Thursday, April 30, 2009

The eyes have it 

Macro photographs of eyes, human and otherwise. Cool.

CWCID: Good Shit.

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Did the Specter defection make it harder for Barack Obama to appoint judges? 

Legal Insurrection argues that Arlen Specter's defection to the Donks may have made it easier for Republicans to block President Obama's judicial appointments, including the replacement for Justice David Souter, who announced his retirement today. The reason is that Senate Judiciary Committee rules require the consent of at least one member of the minority party to report a nomination to the Senate floor. With Specter now in the majority, who will be the default acquiescing Republican? Joe Biden, please meet petard.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Swine flu political theory: Individual rights and the antibiotics era 

The Morgan Lewis law firm has promulgated a useful FAQ (pdf) for employers who wonder how to deal with employees that may have swine flu. The short version: Tread very carefully lest you violate somebody's rights.

The Morgan Lewis memo, plus a conversation that I had earlier today over another swine flu story, reminds me of a hypothesis that I have had for some years: That the massive expansion of individual rights in rich countries in the last fifty years derives substantially from the invention of antibiotics and the mitigation of infectious disease as a leading cause of death. The perhaps temporary defeat of infectious disease as a major threat in rich countries has meant, first, that we no longer have to take swift and harsh public health measures to contain epidemics, and, second, that there are no longer visible examples of the brisk application of the police power without associated due process. From a post I wrote more than five years ago, when perhaps eight people a day read this blog:

It is no coincidence that the rise of legally cognizable individual rights in the United States and Europe during the last 50 years corresponded with the antibiotics era. When virulent infectious diseases posed a mortal threat to virtually all Americans -- as they did before World War II -- we needed government to act swiftly, and without anything resembling due process, to quarantine infected or even merely exposed individuals in order to isolate outbreaks before they spread widely. We understood instinctively that we had to impose harsh measures on individuals in order to protect the public. We didn't give a damn that sometimes we had to board people up in their houses or make them take a shot because we knew that the consequences of doing otherwise could be devastating. Does anybody believe that smallpox could have been confined to its tiny little lockbox if vaccination for the disease had been voluntary?

The defeat, or at least the subsidence, of infectious disease since World War II meant that we no longer needed our government to impose these harsh obligations on individuals for the public good. As a result, we see very few examples today of individuals who are required to bear great (or even small) individual burdens for the benefit of the public, so any such circumstance looks like a great injustice and therefore becomes the subject of litigation.

I served that theory up this morning to my physical therapy colleagues (have I told you about my two frozen shoulders?), and they thought there was a lot to it. Perhaps they were just humoring me.

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AIG jerseys 

SportsProf emails from Europe (last night, his time):
"In the English Premiership, the top soccer league in England, teams make the most money they can from sponsors by selling 'jersey' sponsorships, that is, the name of the sponsor goes on the front of the jersey (this holds true for soccer teams throughout Europe). Right now, I am watching a semifinal in the Champions League, which has the best teams in Europe vying against one another. The big game tonite is between Arsenal, a Premiership team from London ('Fly Emirates' is on their jersey), and the New York Yankees of soccer -- Manchester United. The name on Man U's jersey is AIG. Honest. (I suppose that USA was taken)."
Pictorial evidence:

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A magazine for beta males 

Totally unfair, and also funny.

I'm single, and I share the pain. All relationships involve compromise and sacrifice. It's about love, trust, balance, mutual respect and reciprocity. Right?

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TigerHawk on credit markets 

To save everyone the trouble of clicking through, here is the text of an email from this blog's favorite self-described corporate tool to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit:

"Yes, the situation with the auto workers is a mess and the small bondholders are getting whacked, but it is far from clear that the example of the GM situation will hurt credit markets. First, the credit markets have actually been improving in recent weeks (while the automakers have been understood as zombies), with more money flowing in to mutual funds that invest in bonds, yields on corporate bonds (among other instruments) slowly declining (meaning bond prices are going up), and, finally, a few original issuance 'high-yield' bond deals actually getting done. So I am not sure the auto deal is in fact causing the credit markets to go 'John Galt,' for which we should all be grateful. Second, in general the Paulson/Geithner era has been extremely solicitous of bondholders and other creditors. The equity has gotten crushed, the executives have been taken to the woodshed, but the government has been all about protecting the creditors, even to the point of serious moral hazard (thinking primarily of the AIG counterparties, who are the main and possibly only beneficiaries of the AIG 'bailout')."

CWCID: Instapundit, and, well, TigerHawk.

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VPOTUS: Joe gaffe-o-matic hypochondriac 

Vice President Joe Biden went on NBC's "Today" show this morning and said that he would avoid taking commercial flights or riding in a subway car, because the swine flu can spread "in confined places."

An hour later, Biden modified his statement.

The airlines, not exactly flush with capital at the moment, can't be happy.

At least the VPOTUS can take comfort in the fact that this will quickly be forgotten, as compared to, say, if Dan Quayle had made the same statement under the same conditions.

That said, I wonder what the early line is for Biden's inclusion on the ticket again in 2012?

UPDATE: Via Hot Air, ABC's Jake Tapper asks WH Press Secretary Robert Gibbs what Biden meant, hilarity ensues.

CWCID: Politico

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Airport security loophole? 

Evidently, you can be an unaccompanied minor and get through TSA security without ID.

A 13 year-old boy, said to be autistic, went on a trip:
"Kenton Weaver took his father's car Tuesday, drove 30 miles to the Fort Lauderdale airport and caught a flight to San Jose near where his mother lives...

"He used one of his father's credit cards to buy the ticket, but had no ID on him. Airport and transportation officials say anyone under 18 only needs a boarding pass to get on a plane."
It makes sense that accompanied minors might not need ID, but I wonder about the rule regarding unaccompanied minors.

It's interesting that Kenton's autism attracts him to airplanes, as contrasted with the fictional autistic Raymond character in the movie "Rain Man," who famously refuses to board a flight (language warning - NSFW).

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Chrysler files 

Chrysler will file for bankruptcy today, after talks with creditors broke down. Chrysler will stay in business, in part because of its pending business combination with Fiat.

President Obama appeared on TV at noon to discuss this news. He encouraged viewers to "buy American." It's a good thing that he always has his base nailed down, because an unscientific observational survey in places like Cambridge, MA, and Berkley, CA, would reveal significant under representation of American badged vehicles, and a relatively high proportion of Toyota Priuses and Volvos and the like. In a couple of years, it will be interesting to see all of the Chryslers, Dodges, and Chevrolets pulling up to Chez Panisse.

For some time, I have preferred all wheel drive vehicles with a standard transmission, and currently drive a ten year-old Audi A4, and before that, an Eagle Talon (sold at a Chrysler dealership, but essentially a Mitsubishi made in the States with some American made parts). I kind of like some of the smaller Jeeps -- the Patriot or the Liberty -- and hope that a restructured Chrysler survives in some form.

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The importance of public relations in the naming of a disease 

Is it just me, or has religious, national and commercial sensitivity jumped the shark?:

"We should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu," Israeli deputy health minister Yakov Litzman -- an ultra-Orthodox Jew -- said April 27. He stated that the reference to pigs is offensive to Jews and Muslims, whose respective religions prohibit consumption of pork. Pork producers -- likely worried about their product's image -- also have reservations about the name "swine flu."

Of course, Mexicans probably find "Mexican flu" offensive, but the name does seem to fit with the tradition of naming flu pandemics after the places where they were originally identified. On the other hand, there's debate about whether the current swine flu even originated in Mexico. "It was a human who brought this to Mexico," the Mexican ambassador to China told the New York Times, saying that the person was from someplace in "Eurasia." (The virus contains part of a swine flu virus of Eurasian origin.)

Meanwhile, "North American influenza" is the name suggested by the World Organisation for Animal Health.

If it makes all the sensitive people feel better, I'm more than willing for the bureaucrats to name all future deadly diseases "middle-aged white guy corporate tool" flu, fever, etc. Whatever it takes to end this stupidity.

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The veil falls away 

Say it ain't so!. Are we not allowed any illusions?

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Visualizing Obama's budget cuts 

In case you were wondering how big President Obama's promised $100 million in budget cuts looks compared to the total federal budget or even the deficit, this video ought to help:

Wow, there's some tough managerial discipline. I'm sure Ford and Toyota are hoping he brings the same budgetary scalpal to General Motors' bloated overhead.

My only objection, since I am a numismatist, is that the narrator refers to one cent pieces as "pennies." Please. Pennies are an English thing, and we do not have them here. What are we, self-hating Americans? 'Course, he redeems himself by pulling out the "wheaties," which I would do, too, but still.

CWCID: Megan McArdle.

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Jon Stewart opines on Harry Truman and the A-bomb 

Cliff May was a guest on the Daily Show and posed a series of interesting questions to host Jon Stewart regarding interrogation, war and war crimes. Toggle ahead to 5:50 for the question about Truman, and Stewart's answer.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Cliff May Unedited Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show
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Economic CrisisFirst 100 Days

As always, it is hard to tell whether Stewart's clown nose is off or on, but it appears to be off at that moment -- that is, he is giving a serious answer, not one intended to get laughs.

As I have posted previously, the rapid end to the War in the Pacific is personal to me, since my father's U.S. Navy warship was about to transit the Panama Canal to serve "picket duty" there -- essentially running interference for larger ships in a convoy. Would he have been one of the many anticipated casualties in the run up to the invasion of the Home Islands? I am happy things ended as they did.

I don't believe that President Truman was a "war criminal."

I don't think that this clip will make it to the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.

UPDATE: Welcome to Instapundit readers. I should add that I spend a fair amount of time with nonagenarians and octogenarians, many of whom are original FDR Democrats and are still politically liberal. Without exception, all of them believe that ending the war as Truman did was the right thing to do. I think it has something to do with having skin in the game at the time, as compared to Monday (Tuesday? Wedenesday?) morning quarterbacking.

CWCID: Hot Air

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Mr. Congeniality 

During tonight's press conference, New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny asked President Obama a very difficult multi-part question:

Zeleny must have been momentarily confused and thought that the East Room was actually the site of some sort of scholarship contest or beauty pageant.

I think President Obama's answer puts him in good shape to win Mr. Congeniality.

In fairness to the president, the part of his answer (during the "enchanted" section) giving credit to the military seemed to be genuine and was well-articulated.

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Scheuer on interrogation 

I haven't been a big fan of Michael Scheuer in the past. Scheuer ran the CIA's bin Laden desk in the late 1990s, and came to fame post-9/11 basically saying that if only the world had listened to him, all of this could have been avoided. He can seem as though he has read all of the Tom Clancy novels and really fancies himself as Jack Ryan, the action-oriented intelligence analyst, and the Best Man in Government. More obviously, he is routinely as anti-Israeli as an old-school John Bircher.

Scheuer's op-ed in Sunday's WaPo has threads of many of the above elements, but also makes some good points.
"Americans and their country's security will be the losers. The Republicans do not have the votes to stop Obama, and the world will not be safer for America because the president abandons interrogations to please his party's left wing and the European pacifists it so admires. Both are incorrigibly anti-American, oppose the use of force in America's defense and -- like Obama -- naively believe that the West's Islamist foes can be sweet-talked into a future alive with the sound of kumbaya."
So with a big grain of salt, read the whole thing.


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Specter's future 

The Hill is reporting that Senate Democrats are happy to have Arlen Specter in the caucus, but not so much with the notion that his seniority might be buttin' in line ahead of them with respect to key committee positions.

"'I won't be happy if I don't get to chair something because of Arlen Specter,' said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who sits on the Appropriations Committee with Specter and is fifth in seniority among Democrats behind Chairman Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Sens. Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and Tom Harkin (Iowa). 'I'm happy with the Democratic order but I don't want to be displaced because of Arlen Specter,' she said.

"One senior Democratic lawmaker told The Hill that the Democratic Conference will vote against giving the longtime Pennsylvania Republican seniority over lawmakers like Harkin, Mikulski and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) when they hold their organizational meeting after the 2010 election.

"Specter was elected in 1980, and under his deal with Reid would jump ahead of all but a few Democrats when it comes time to dole out committee chairmanships and assignments.

"'That's his deal and not the caucus's,' the senior lawmaker said of Reid's agreement with Specter."
Senator Specter might end up being kind of a lonely guy, although the determination about his seniority won't be made until the next Congress is seated.

It isn't quite a given that Specter will run unopposed next year during the PA primary. Congressman Joe Sestak, a retired U.S. Navy Admiral who has been considering a run, "left open the possibility of running against Specter in a primary despite the Democratic establishment's having lined up behind Specter."

"'While the political establishment in Washington may support him, the determination has to be made by the fellow sitting in a diner in Upper Darby," Sestak said. 'Is this the gentleman who has the right leadership to shape the Democratic Party when (he has) had a pretty tough dialogue with his base and didn't shape that party?'

"Sestak said he has no timetable and only began talking to people about the race this month. But he suggested Specter’s actions in the near term will play a big role.

"'I haven’t heard those (ideas) yet, and I think maybe that's what will come out in the next few weeks or so,' Sestak said. 'You don’t want to wait two years. It should be a couple weeks or something.'"
Sestak was a supporter of Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and was notable because of his military background, and PA went for Clinton in the primary. Sestak may feel somewhat less constrained by White House backing of Specter in the run up to next year's primary, and it's not as if Vice President Biden's support of his friend Specter will mean many votes PA.

Speculating well outside of the box, I wonder if Lynn Swann would consider running in the Republican primary, either against Toomey, or solo, if Toomey withdrew now that his primary reason for initially entering is gone. Swann ran against incumbent Governor Ed Rendell in 2006 and lost, but perhaps outperformed expectations.

It would be a bitter pill indeed for Senator Specter if he loses the election in 2010, or, if he wins, loses his seniority.

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Squeezing all the cash out of inventory 

Stratfor's morning letter (subscribe here!) focuses on the dismal GDP report, and in particular the massive inventory drawdown that sucked more than 2% out of GDP. We are in the middle of the largest reduction of inventory in the American economy since records have been kept. This adversely effects GDP, since changes in inventory reflect changes in economic production. The good news, if there is any, is that a big reduction in inventory will eventually force the supply chain (whether stores, wholesalers, or intermediate producers) to restock, and that will drive first longer work hours and then more employment. In other words, a reduction in inventory is a precursor to economic recovery, painful as it is to endure. That this reduction has been so long and so deep already may mean that the bounce back will also be stronger than usual.

In any case, why are businesses reducing inventory so severely? Because of the credit crunch. It takes cash to build or buy inventory (depending on your point in the supply chain), and most companies borrow that cash by one means or another. Well, if banks and other lenders are reducing their exposures to businesses that have less than ideal credit profiles, those businesses will have to get cash for growth from some other source. The easiest and most obvious place for businesses that make or trade in stuff is inventory, which can be liquidated for cash. If the business can replace less inventory than it sells, it will use the surplus cash to pay down loans that cannot be refinanced in the current market.

The question, of course, is whether credit will be available to increase inventory when the demand shows up to justify it.

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Philosophical question of the day 

If you have sex with another woman and do not remember it, is it cheating?

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My reputation 

Hey, somebody out there "gets" my sense of humor! I was worried that I was all alone.

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Osprey blogging 

If you need a break from the world of men (used in the species sense, rather than the gender), check out this wonderful slide show of ospreys on the hunt. Really great stuff if you like birds of prey. Which I obviously do.

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Losing Specter 

I was otherwise engaged yesterday afternoon when news of the Specter defection broke, but have taken in some number of blogger and talking-head reactions since (see Memeorandum for a huge blog round-up). Lest anybody was wondering, my opinions are as follows:

  • This is very bad news for Republicans and conservatives. Why? Because it will probably lead to the enactment of laws and entitlements that will become all but impossible to repeal no matter how robust the ultimate reaction against them (if there is such a reaction).

  • The lust for ideological purity within the Republican party is a fool's errand. Neither conservatives nor -- thank the Lord, Allah, and Yahweh -- liberals have the votes to enact every aspect of their agenda except under very rare circumstances. Those circumstances only arise in times of great national crisis or when an ideological candidate is able to manufacture broad appeal by dint of his personality. Ronald Reagan was such a conservative, and Barack Obama is such a liberal. Sad to say, there is no obvious Ronald Reagan in the Republican party today who can lead it back. Therefore, conservatives will only be able to regain some measure of power by making common cause with moderates.

  • On the right, the big divide between conservatives and moderates is on "social" issues, and the right losing support for its purest positions. Whatever conservatives may feel, strident opposition to gay marriage will make it impossible for conservatives to win votes from more than a small fraction of educated professionals, no matter how fervently such people respect "tea party" principles of low taxes, small government, and individual achievement. Too many of us have gay friends, family, and employees not to want them to be happy in marriage. Even I, who travel in conservative circles and absolute defend the right of Miss California and others to hold their opinions, am offended by a lot of the conservative rhetoric against gays. Republicans, who claim to be pro-family, should loudly decide that support for gay marriage is pro-family and pro-stability. Which, by the way, it is. Similarly, the pure position on abortion will never win the day no matter how fervently the pro-life activists press their message. Conservatives should push for a program to make abortion as rare as possible, but that would require them to support widespread contraception which offends too many in their ranks.

  • Republicans, and conservatives, need to find a way to appeal to ethnic minorities. Even in the age of Obama it can be done, but only by reshaping the debate over immigration. Republicans have been the party of American nativists since they absorbed the "Know Nothings" just before the Civil War, and everybody knows that (without necessarily knowing the history). That legacy means that even well-intentioned complaints about "border security" sound like nativism to ethnic minorities. Conservatives need to understand that. Instead, conservatives should work diligently to attract ethnic minorities by emphasizing the thing that immigrants care about the most: Opportunity.

  • Pushing Arlen Specter out the door, giving Barack Obama a filibuster-proof Senate, and hoping for the next Ronald Reagan is not a strategy for anything other than an America that most conservatives would hate to see transpire.

    MORE: This is an interesting look [link fixed!] at the reality vs. the perception of conservative ascendancy.

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    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Krystian Zimmerman is off his meds, or something 

    Krystian Zimmerman is a Polish concert pianist, and is considered to be one of the outstanding pianists alive. Sadly, like many other creative geniuses, he is a frickin' loon.

    At the Disney Hall in L.A. on Sunday, he made an announcement from the stage that he would no longer perform in the United States as a protest against America's military policies, especially in Poland.

    Huh? Poland?
    "'Get your hands off my country,' he said, soft-spoken but seething. He accused the U.S. military of wanting 'to control the whole world,' and made a reference to the U.S. military detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."
    First of all, doesn't he know that President Obama is in the White House now, and it's all good? Come on, it was in all the papers.

    Second, I will give him a dollar for every American citizen that he can find that actively wants the United States to assert any kind of military control over Poland. Cooperation with NATO (and really, it's only NATO, for cryin' out loud) that is favored by a majority of Poles doesn't count.

    No serious American national politician since Gerald Ford has made mention of Poland in any kind of memorable pronouncement. In fact, as Werner Wolf used to say, let's go to the videotape (you might have to turn up the sound):

    A good and decent man, Gerald Ford, but that faux pas might have cost him the election in 1976, and given us Jimmy Carter. The look on the face of Max Frankel, the moderator, was priceless. I remember watching that debate with my mother, who, less than three decades earlier, had learned that her family's home on Bezeredi Utca in Budapest had been nationalized and converted into a block of apartments for the Soviet bureaucrats helping to pull the strings of the communist government in Hungary. Needless to say, we were not amused. Years later, I almost accidentally ran over President Ford in a restaurant parking lot in Edwards, Colorado (it was a dark and snowy night...) But I digress.

    Zimmerman is a great talent, a "magnificent obsessive," and has a legitimate axe to grind with the TSA (which could be a rather large club) -- one of his "piano(s) was destroyed by Homeland Security at JFK airport because officials were suspicious that its glue could be an explosive in disguise" -- but the United States really has no designs on Poland. Really. Zimmerman, in his early fifties, is old enough to know what a foreign power "having hands" on Poland actually looks like. Part of the reason that the U.S. spent gobs of money (well, at least back then it seemed like gobs) countering Soviet moves all over the world was so that one day, the countries behind the Iron Curtain could be free of Soviet domination and have a high degree of self-determination.

    Hey, Krystian? You're welcome.


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    9/11 Photo-op follow-up 

    This is just cruel. Hilarious, but cruel. And there are a couple of good questions at the end of the post.

    MORE: OK, just catching up here. The Feds knew the flyover could cause a panic and still ordered that the flight be kept secret? Brilliant, and not as the word is used in the Guinness ads.

    More linkage here and here. And I simply love the questions about CO2 emissions -- Sing it along with me: "I'll believe global warming is a crisis when the people who say it is a crisis act like it is a crisis" -- and the request that we learn who the passengers were so we can run the names up in "Open Secrets." It will be very interesting to see whether there were any big fish on that plane.

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    Sen. Specter switches parties 

    Senator Arlen Specter (? - PA) announced today that he intends to switch parties and caucus with Democrats in the Senate.

    President Obama "reached Specter by phone and told him 'you have my full support' and that the Democratic Party is 'thrilled to have you.'"

    Assuming that the Minnesota seat goes to Al Franken, as seems likely, the Democrats will have 60 seats in the Senate, which is a filibuster-proof majority.

    This is a matter of political survival for Specter, who would struggle to defeat Pat Toomey in the Republican primary next year, notwithstanding the fact that Specter has a sizable war chest. I am guessing that he had discussions with Democrats who were considering running for the seat, and that perhaps the serious candidates have agreed to stand down in the face of White House support for Specter, allowing Specter to have a very inexpensive primary race. Obama's language seems to support this theory, and it is not hard to speculate on Rahm Emanuel's fingerprints on this switch ("the POTUS will campaign for you if you switch now; Reid will treat you well"). This sets up a Specter vs. Toomey general election in 2010 that will be closely watched all over the country. President Obama won PA fairly convincingly last November, and Toomey will have to run a very effective campaign to win in the key suburbs of Philadelphia, which are trending less conservative as compared to the platform Toomey ran on last time he was a candidate.

    Arlen Specter is a survivor. But I can't help thinking that the honorable thing to do here -- rather than switching parties at the end of your career, in a naked attempt to have one more go at it -- would have been to retire.

    UPDATE: It is more likely that Vice President Biden, and not Rahm Emanuel, helped to broker the deal. Biden and Specter are good friends, and used to ride on the train together to and from Union Station in D.C. (the Wilmington, DE stop is the next stop southbound on the Amtrak line from 30th Street Station in Philly). In the early 1990s, I was on that train roughly once per week, and would see them together, usually on the northbound leg.

    UPDATE #2: Liar, liar, pants on fire. Notice the date. Things can change so quickly in three weeks.

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    The GM bankruptcy and a test for American socialism 

    Larry Kudlow via Glenn Reynolds:

    What is going on in this country? The government is about to take over GM in a plan that completely screws private bondholders and favors the unions. Get this: The GM bondholders own $27 billion and they’re getting 10 percent of the common stock in an expected exchange. And the UAW owns $10 billion of the bonds and they’re getting 40 percent of the stock. Huh? Did I miss something here? And Uncle Sam will have a controlling share of the stock with something close to 50 percent ownership. And no bankruptcy judge. So this is a political restructuring run by the White House, not a rule-of-law bankruptcy-court reorganization.

    Look at the bright side, Larry. The federal government and the workers will own one of our largest and most storied industrial companies. That has never really happened before. In other words, the governmental restructuring of General Motors is a social experiment that will shortly teach us two things: Whether businesses can be managed to a profit when in the hands of bureaucrats and union officials, and whether American consumers will trust such people to stand by the products that they make. I, for one, am eager to learn the answer, because it will tell us what we should and should not do about health care.

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    The 9/11 photo op 

    I was pretty busy yesterday -- in New York, actually -- so by the time I got to the ridiculous "9/11 photo op" story I did not have anything original to add. I suppose I could have pointed out that "stupid is as stupid does" or ask "are these the people we want to put in charge of our health care" or say the almost de rigueur "can you imagine the reaction from the media if Bush had been this stupid?" or "now we know why they are more worried by the damage done by waterboarding than the damage done by terrorism -- they do not understand the latter," but there is nothing original in these.

    Seriously, though, watch this video of New Yorkers panicking at the sight of the low-flying jet with the trailing fighters and then explain this stupidity. The people who hatched this idea or signed off on it really do not understand what 9/11 was all about. My concern is that they are actually senior enough -- the White House signed off on the offending "mission" -- to influence American policy.

    MORE: Patterico makes a good point in this last post-script.

    FURIOUSLY MORE: You have to love that the New York Times noted in both its story and the caption to the accompanying photograph that President Obama was "furious." Apparently no-drama Obama keeps his cool when some dictator lectures him or, we hope, there is a real crisis, but if his image is at stake he becomes "furious." You can almost hear Rahm Emanuel and the President talking this through:

    "Sir, much as you hate the drama, this time we should go with 'furious.'"

    "Well, Rahm, perhaps you are over-rating furiousity as an emotion; the people voted for no-drama Obama, and that's what they got."

    "Mr. President, you really need to be furious. Trust me on this."

    "OK. But let's not be furious too often."

    Supposing that neither President Obama nor Rahm Emanuel knew about this before the fact -- and I certainly hope they did not, because that would imply a level of micromanagement that our country can ill-afford -- what does this say about the judgment of the other people involved? How many people had to sign off on this stupidity? Nobody, not one, stood up and declared this the stupidest publicity stunt in the history of the universe?

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    Monday, April 27, 2009

    Do bicycle helmets harm the public health? 

    If it were not for all the math, I'd love to be an actuary. They get to study the net effects of different activities in isolation and often come up with very counterintuitive results. See, e.g., this abstract of a paper that purports to show that bicycle helmet laws may have a net negative public health effect because, to be reductionist about it, requiring helmets makes biking so uncool or uncomfortable that people do much less of it than when helmets are not required. From the paper itself (click through the link in the abstract):

    Generally there has been solid support for bicycle helmet laws in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, less so in the US and the UK, and little support in northern European countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark, where cycling is far more popular. Reasons for lack of support include the following. First, helmets reduce cycling and hence the impact of "safety in numbers." Second, helmets may promote the view and possible misconception that cycling is a relatively dangerous activity. Third, helmets may draw attention and harm prevention activities away from the real causes of cycling accidents. Finally, helmets may promote the view that cycling is a non normal activity only to be undertaken with specialized equipment.

    A reduction in cycling has negative environmental and health consequences. DeMarco (2002) opines: "Ultimately, helmet laws save a few brains but destroy many hearts." Ignoring any environmental costs associated with reduced cycling, the efficacy of helmet laws hinges on whether the positive direct benefits (fewer head injuries) outweigh the indirect negative effects (less exercise).

    There are, of course, environmental consequences as well. Bicycles do not pollute, do not require imported oil or the enrichment of Arab dictators and kings, do not make noise, and do not take up nearly as much space on the road. If those considerations are factored in, do helmet laws lose all their net utility? It is possible. The Dutch, who ride bicycles like a people possessed, do not require the wearing of helmets in part because they worry that fear of "hat head" will cause people to stop commuting by bike and take up driving instead. I admit, hat-head considerations keep me from riding my bike to work as well, unless I leave time to shower when I get there.

    Interestingly, there is a whole web site with lots of linkage given over to this question. If you want to build the case against cycling with a helmet, there's your resource.

    Important disclaimer: My company makes products for neurotrauma. As such, I see a lot of neurotrauma case studies, and have developed a preferential interest in avoiding trauma to my own head or the head of any loved one. Therefore, I wear a helmet when I ride a bike or ski, and require that my children do the same, actuarial hoo-ha notwithstanding.

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    Late April AGW update from Utah 

    A picture from Cirque Traverse (just downhill of the peak of 11,000 feet above sea level) dated today from Snowbird, Utah, which is still open for skiing.

    The resort website says: "Snowbird is still open daily and there is 11" of fresh snow waiting to be skied. Come up and enjoy the sunshine!"

    The snow report indicates that the total snowfall this season thus far has been 612 inches, or about 20% greater than the average total seasonal snowfall.

    Some energetic two-sport locals will ski 18,000 vertical feet in the morning (equal to 6 rides up the tram), and play 18 holes of golf in the afternoon down valley at 4,500 feet above sea level, near Salt Lake City.

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    American bankers who worry about their public image... 

    ...should be thankful that they are not Icelandic bankers.

    Look on the bright side. I've always said that.

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    Wheeling protesters 

    Even with President Obama in the White House, protesters still go there and still get arrested. And, no, it's not a "tea party" protest.

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    Scary moments? 

    Since TigerHawk is in Manhattan today, we need to find out from him whether the POTUS scared him this morning.

    UPDATE: As a commenter points out, the POTUS was not on board the 747 that will eventually serve as Air Force One when it buzzed Manhattan today, and presumably he did not directly sign off on the flyover.

    The Mayor is not pleased.

    I assumed that the POTUS was on board, since that would be the reason for not providing notice of the flyover (the Secret Service being possibly concerned about Stinger missiles or the like). My mistake.

    Video here.

    UPDATE #2: As expected, Ace is not so forgiving or understanding, and coins a new acronym: "NOTUS." Harsh.

    If approving this exercise / photo op actually made it onto the president's desk some weeks ago, then his staff is not doing a very good job. I would be surprised if it even made it onto Rahm Emanuel's desk. It will now, however.

    CWCID: Ace

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    Miss California agonistes 

    Miss USA pageant officials apparently tried to get Miss California to "apologize" for parroting Barack Obama's position on marriage, which is that it ought to be between a man and a woman. Now, I do not agree with either of them on this subject, but why the hell should she apologize for honestly answering a direct question that called for an opinion? This episode is driving the chattering classes insane precisely because it reveals how intolerant they are of simple opinions with which they disagree, especially when those views reflect, well, intolerance.

    Just remember, the right of freedom of speech is only relevant to people who express opinions that offend the powerful. There is no other need for it.

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    The best shoe shine ever 

    I admire a person who can do even a mundane job with skill, humor, and aplomb. Well, I just got the best shoe shine I have ever had from Kevin Tucker, who works a stand just outside Grand Central Station on 42nd Street. Now, Kevin claims he gives the best shine in New York and will devote the entire shine to an amusing monologue about the secrets of a great shine, the importance of a great shine to attracting women and success in business, and the influence of the Navy on his shoe-shining skills. He says that he views every shine for a new customer as "an audition" for all their business. Sadly, I do not pass by Grand Central too often, but Mr. Tucker did get a free TigerHawk endorsement out of it. If you go that way, take the time -- "perfection cannot be rushed" -- and get yourself a great shine.

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    Living with history 

    I spend most of my time looking after my father, who will be 94 years old later this year. He was born in 1915, 50 years after the end of the Civil War. He has seen and experienced much in nine decades of life.

    Yesterday morning, while having coffee at breakfast with my father and reading the morning paper, I read an op-ed in The Philadelphia Inquirer by Kevin Ferris concerning the coercive interrogation issue, and it contained this paragraph:

    "Look to World War II. After France fell, there were fears its fleet would fall into Nazi hands. Churchill ordered the destruction of that fleet, killing almost 1,300 allied sailors in the process. At the time, Hitler seemed unstoppable and an invasion of Britain imminent. Clearly a difficult decision, shocking even in its time. One admiral wrote, 'We all feel thoroughly dirty and ashamed.'"
    I read that paragraph to my father and asked him, "does that ring a bell?" knowing that my father had enlisted in the U.S. Navy right after the fall of France in 1940.

    "Yes, the Brits were very concerned that French ships would be used against them. After the North Africa campaign, many French ships were recovered by the Allies, and a French battleship came to the U.S. for refitting. I went aboard the Richelieu in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1943."

    I joked that it must have made the eight semesters of French at Princeton all worthwhile, to be able to converse with sailors in New York Harbor.

    Sometimes, asking Dad is quicker than Googling.

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    Mother's Day is May 10 

    Don't blow Mother's Day.

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    Ice fine 

    Hope and change: An alarmist with a history of wildly inaccurate predictions is slatedly to become head of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which tracks data on Arctic sea ice, among other things. Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice area is barely below the satellite-era baseline, and global sea ice is now almost a million square kilometers above the baseline. Oh, but you say the problem is that it is too "thin"? Is it actually thinner than it was in 1959?

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    Morning reading 

    Bereft as I am of creativity and scheduled to spend most of the day in New York with bankers in the age of TARP, herewith a bushel of links and random observations.

    The Obama administration is rolling back financial transparency requirements for labor unions, including with regard to leadership compensation, at the same time that the Democrats are proposing rules that will subject corporate executive compensation to a vote of stockholders. Anybody see anything cynical in that?

    "Busting Bank of America": The editors of the Wall Street Journal are brutal on the beating that the government has given to Bank of America and the consequences, unintended or otherwise, thereof. Money quote:

    No wonder no banker in his right mind trusts the Fed or Treasury, and no wonder nobody but Pimco and other Treasury favorites is eager to invest in the TALF, the PPIP, or any of the other programs that require trusting the government as a business partner.

    The political class has spent the last few months blaming bankers for everything that has gone wrong in the financial system, and no doubt many banks have earned public scorn. But Washington has been complicit every step of the way, from the Fed's easy money to the nurturing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and since last autumn with regulatory and Congressional panic that is making financial repair that much harder. The men who nearly ruined Bank of America have some explaining to do.

    A shortage of doctors is an "obstacle to Obama goals." The problem, according to the article, is not so much a shortage of MDs, but a shortage of primary care physicians. The over-specialization of American medicine has been a beef of the reformers for a long time, and, indeed, health care costs per capita are much higher in parts of the country with a larger proportion of specialists. Why? Because in American health care more supply drives more consumption without any reduction in cost per unit of care delivered. The Obama administration proposes to deal with the shortage by lowering reimbursement (and therefore physician compensation) on specialist procedures and raising it on primary care procedures. This will touch off a war within medicine, as predicted in question #5 of my 2007 post "A few questions for health care reformers."

    Matt Drudge's contribution to the public health, via Glenn Reynolds.

    Apparently the Obama administration's new willingness to treat with Iran is unpopular among Arab governments.
    The Obama administration is dispatching its point man on Iran, Dennis Ross, to the Middle East this week in an effort to win greater Arab support for Washington's engagement strategy toward Tehran, U.S. officials said.

    A number of Arab governments in recent weeks have voiced concern about the U.S. outreach, fearing it could help entrench Iran as a Mideast power while failing to end its nuclear program, the U.S. officials said.

    Arab governments have been seeking assurances from Mr. Ross and other U.S. officials that Washington's overtures toward Iran won't undercut their security interests, U.S. and Arab diplomats said. The Arab governments are asking the U.S. to consult regularly with them as President Barack Obama seeks to hold high-level negotiations with Tehran aimed at ending its nuclear activities.

    "The discomfort among the Arabs is quite real. They have deep anxieties about Iran," said a senior U.S. official working on the country. "The first thing is to be in the position of consulting with them, and taking into effect their concerns."

    Hey! I was told that the Bush administration's policy toward Iran was incompetent and had no basis in geopolitical realism.

    The "restructuring of global oil demand." Interesting.

    That should hold you for a while.

    MORE: This is what happens when you put an academic in charge of a problem in the real world.

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    One for the Yalies... 

    Harkness Tower, which I climbed to the very top of on an icy day in January 1981 (photo credit: A Yalie).

    Harkness Tower

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    Sunday, April 26, 2009

    Off the beaten tow path 

    Another phone camera picture, this time from the top of the berm along the Delaware-Raritan Canal tow path. I took it this afternoon in the stretch between Province Line Road and I-295 in Lawrence Township. If you saw how built up the area is, you would be surprised at the large expanse of woods and swamp lands near the canal.

    Off the beaten tow path (Del-Raritan Canal)

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    Sunday afternoon mystery photo! 

    For glory among the esteemed TigerHawk readership, identify the building in this mystery photo submitted by a loyal reader who shot it this morning. The more context you can provide, the more glory!

    Mystery Photo!

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    The honorable business of selling 

    Ben Stein has a great column about salesmen in today's New York Times. Although I have never been a particularly comfortable salesman myself, I have had jobs that required genuine selling and was reasonable successful at it. Stein's article brings wonderful perspective to the subject, and some very useful advice for young people. Indeed, if you are one of my young people, be sure to read the whole thing.

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    One for the Tigers 

    McCosh Walk, around 11 a.m. today, via the camera in my Blackberry.

    McCosh walk on a fine April morn

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    Apropos of nothing, check out this nifty map (via Paul Kedrosky) of the progression of plague across Europe during the "Black Death" of the mid-fourteenth century.

    Progression of plague during the Black Death

    Plague, of course, is bacterial, and its bubonic version (the most common) spreads via "blocked" fleas (friendly reminder that the TH Father was an expert on 14th century Europe, and I once wrote a moderately learned post on the subject). The map above shows how quickly the disease can spread when flea-ridden men and animals travel by foot. The pattern would be different in the jet era, with hot spots emerging around transportation centers. Let's hope -- no, let's pray -- we do not see similar such maps produced for swine flu in the coming months.

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    There's an almost certainly apocryphal exam legend at Princeton (and probably other universities). The philosophy professor poses the question "What is courage?," and the only A+ grade goes to the student who writes simply "This is." on the inside of his blue book and hands it in.

    Well, parking this car on the Princeton campus -- just outside of Murray-Dodge Hall not one hour ago -- might similarly qualify.

    As seen on campus, April 26, 2009

    The opposition is out there.

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    Saturday, April 25, 2009

    Feed a cold, starve a cancer 

    Why fasting may lead to more comfortable and effective chemotherapy.

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    Crazy Belgians 

    If this does not bring a smile to your face you are much crankier than you ought to be. Apparently this was shot live after only two rehearsals.

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    Where's Gerald Ford when we need him? 

    The swine flu outbreak in Mexico is beginning to get ugly, dominating headlines from the Drudge Report to the World Health Organization (bipartisan blog roundup here). Once upon a time we had a president who incurred great political risk (notwithstanding claims, improbable as they may seem, that his motivations were cynical) to protect us against this sort of thing.

    MORE links here, plus helpful flu pandemic survival resources.

    STILL MORE (Sunday morning): Apparently the Ford Administration was, on this issue at least, substantially more clued in than the Obama administration. Blog round-up here.

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    Mocking the United States Postal Service 

    So, I received an email from a massive internet-related company that began with the following two sentences (emphasis added):

    We've recently sent you a Personal Identification Number (PIN) via standard mail. You should expect to receive it within about 2-4 weeks.

    Now, I know that it is fashionable to mock the post office, but is snark this harsh in an official communication really called for?

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    Porter Goss: crossing the red line 

    Read the op-ed by Porter Goss in today's Washington Post.

    He is uniquely situated to comment on the politics of the interrogation mess, having been chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 1997 to 2004, and then director of the CIA from September 2004 to May 2006. That is, he was present at most of the post-9/11 meetings that "read in" certain Members of Congress on the interrogation programs, then later had executive authority over parts of the program while at CIA.

    "Let me be clear. It is my recollection that:
    -- The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.
    -- We understood what the CIA was doing.
    -- We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.
    -- We gave the CIA funding to carry out
    its activities.
    -- On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more
    support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda."

    It sounds as though he is ready to testify under oath, and that Speaker Pelosi may not like everything he has to say.

    I'm just thinking out loud here, but is it possible that Speaker Pelosi has early-stage Alzheimer's Disease? She wouldn't actually misrepresent the meetings on the Hill that took place post-9/11 regarding interrogation, would she?

    Actually, seriously, Goss calls on President Obama to "shut down this dangerous show."

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    Home again 

    We caught the 6:30 flght out of Cedar Rapids, switched in Chicago, and landed in Newark around 11:30 this morning. No matter how often I fly, which is frequently, I will not get over the miracle of jet travel. It astonishes me every time I think about it.

    Anyway, I caught a phone camera picture of Manhattan and the crashed TH Teenager as we approached. You do not often see such a well-defined layer of smog.


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    More Andy McCarthy on Interrogation 

    Former terrorist prosecutor Andy McCarthy summarizes nicely the quandry that President Obama finds himself in as a result of his decision to release the OLC memoranda regarding interrogations:

    "At issue here is a matter of policy, not evidence: In the United States of America, should the victor in a presidential election use the enormous powers of his office to investigate and prosecute his political adversaries, and thereby begin a cycle of retribution in which policy disputes will henceforth be criminalized?

    "That is exactly what the Left wants. We, on the contrary, believe it would tear the country asunder, in addition to re-establishing the ethos of risk-aversion that invited 9/11. President Obama could have let sleeping dogs lie. Instead, he stirred both sides to battle stations. Now he will have to decide, and bear the consequences."
    Even if you believe that the decisions of the Bush administration with regard to coercive interrogation were wrong and indeed criminal, it seems to me that: a) not many, even on the far left, want to prosecute those who actually conducted the interrogations, notwithstanding the diminished status of a "Nuremberg defense" (unless they actually went beyond the meets and bounds of the guidelines provided from above); b) going after the lawyers who provided advice will be difficult, unless the advice was along the lines of "oh, yup, it's OK to decapitate your wife if she changes the channel with 2 minutes left in the game and the score tied -- see Highlander v. Kurgan," that is, outrageous advice that is clearly well beyond the bright lines of legal conduct as set forth by ABA rules; c) you are left with going after the former president and vice president. I think Cheney would welcome the debate, which might have unforeseen negative political consequences for the Democrats (even if convicted, Cheney gets a pardon from President Obama -- you heard it here first -- just so he can demonstrate his munificence, and it likely would not cost him votes on the left).

    Perhaps Democrats could conduct an internal poll on those party members 53 years old and up (who were of voting age when Ford pardoned Nixon in 1974) and ask then if, given the benefit of hindsight, it was the right thing for the country to turn the page at that time, or whether it would have been preferable to have Nixon go on trial. I am not trying to equate anything Nixon actually did with alleged criminal acts by Bush -- the focus here is purely on the concept of moving forward, which I believe President Obama wants to do.


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    White paint 

    Almost two years ago I stumbled across a study that seemed to show that painting rooftops and pavement white would so increase the reflectivity of the earth's surface that it would compensate for a substantial amount of the increased average global temperature due to anthropogenic global warming. Well, others are now asking why that solution is not on the table today.

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    Mapping charity 

    USA Today has an interesting Flash file that maps volunteerism around the country. It is both interesting and gratifying that there is no discernable electoral trend as between states -- the most giving people seem well-distributed around the country regardless of "red or blue" status. Of course, finer differences might be obscured within state populations, but it is still nice that American volunteerism, one of our graet national strengths, seems to be widely dispersed. Good, we need that.

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    While I'm flying home... 

    ...read Stuart Taylor's essay on the "truth commission" that we really need.

    "A democracy as resilient as ours must reject the false choice between our security and our ideals," President Obama said on April 16, "and that is why these methods of interrogation are already a thing of the past."

    But is it really a false choice? It's certainly tempting to think so. The fashionable assumption that coercive interrogation (up to and including torture) never saved a single life makes it easy to resolve what otherwise would be an agonizing moral quandary.

    To be sure, the evidence in the public record is not conclusive. It comes mainly from Bush appointees and Central Intelligence Agency officials with records to defend and axes to grind. There is plenty of countervailing evidence coming from critics who have less access to the classified information that tells much of the story and have their own axes to grind. There are also plausible arguments for renouncing coercive interrogation even if it does save some lives.

    But it would be an abdication for the president to proceed on the facile assumption that his no-coercion executive order is cost-free. Instead, he should commission an expert review of what interrogators learned from the high-value detainees both before and after using brutal methods and whether those methods appear to have saved lives. He should also foster a better-informed public debate by declassifying as much of the relevant evidence as possible, as former Vice President Cheney and other Republicans have urged.

    Any moral clown can denounce enhanced interrogation and torture on the grounds that it does not work. There is no choice in that, other than between sadism and humanity. The president does a disservice, though, if he avoids that difficult question, which George W. Bush pointedly did not do, by covering up information that sheds light on whether it was effective, whether it did, in fact, "save lives." Only then will the utilitarians -- and, let's face it, most people are utilitarians on this question -- be able to judge the policy, the Bush administration officials who implemented it, and the Congressional leaders who condoned it.

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    Truth Commission

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    Friday, April 24, 2009

    Finding Herbert Hoover 

    With an afternoon to kill in Iowa City, the TH Teenager and I decided to check out the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in nearby West Branch. Hoover, it seemed to us, was newly relevant.

    It is a fascinating afternoon, and you find yourself hurtling along Interstate 80 through Iowa I strongly recommend stopping for a while at the site. Hoover was born in West Branch, traveled the world accomplishing engineering and humanitarian marvels in an unbelievably brilliant pre-presidential career, and then returned to West Branch after his death to be buried there along with his astonishing wife, Lou Henry Hoover. Their graves are a few hundred yards from the house in which he was born and the Quaker meeting house in which he worshipped as a child. The museum and library sit in the middle.

    The TigerHawk Teenager in West Branch, Iowa

    The burial site of Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover

    Your blogger at the gravesite of Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover

    I do not propose a long dissertation on Hoover -- just visit the place, or read the biographical bits inside of Amity Shlaes' excellent The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression -- but I was struck by the relevance of Hoover's warnings for our own time. Along with the obligatory Herbert Hoover presidential shot glass -- you know you want one -- I bought a coffee mug with a sarcastic warning from Hoover from 1936 that resonates today:

    Prescient coffee mug

    And, yes, I do intend to wear the replica campaign button around town...

    Replica campaign button

    I'll report on any particular reactions.

    Judging from the books available in the museum's bookstore, Herbert Hoover could use a new biographer. Amity Shlaes did a great job in a chapter, but his pre- and post-presidential accomplishments were so extraordinary that he deserves a much warmer home in our historical memory. It is a shame that Stephen Ambrose did not take up the task. Hoover needs somebody who writes as well.

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    Public service announcement 

    We would not be loyally serving you, our readers, if we failed to link to Amazon's massive spring clothing sale. All, or at least most, of the top brands!

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    Iowa byways 

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the well-meaning Iowans who named this road (intersecting Highway 1 between Solon and Iowa City) were unfamiliar with its slang meaning. Which is weird, because I'm fairly sure I knew the term when I was a kid growing up around here.

    Iowa byways

    I'm going to submit this to the Fail Blog and see it makes the cut.

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    Pipe organ trivia 

    Touring the campus at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, I just learned that its King Memorial Chapel contains "the second largest pipe organ west of the Mississippi," the largest being in the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. Which, of course, means that I have seen the two largest pipe organs west of the Mississippi in the last four weeks. I bet not many people can say that.

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    Only in the New York Times... 

    The New York Times is featuring on its front page a story about states that are shortening the hours of offices and agencies and furloughing their employees in order to save money. So, you can imagine the lede:

    Licenses for same-sex marriages were supposed be issued in Iowa starting this Friday. But because of a crimped state budget, court employees will be on mandatory furlough that day and the courts will be closed. Gay couples cannot start filing for their licenses until Monday.

    Seriously? Gay people waiting a weekend to get a marriage license is the big inconvenience caused by state furloughs? There are no issues for, say, businesses that are desperately trying to get permission from some bureaucrat to do something constructive?

    Either the remaining and shrinking audience for the Times is even more idiosyncratic than even I imagined, or its editors are extraordinarily peculiar people. It is hard to see what the third explanation would be.

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    Our plunge into national poverty 

    Der Spiegel is running a story about how dire things are in the United States -- "Soup Kitchens and Tent Cities: Crisis Plunges US Middle Class Into Poverty." No excerpt can really capture the tone of the thing -- which seems a lot like schadenfreude to me -- so click through if you are interested. There is an audience in Europe for American failure, no doubt about it.

    There is no question that the economic downturn is extremely tough on some people, those who have lost their jobs or their houses or have struggled to keep businesses alive. On the one hand. On the other hand, it does not yet seem to be worse than the grinding economy of the late seventies and early eighties, when I (at least) came of age. The unemployment rate was in double digits and inflation had imposed a 15% tax even on cash, a delight that we have not (yet) endured in the current crisis. My sense is that it sucked more then, but I have also changed so it is difficult to judge. I am at once much more aware of economic conditions -- growing a business has become terribly difficult -- and personally less sensitive to them.

    The question, it seems to me, is not how difficult things are now. Tough times are tough times. The question is how long it takes us to recover, or whether we are watching a transformation to a permanently lower standard of living. There are many people in the chattering classes both here and in Europe who seem to welcome the idea. Not me, I think it would be a tragedy. I quite enjoy the fruits of the mass consumer economy (even if I also believe that people need to relearn thrift and financial wisdom).

    And, of course, there is the point that troubles most conservatives: Are the government's programs to revive the economy and engineer hope and change now condemning us and our progeny to a permanently lower standard of living? That is my great fear as my own children embark on the journey of life.

    CWCID: Dum Spiro Spero.

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    Speaker Pelosi = Sgt. Schultz 

    I think she means to say "Office of Legal Counsel" or "OLC," which is part of the Executive Branch (DoJ), not "Office of (the) Legislative Counsel," which helps House Members draft bills, and is part of the Legislative Branch. Of course, misspeaking is a good indication that your sentence is not accurate and that you misspoke.

    Seriously, does Speaker Pelosi really want to go down the road of holding hearings in the House regarding coercive interrogation methods, and determining which House Members and Senators were "read in" to the program? Who gets to question the Speaker under oath? Has that ever happened in the history of The House of Representatives?

    UPDATE: Rep. Peter Hoekstra calls BS on the Speaker.

    UPDATE #2: Jules Crittenden agrees (via Instapundit).

    CWCID: Hot Air

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    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    In Iowa City 

    Behold the view from my window on the fourth floor of the Marriott in Coralville, Iowa, the bit of sprawl outside of Iowa City. It is a surprisingly impressive hotel with an almost absurdly grandiose driveway.

    The view from my window:   Coralville, Iowa

    The Coralville Marriott has a number of other distinguishing features, including a permanent display of Iowa arts and crafts behind glass. For instance, here is a work (or works) titled "Iowa Corn and Beaded Iowa", Mixed media with beads, by Thomas Wegman, Iowa City (via cellphone camera):

    Iowa corn, in beads

    There is also a lovely library devoted to "Iowa authors" -- meaning the many big guns who have studied or taught at the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop -- that is so impressive it will almost certainly be the subject of another post. Everybody from John Irving to Donald Justice to Kurt Vonnegut to John Cheever to Z.Z. Packer. It is fairly obvious that if you want to write fiction or poetry this is a great place to be.

    Anyway, I had a very nice dinner tonight with one of our local readers at a sports bar and restaurant on the Coralville strip called "The Vine." It is, of course, festooned with "TigerHawk" banners, which made me very happy. But the fun did not stop there. Only when I arrived at the place did I realize that it had been built virtually on the spot of the Alama Friendship Inn, the motel at which I had my first real job (running the night desk, doing odd jobs, and occasionally cleaning rooms, but that's another blog post). The Vine is a great improvement.

    More Iowa excitement tomorrow, after I retrieve the TigerHawk Teenager from his overnight stay at Cornell College.

    MORE: Disturbing and entirely predictable local news.

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    Are the ads covering up blog posts? 

    Two readers have sent me emails complaining that the Google ads I've added in the last week are actually overlapping with text in the posts themselves and thereby making the blog impossible to read. I have had no such problems in either Explorer 7 or Mozilla, but perhaps people are using different browsers that do not display the blog properly. Anybody else out there with that experience? If so, what browser do you run?

    UPDATE: I slightly narrowed the main column (from 75% of the total width to 70%) in the hope that would improve the experience with the ads. Other readers have suggested clearing your cache if you are among those with a problem. That said, we do not want to lose readers because the ads are covering up the posts, so please let us know if that is what you see.

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    Moveon.org was originally formed during the Lewinsky scandal as a group that wanted Congress to censure President Clinton, not waste time with impeachment proceedings, and have the country "move on."

    Now, Moveon.org invites you to sign a petition stating:
    "No one is above the law. It's time to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute the architects of the Bush-era torture program."
    The politics of appointing a special prosecutor are absolutely toxic, and would make the Lewinsky scandal -- and the fact that a sitting president likely perjured himself in a civil suit (for which he had his Bar license later suspended) -- seem like a day at the beach.

    Senator McCain, who has more than a passing acquaintance with both the consequences of actual torture and the 21st century politics of "coercive interrogations," has co-authored a letter to President Obama "urging him not to prosecute government officials who provided legal advice related to detainee interrogations."

    If Senator McCain is prepared to give the lawyers (presumably a large subset of "architects") a pass and "move on," then perhaps Moveon.org could do the same. If not, then the organization might consider changing its name to wehatebushandwanttoseehiminjail.org. A bit cumbersome, but descriptive.

    UPDATE: I see no mention of any kind of "special prosecutor" scenario anywhere is this AP article headlined "White House opposes special commission."

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    Endless meetings 

    On the one hand, it is a little hard to imagine falling asleep in a meeting with the president and the press. On the other hand, I rather notoriously nod off during meetings, especially in the middle of the afternoon and especially when I am not supposed to do anything, so I'm not going to come down on Larry Summers too hard. It is nice to see that the White House has become such a low-stress environment that people feel free to snooze when there is nothing much going on.

    'Course, it would be a good idea to lose the photographers before nodding off. Then the only risk would be that Tim Geithner snaps a candid with his cell phone and leaks it to distract people from the more important distractions.

    CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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    Readings while I'm traveling 

    How convenient.

    The argument against enhanced interrogation/torture. Because, you know, I'm nothing if not fair.

    More later!

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    Pirate errata: Correcting the record 

    History blogger and TigerHawk cousin GreemanTim calls out the press for erroneously reporting that the attack on the Maersk Alabama was the first by pirates against an American-flagged ship since the Jefferson administration, an error that I myself have repeated (at least in conversation). There have been others.

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    Spontaneous Metal Interlude! 

    Lesse if this works:

    Powerglove: Mario Minor

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    Forgiving torture 

    Democrats who want to prosecute Bush administration officials for interrogation practices after 9/11 should follow the lead of the Obama administration, which wants to let bygones be bygones.

    It's not what you think.

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    Pictures of China rising 

    I've been fortunate to visit China, not counting Hong Kong, three times: 1984, 1986, and 2006. The change in the big cities, especially near the coasts, in the two decades between my visits as a student and the trip three years ago was nothing short of astonishing. If you had only seen the country in those first years after it opened up, you simply would not believe this astonishing gallery (not for dial-up) of post cards and other photographs of the new China. Or, at least, the wealthy parts.

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    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Coming to Iowa City 

    I'm taking the TigerHawk Teenager out to Iowa tomorrow so that he can spend the night and attend classes at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon. I'll be staying in Iowa City tomorrow night; if there are local readers who would enjoy getting together for a beer at some point after about 7:30 send me an email and I'll let you know if I'm sufficiently recovered from my cold to meet you at some suitable watering hole.

    (6) Comments

    Health care reform graphic of the day 

    Courtesy of McKinsey, behold a useful graphic that describes many of the various ways in which we might reform the provision of and payment for health care in the United States in order to dampen demand and alter the arc of treatment for many patients. We would not implement all of these reforms and there are others that might make sense, but the table is nevertheless a reasonably useful tool to put particular reform proposals into some context.

    Health care reform grid o' options

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    Talent fest: Megyn Kelly interviews Miss California 

    My favorite television talking head, Megyn Kelly, interviewed Miss California, Carrie Prejean, who seems to have tubed her chances at the Miss USA crown over her actually quite modest defense of traditional marriage. Bask in the blond rightiness:

    If you are thinking that Ms. Prejean looks like a natural on a Fox News set, you are not alone. Allahpundit, who has a clip of her free-markety interview with Neal Cavuto, notes that Carrie opposes "bailouts and welfare" in addition to gay marriage. "Blonde, beautiful, and conservative: I’d be surprised if Ailes hasn’t signed her already."

    Me, too.

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    Another one for the ladies... 

    Commenters (cough, Cassandra, cough) in the post below evidently will not be satisfied with just POTUS beefcake, and are calling out the bloggers on TigerHawk.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Your humble servant lounging at Cambridge Beaches, Bermuda.

    I think that somehow this shot once made it onto hotornot.com and actually rated an 8.0. Must have been a slow day.

    Sorry people, that's the best we can do.

    (10) Comments

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