton University geoscientist Tullis Onstott is now making headlines for unearthing "worms from hell."

Onstott's research team, which he led with Gaetan Borgonie of the University of Ghent in Belgium, recently made a startling discovery: microscopic roundworms known as nematodes living nearly two-and-a-half miles beneath the Earth's surface in several South African gold mines. The worms are roughly a quarter of the diameter of the head of a pin. Although nematode species have been known to live as far as 20 feet below the surface, scientists generally assumed there was no reason to believe the organisms would be found anywhere near the depths of those found by Onstott's team, he noted.

There is a big difference between 20 feet and 2 1/2 miles. If relatively complex life can survive in that niche, it can survive on other planets. The question is, did life ever get started there?

(7) Comments

Leon Panetta and David Petraeus agree... with George Bush 


Leon Panetta and David Petraeus agree, the strategic defeat of Al Qaeda is not only possible, it is within reach.

Al-Qaeda's defeat is "within reach," according to Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, who said that eliminating 10 to 20 of the group's top figures could cripple its ability to strike the West.

Panetta, on his first trip to Afghanistan since taking over at the Pentagon on July 1, told reporters before arriving in Kabul that now was the time - in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden in May - to intensify efforts to target al-Qaeda's leadership.

"We're within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaeda and I'm hoping to be able to focus on that, working obviously with my prior agency as well," said Panetta, who ran the CIA until the end of June.

His assessment could stoke the debate in Washington over how soon to pull out the US military from the land where bin Laden's network launched the attacks of September 11, 2001, against the US.

"Now is the moment following what happened with bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them. Because I do believe that if we continue this effort that we can really cripple al-Qaeda as a threat to [the United States]."

General David Petraeus, who will take over the CIA's top job in September, told reporters that he agreed with Panetta's assessment that strategic defeat of al-Qaeda was possible.

Notwithstanding the bleating of Barack Obama's "base" -- which has largely believed that the strategic defeat of Al Qaeda just was not possible -- the president has appointed a team that substantially agrees with George W. Bush, that victory over al Qaeda is both desirable and possible. That is to Barack Obama's credit.

(10) Comments

A short note on the question of "new" taxes 


In all the back and forth over whether there will be new federal tax increases for the rich, or not, let us all remember that the Obama Administration has already pushed through massive tax increases, most of which will fall on the "rich," that go in to effect in 2013 and thereafter. The Wall Street Journal has a nice summary of them here. So the question is not whether the "rich" will pay new and more taxes, but whether there will be another round of increases on top of those already legislated.


(4) Comments

Mystery Photo! 

The following is an unretouched, unedited photo of a Hawaiian sunrise that I took with my Blackberry's camera last week. What are those UFOs?!?


Turtle Bay sunrise


(9) Comments

A short note on invasive species 


Regular readers know I was in Hawaii last week. I took a quick detour on the way home to visit my sister in Dillon, Montana, a beautiful five hour drive from Salt Lake City. It so happens she is a biologist, and an expert in invasive species. Unfortunately, we did not discuss this story, which suggests a potentially yummy solution to the problem.


(4) Comments

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Public service announcement 


Been traveling, on the road for 11 days now and heading home this afternoon, subject to the apparently many loose ends in the Continental/United merger. But my jet-setting ways -- yup, I'm in the middle seat notwithstanding platinum OnePass status -- will not prevent me from supplying you, my loyal readers, with the link to Duchess Kate's er, "wardrobe malfunction."

Marilyn Monroe didn't do it any better.


(1) Comments

Friday, July 08, 2011

Friday morning video fun 

A nice bit of anti-warmist propaganda for your Friday. Annoy your easily panicked friends by passing it along!



On the matter of rapid climate change not caused by humans, consider this passage from Nicholas Wade's riveting book about the pre-history of homo sapiens, Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors (bold emphasis added):

The Pleistocene did not depart quietly but in a roller coaster of climatic swings. After the Last Glacial Maximum, of 20,000 to 15,000 years ago, came a warming period known as the Bolling-Allerod Instadial, during which plants, animals and people were able to move northward again. But the Bolling-Allerod warming, which lasted from 15,000 to 12,500 years ago, was a false dawn. A second cold period, particularly challenging because it began so abruptly, established its grip on Eurasia. Within a decade, it had sent temperatures plummeting back to almost glacial levels and soon had converted to tundra the vast forests of northern Europe. This deadly cold snap is known as the Younger Dryas, after a dwarf yellow rose, Dryas octopetala, that grew amid the tundra.

The Younger Dryas lasted for 1,300 years and ended as suddenly as it began, also in a decade or so, according to the cores drilled from through the Greenland ice cap that serve as an archive of global climate. By 11,500 years ago the world was launched on the Holocene, the inter-ice period that still prevails.

Wade is a science reporter for the New York Times, believe it or not.

More on the Younger Dryas here.

(3) Comments

Tabulations 


My open tabs have congregated, and are virtually begging for spiritual release. Here goes:

Glenn Reynolds reports that the private aviation industry is furious with Barack Obama:

While pundits and politicians haggle over whether alterations in the depreciation schedule of corporate jets will actually have an impact on the deficit, those in the general aviation trenches are furious.

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPO) President Craig Fuller told The Daily Caller that Obama’s comments have cast a pall over the industry, causing many who were considering buying a plane to back away from making a purchase.

An Instapundit reader from Wichita thinks that President Obama is "clueless" when it comes to the aircraft industry:
Seems Obama is completely clueless on the aircraft industry…or his aides are. Here where I live in Wichita, KS the aircraft capital of the US we have over 44,000 employed in the aircraft industry in one city of 400,000.

Actually, I think Barack Obama knows exactly who he is bashing. Kansas has six -- count 'em, six -- electoral votes, and Obama didn't win them even when he was popular. He can enrage literally every Kansan and it will cost him exactly nothing.

Allah be damned, now we're going to get "Caylee's Law." Nearly as I can tell, laws named for dead kids are almost always ill-considered and turgid with unintended consequences.

The Obama legacy, in a reductionist video nutshell. His timing with gas prices really was unlucky, but it dovetails so poetically with his ridiculous pandering to the greenies.

Yes, Virginia, there has been no global warming since 1998.

Stop worrying and start sprinkling.

Is the problem revenue, or spending? Read the charts and decide for yourself.

Actually, we have a regulation problem. As cogent an argument as you are going to read for lowering the regulatory burden on business. The only problem with it is that a lot of job-crushing regulation is not federal, but state or local and far too petty for national attention. How much more economic activity would we have in New Jersey if, for example, liquor licenses and building permits were not so difficult to obtain?

A nice chart looking at the condition of the world's workers. The tax column is hideously wrong, unfortunately, for it excludes state income tax. My marginal income tax rate, for example, is about 41% (tax-effecting my New Jersey marginal rate).

Gross. There is only one state in the country with an obesity rate under 20% -- Colorado. C'mon people. Eat less, do more. Yes, you are burdened by your previously awesome but now dysfunctional calorie-conserving genes. We know that. But that is no excuse for driving your car everywhere and eating all the food they serve you at Applebee's.

TTYL.

(8) Comments

Thursday, July 07, 2011

In memory of my father 

My father died of cancer thirteen years ago today. A few days later we buried his ashes in a cemetary in Virginia that sits on land that has been in our family since before the American Revolution. This is the eulogy that I wrote and read at that service (and republished regularly on this date since I started this blog):

Remarks at the burial service for John B. Henneman, Jr.

Chellowe Cemetary, July 13, 1998


Our father, whose ashes we bury here today, was – in a most redundant sense – a “unique individual.” He was a political conservative in the most left-wing community the United States has ever indulged – the American university of the last thirty years. He believed that the best music, clothes and hairstyles ever devised were those that were popular on Ivy League campuses in the middle 1950s, but he understood the “current” thinking of college kids better than any of my friends’ fathers. He was not a devoted churchgoer, but he had such strong feelings about the changes in established religion that he banned the current version of the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer from this service. He was a Republican who voted for Richard Nixon twice and he served as an officer in the United States Navy, but he retained a fundamental distrust of big institutions, including both federal regulatory agencies and multinational corporations. He was a wonderful father, husband and son, and he most wished to be remembered as a professor, scholar, medieval historian and librarian.

On this occasion, I wanted to tell a brief and fairly cerebral story about my father that taught me an important lesson, and makes me as proud today as I was at ten years old, when the events in question occurred. Most of you have never heard of these events, or if you have you probably do not appreciate their significance to me.

In February 1972, the University of Iowa Psychology Department invited a Harvard psychologist, Richard Herrnstein, to speak on research he had conducted with pigeons. Professor Herrnstein was controversial, because the previous September he had published an article in the Atlantic Monthly suggesting that social and economic success in the United States might derive in part from measurable intelligence, and that since measurable intelligence was at least to a certain extent inherited, it followed that social and economic success might also be inherited. This position posed a sharp challenge to prevailing orthodox radical thought, so the organized left resolved to oppose Professor Herrnstein wherever he spoke, even when he was addressing totally unrelated matters, such as pigeons.

In the Iowa case, the front organization for the Students for a Democratic Society, the infamous SDS, repeatedly and publicly expressed their intention to prevent Professor Herrnstein from speaking, notwithstanding his formal invitation from the University. True to their threats, the SDS and its allies demonstrated so vocally that Professor Herrnstein was unable to speak and had to cancel his presentation.

The University administration remained basically silent during the days preceding and following the cancellation of Professor Herrnstein’s speech of February 25, refusing to discipline those responsible for the violation of academic freedom and free speech that had occurred. After a week of inaction by the administration, on March 3, 1972, Dad read a statement to his Medieval History class. Excerpts from the statement, and the aftermath of Dad’s decision to cancel a class in protest, I think reveal a lot about our father’s willingness to fight for what is right:
Before you start writing, there is one matter which I feel I must talk to you about, even though you are probably sick of hearing about it. The deliberate and successful attack on academic freedom which occurred here a week ago was the most tragic and upsetting thing which has happened in the three years I have been here. I feel that I can’t continue to perform my duties here without saying or doing something to make public my sorrow and my sense of outrage.

Because there is such pressure for conformity in a large industrial society, a university has to promote diversity more than ever before. But it cannot offer you diversity of opinion or provide anything more than mere indoctrination unless every faculty member has the fully guaranteed right to say what he thinks is the truth, not simply what one political group wants him to say. This right is academic freedom. Without it, I could not remain in this profession and your prospects for a broad and diversified educational experience would be gone ….

I think that neither you nor I can afford to have this issue swept under the rug. As a means of symbolizing my protest at the administration’s failure in this case, I am canceling Monday’s lecture in this course. I hope that you will take a few moments during that hour to reflect on the fact that freedom is very hard to win and very easy to lose.

A firestorm of publicity erupted. Backed into a corner, the administration disciplined the students involved, decertified the SDS front organization, and, for good measure, censured my father for canceling his class.

My clearest direct memory of these events is of a conversation I had with our father as the controversy was playing out in the press. I asked him why he had canceled his class and gotten into trouble with the University (a fairly straightforward question from a ten year old boy). I will always remember his reply: “The right of freedom of speech does not matter for people we all agree with. Freedom of speech only matters for people whose ideas we deplore.” It is a seemingly obvious point that even Americans often forget. For me, those words flash through my mind every time I learn of an attempt to suppress free speech. I cannot help it – it is a piece of Dad that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

As the son of a historian and a librarian, I took it upon myself to review Dad’s voluminous and well-organized files in the preparation of these remarks. Almost a year before, in April 1971, our father had anticipated the entire episode in a letter objecting to a draft Statement on Professional Ethics being circulated by the University of Iowa Faculty Council. The draft Statement asserted that a “professor’s first priority should be to do all in his power to prevent death and injuries due to violence” during periods of high tension on campus. Dad denounced that requirement, writing that:
[w]hen conditions on campus are abnormal, the threat usually involves a demand for scapegoats, as some tried to make ROTC a scapegoat for last year’s Cambodian intervention. It is at these crucial moments that the first obligation of faculty members must be to act rationally and to stand firmly behind any member of the community whose rights are threatened. Standing firm is a difficult matter, since capitulation often appears to be the only way of averting violence. Nevertheless, every time we sacrifice somebody else’s rights in the hope of avoiding bloodshed we are guilty of unethical and unprofessional conduct and make our own rights less secure and less respected.

Dad, we love you and will never forget you. May you rest in peace in the Virginia soil that you loved so very much.

I wish so much that he were able to tell us what he thinks of the great questions of our age, which seem of much greater moment than those which concerned us in the summer of 1998. And I hope so much that I am able to teach my own children lessons that they remember for the rest of their lives.

(3) Comments

Homestuck - Descend 


This song gives me goosebumps whenever I listen to it.

(3) Comments

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Eco-theater at Princeton 


Years after it fell in to disuse, Princeton University's Firestone Library is doing away with its card catalog. As an alumnus who did a lot of work in that library and the son of a librarian (indeed, a Firestone librarian), I have warm feelings about that catalog. Years later, I know what the drawers feel like, and I can remember the particular smell of the old cards. None of that, though, kept me from chuckling at this bit of academic "eco theater":

In mid-July, the Firestone card catalog will be dismantled and recycled....

The wooden sides and tops of the cabinets will be taken apart carefully and saved so they can be re-used in paneling or furniture in the renovated building. The fronts of the drawers will be removed and reassembled later in a display wall honoring the history of the library. The cards themselves will be sent out for recycling.

I find it hard to believe that this bit of conservation -- especially the part about saving the wood for use in no doubt custom, site-built "paneling or furniture" -- is not substantially more expensive than conventional demo. But Princeton has lots of money and loyal alumni who will give more (I am among them), so it should not surprise us that the university would spend some of it to this end, if for no other reason than to avoid the inevitable campus controversy over not "recycling" the catalog.

(5) Comments

Apple cash 

How Apple Computer uses its massive cash hoard to strategic advantage. If the words "supply chain" don't cause your eyes to roll back in to your skull, well worth reading.


(1) Comments

Congressional "productivity": A bug or a feature? 

Congressional "productivity" is at a modern low point:

The 112th Congress is on pace to be one of the least productive in recent memory -- as measured by votes taken, bills made into laws, nominees approved. By most of those metrics, this crowd is underperforming even the "do-nothing Congress" of 1948, as President Harry Truman dubbed it. The hot-temper era of President Clinton's impeachment in the 1990s saw more bills become law.

There are many explanations offered in the linked article, but none of them are mine, which is that the two parties are measuring "productivity" differently. There is essentially no new work being done. Rather, the Republicans are trying to repeal programs and spending that the Democrats enacted when they had unassailable majorities in both houses of Congress, and the Democrats are trying to prevent that repeal. Unlike Truman or Clinton, President Obama is acting much more like a Congressional Democrat than a chief executive with an independent agenda, being himself quite content to see the Republicans fail.

(3) Comments

Monday, July 04, 2011

Governor Awesome strikes again 


Politics ain't bean bag, especially in New Jersey. But there is no doubt who is on the side of the people who pay more in taxes than they get back in checks from Trenton.


(4) Comments

Refresh the tree of liberty the post-modern way 


I am enjoying the Fourth of July from Hawaii, one of two states that was once its own country. Some of its citizens might be forgiven for not celebrating American Independence Day, yet they do. It is the idea, rather than fact of the matter. And, of course, the cook-outs, which on the basis of my seven visits here Hawaiians do better than most other Americans.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel drinking, well, a Mai Tai, and reading Ann Coulter's new book (which, by the way, is funnier than her last book -- I was chuckling all afternoon). In a long passage in which she points out that "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution notwithstanding the claims of liberals to the contrary, Ann trots out a line from Jefferson that got me to thinking:

True, the "separation" phrase comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. He also wrote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants," but you don't hear conservatives going around citing the "tree of liberty clause" in the Bill of Rights. Like "the separation of church and state," it's not in the Constitution.

Jefferson was, of course, correct, and the "tree of liberty" idea is as consequentially embedded in our national traditions as "separation of church and state." Most American wars -- not all, but the vast majority -- have been about refreshing the tree of liberty.

There are also non-sanguinary methods for refreshing the tree of liberty, and in today's America they may be the most important. Glenn Reynolds suggests several in this holiday essay, which is well worth reading. To Reynolds' list -- read the essay -- I add this: Support -- or, better, start -- a business that makes your community a more pleasant place to be. Is a local restaurant struggling to get permission for outdoor seating? Does your town building inspector take forever to issue a permit? Do the local regulators pay more attention to the anti-business screamers than the silent majority that believes that new businesses make the community better?

In many communities, a small change in the calculations of local politicians would make it much easier for new businesses to start and grow. The next time the activists oppose a new enterprise, building, or opportunity at a town council meeting, refresh the tree of liberty by standing up against the enemies of progress.

(2) Comments

A few pictures from my phone camera 


I'm on Oahu for the better part of a week with the TH Daughter, and am beginning to pile up pictures from this trip and the weekend in Salt Lake City. A few of them made the cut...


The ride from Park City, Utah to Salt Lake City, Friday morning last. I love the colors and the lighting -- pretty good for a cell phone.


parkcitytoslc

Now in Hawaii, I went for a run early this morning and at about 7 am grabbed this view of Waikiki from the east.


waikikilookingwest


Your Blogger at breakfast at Surf Lanai, one of the restaurants in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.


JBHatbreakfast


We went body surfing in the late morning at Sandy Beach and I took a few pictures with the big camera, but I am too tired to download them and turn them in to a blog post. After cleaning up and such we went to the Honolulu Hard Rock Cafe, which is quite near our hotel. On the way up, I took a picture of the guitars suspended from the ceiling.


HonoluluHardRock


And, finally, a "Scratch Mai Tai" at the eponymous bar in the Royal Hawaiian.


honolulumaitai


It was very nice.


(7) Comments

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sunday Morning Music - I'm a Member of the Midnight Crew 

1909 - Eddie Morton


Also, webcomic.

(1) Comments

If you have ever wondered how many Quakers it takes to screw in a lightbulb... 

...this is the answer.

(3) Comments

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Security theater watch: The snowglobe threat 

You have to hand it to the TSA, they think of everything.


snowglobes


(6) Comments

Iran's war 


The Islamic Republic is up to no good, again:

Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has transferred lethal new munitions to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months, according to senior U.S. officials, in a bid to accelerate the U.S. withdrawals from these countries.

The Revolutionary Guard has smuggled rocket-assisted exploding projectiles to its militia allies in Iraq, weapons that have already resulted in the deaths of American troops, defense officials said. They said Iranians have also given long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, increasing the insurgents' ability to hit U.S. and other coalition positions from a safer distance.

Casus belli, for sure. I tend to believe that it is not in our interests to attack Iran -- at least not right now -- but it is important to remember that if we did our war would be just and lawful.

(5) Comments

News you can use 


Red wine: The new exercise!


(0) Comments

Gasoline, smasholine 


Gasoline prices getting you down? Then you just aren't paying attention to the real inflation problem.


(0) Comments

Friday, July 01, 2011

Jumping to conclusions on Dominique Strauss-Kahn and a note about the legal system 


The legal case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is collapsing, according to the New York Times, and so perhaps is the moral case. There has been and will be plenty of hashing and gnashing of this, but I have two quick items.

First, I was to some degree a DSK conclusion-jumper, and am sorry about that. A good reminder that even in today's transparent world the facts sometimes take some time to emerge.

Second, this note from an Instapundit reader is worth passing along:

UPDATE: A reader emails: “If DSK is innocent, and what happened was either consented to or just ‘bad sex’ (as Ann Althouse would say), then I think it’s an instructive example of the power imbalance between men and women in the legal setting. Also, a powerful example of what a class-neutral legal system we have.”

There is much to argue about in both points, but they are true enough to provoke a good discussion. I'll leave the "gender/power imbalance" for y'all to hash out in the comments while I go about my day. With regard to the purported class-neutrality of the legal system, there are at least two trends that run in opposite directions. On the one hand, the prosecutorial populism of the last twenty years or so (witness the extended campaigns against Wall Streeters, starting with Rudy Giuliani's perp walks and the legal war against Michael Milken), has resulted in a great many very high profile prosecutions of the super-rich. American prosecutors, being future and sometimes actual politicians, love busting rich folks, even if they have a weak case. On the other hand, an ordinary American confronting the legal system has a much greater chance of success if he or she has the financial resources to mount a vigorous defense. These two conditions manifestly co-exist and muddle any general conclusion about the aggregate "class-neutrality" or lack thereof in the American criminal justice system.

Release the hounds.

(17) Comments

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?