Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A metaphor too far 

Tom Maguire takes a long, hard look at Kathleen Parker's "Big Idea" that, just as Bill Clinton was "our first black president" (itself a claim forever offensive to fans of Warren Gamaliel Harding), Barack Obama is our "first woman president." Dang, that's a big old mountain of stupid shit. Y'ask me. Fortunately, Tom, as usual, is deftly subtle where I can only drop S-bombs:

What, a woman couldn't have handled the gulf mess? Geez, cleaning up after others is one of the many things they are good at. Stereotypically, of course.

I'm going to climb out on a limb and say that Barack Obama is not be nearly as happy to be Parker's "first woman President" as Bill Clinton was about Toni Morrison's approval. Not that he has the guts to say so, of course.

Natch, RTWT.

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A self-effacing politician 

It can't be said Democrat Tom Perriello, running for Congress in my mother's district in central Virginia, doesn't have a sense of humor.

Regardless of party, we need more of that.

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The perfect as the enemy of the good 

The latest oil spill story to circulate on the right asserts that we cannot lawfully use the best technology for cleaning the Gulf because the EPA's requirements, no doubt adopted in the abstract and with less regard to cost-effectiveness, or even effectiveness, than some political ideal, demand virtual perfection. The result is that we are cleaning the oil much less quickly than Europeans would in a similar situation.

If this story is true it certainly ought to provoke outrage among environmentalists, pointed questions from the non-Fox mainstream media, and -- dare we hope for this? -- a sensible and quick response from the EPA. All three are unlikely, because intellectual honesty is the rarest coin in Washington.

And, of course, it points to a fundamental problem with granular regulation: It drives unintended consequences, and government, at least in our litigious process-obsessed modern system, is not nearly nimble enough to revise its requirements in hours or days when circumstances so require.

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Glenn Reynolds has an impish sense of humor 

Regular readers of Instapundit know that Glenn Reynolds has an impish sense of humor. This would be a good example.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday harmony 

My classmate John Seabrook had a brief piece in this week's New Yorker about covers of various Simon & Garfunkel tunes, and a Facebook scroll had extensive comments yesterday using 1960s lingo, so that inspired me to post this:

It's hard not to be at least slightly uplifted after listening to that for a little over one minute.

Of course, the cute hippie chick bobbing her head in rhythm to the tune back in Monterey in June, 1967, is probably a grandmother now, perhaps with osteoporosis, (maybe suffering from LSD flashbacks), thus reminding us of the inexorable march of time, so that could be a downer. It all kind of evens out. Groovy.

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The Russian spy ring 

The eleventh arrest has been made in a round-up of Russian spies operating under non-official cover.

I applaud the FBI for its diligence during what was apparently an investigation lasting seven years. We don't yet know the extent of the damage that these agents caused, and whether the national security of the U.S. was seriously compromised.

I assume that no arrests would have been made at this moment without Director of the FBI Mueller and AG Eric Holder signing off on it. That tends to undercut the theory promoted by Moscow that elements within the U.S. who are hostile to President Obama's agenda of warmer relations toward Russia are behind the arrests.

So, I guess we're going to need a bigger "Reset Button."

But seriously, what was the Russian rationale for leaving these agents in place? What could they find out surreptitiously (and at relatively great expense) that could not be discovered in our open society by getting a job as an editor or reporter at the New York Times, or Googling to your heart's content? It sounds as though it might be kind of a cush job:
Oleg Gordievsky, a former deputy head of the KGB in London who defected in 1985, said Russia probably has about 50 deep-cover couples spying inside the United States...

The ex-KGB officer said deep-cover spies often fail to deliver better intelligence than their colleagues who work in the open.

"They are supposed to be the vanguard of Russian intelligence," Gordievsky said. "But what they are really doing is nothing, they just sit at home in Britain, France and the U.S."
Well, there is a great selection of vodka available in most U.S. liquor stores.

If the focus was industrial espionage, that would make the point of the exercise more understandable to me, from an economic perspective. From press accounts thus far, that doesn't seem to be the primary reason these agents were in place.
In spring 2009, court documents say, conspirators Richard and Cynthia Murphy, who lived in New Jersey, were asked for information about Obama's impending trip to Russia that summer, the U.S. negotiating position on the START arms reduction treaty, Afghanistan and the approach Washington would take in dealing with Iran's suspect nuclear program. They also were asked to send background on U.S. officials traveling with Obama or involved in foreign policy, the documents say.

"Try to outline their views and most important Obama's goals (sic) which he expects to achieve during summit in July and how does his team plan to do it (arguments, provisions, means of persuasion to 'lure' (Russia) into cooperation in US interests," Moscow asked, according to the documents.

Moscow wanted reports that "should reflect approaches and ideas of" four unnamed sub-Cabinet U.S. foreign policy officials, they say.
Well, OK, try and gather intel on aides so that you know what they know, and perhaps if they can be blackmailed. But if these agents can figure out "Afghanistan and the approach Washington would take in dealing with Iran's suspect nuclear program," heck, most U.S. citizens would pay them to share and publish that information.

I don't mean to mock or minimize the value of "HUMINT" as it relates to policy positions, but are NOCs the best way of getting that information in the U.S. in 2010?

Oh, and by the way (as long as the subject is Russian spies), is there anyone out there who still thinks Julius Rosenberg was innocent? Now there is a spy who was part of a ring that did enormous damage.

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Dragon fly update 

The question came up after the dragon fly rescue post, was it a boy or a girl? Well, we here at TigerHawk have vast resources at our disposal, including a sister who is an entomologist. Here is what she wrote in a Facebook chat moments ago...

Males have claspers at the end of their abdomens, which should be fairly easy to see. Also, in most species the males are much more brightly colored. In fact, some species also

OOps. Anyway, I was going to add that your picture is a female

And, that males of some species have little spoon-like appendages that scoop a previous male's sperm out of a female before he deposits his own. not at all relevant, but cool.

How did we large primates miss out on "spoon-like appendages that scoop a previous male's sperm"? We wuz robbed!

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Tuesday morning ultra fast tab dump 

I'm back from the Dacks and have been plinking away diligently since 7 am, so you are the lucky beneficiaries of my much-needed break. Yes, I accumulated a sweaty old pile of tabs over the last couple of days. Have at 'em.

In the use of new and social media, Dan Riehl says the left is kicking the right's rear up and down and six ways from Sunday. I think he's right. Somebody needs to whack the GOP's media team upside the head.

Lean away from the keyboard when you read this post, or you might wreck your computer. That goes double for you ladies.

Ezra Klein, who is in the middle of an intramural fight at the WaPo over the house bloggers, is very thoughtful on the question of partisanship and policy. Nice post.

For those of you who think the European Union is of continuing value (now that it is eliminated the prospects of a fourth ruinous war between Germany and France, its original purpose), read this. Bwahahaha! (CWCID)

"Five ridiculous gun myths everybody believes."

Now the social engineers are trying to ban best friends. No, really. School officials and "child-rearing experts" are now trying to break up pairs of "best" friends, arguing that kids should have a large number of, er, more superficial friends. Making close friends is the most natural thing in the world, and trying to engineer that out of childhood is transportingly asinine. In the matter of raising children, we really need to ignore the experts and get back to our inner primate.

Robert Byrd was not a great man just because he set longevity records in the United States Senate. On the contrary, his legacy of pork over a long career subverted the purpose and credibility of government.


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Monday, June 28, 2010

The greatest triumph of the WASP 

Noah Feldman, in today's NYT, writes about the greatest triumph of the American WASP elite (short commentary below):

But satisfaction with our national progress should not make us forget its authors: the very Protestant elite that founded and long dominated our nation’s institutions of higher education and government, including the Supreme Court. Unlike almost every other dominant ethnic, racial or religious group in world history, white Protestants have ceded their socioeconomic power by hewing voluntarily to the values of merit and inclusion, values now shared broadly by Americans of different backgrounds. The decline of the Protestant elite is actually its greatest triumph....

Why did the Protestant elite open its institutions to all comers? The answer can be traced in large part to the anti-aristocratic ideals of the Constitution, which banned titles of nobility and thus encouraged success based on merit. For many years, the Protestant elite was itself open to rising white Protestants not from old-family backgrounds.

Money certainly granted entrée into governing circles, but education was probably more important to the way the Protestant elite defined itself, which is why the opening of the great American universities has had such an epochal effect in changing the demographics of American elites. Another key source was the ideal of fair play, imported from the ideology of the English public schools, but practiced far more widely in the United States than in the class-ridden mother country.

Together, these social beliefs in equality undercut the impulse toward exclusive privilege that every successful group indulges on occasion. A handful of exceptions for admission to societies, clubs and colleges — trivial in and of themselves — helped break down barriers more broadly. This was not just a case of an elite looking outside itself for rejuvenation: the inclusiveness of the last 50 years has been the product of sincerely held ideals put into action.

Read the whole thing, especially if you know what the term "dirty bicker" means.

A personal note and short commentary

After the ellipsis above there are all sorts of qualifications, but the point remains, American WASPs made a decision to open up American society in the last 75 years not because they were forced to do, but because they thought it was the right thing to do. My grandfather, a Scottish-American from Maine who went to Bowdoin College and graduated from the second class of the Harvard Business School, was president of the St. Andrews Golf Club in Westchester when it first admitted blacks in the late 1940s. At dinner with him there in the 1980s, such was his pride that he teared up telling the story of it.

My grandfather's story would be more remarkable if countless thousands of American WASPs born between, say, 1880 and 1940 had not done the same thing in their own businesses, universities, churches, clubs, and government agencies, in most cases without the application of legal pressure.

Which history makes it all the more galling that the entertainment industry has more or less decided that WASP businessmen are the archetypal villain of our age.

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OK, I admit it. I did not think of canoeing yesterday all on my own.


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Official Monday morning video 

From my most, er, active Facebook friend:

Packing up, heading home.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Adirondack stillness 

The lake was like glass all day long, so I spent the afternoon, at least two hours, paddling around. Wish you were here.

Aluminum canoe, at least 50 years old

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The ties that bind 

A heartwarming tale of friendship and camaraderie from, of all places, the Los Angeles Times.

More along the same lines here.

Change, dat. Not.

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Sydney from the zoo 

A friend of mine, on vacation in Australia, snapped this picture of Sydney from the Taronga Zoo. On his Blackberry. A few hours ago. Dang, these phones are getting good.

Sydney from the zoo

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

June moonbeam 

Last night's thin clouds could not stop the moon. I took this picture at about 9 pm, two hours earlier than the frankly better (if not level) photo posted Thursday night.

June moon beam

Gone swimming, riding, and running. I'll let you know if I finish with honor.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday night video fun: Louis A. 

From my Facebook scroll, Louis Armstrong from more than 50 years ago:

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Say it ain't so, Al (part deux) 

Either a Portland masseuse is making stuff up about being groped 18 months ago, or former Vice President Al Gore has been taking a page from the book of his old boss, Bill Clinton. Police did not pursue an investigation.

Gore should be smarter than telephoning down for a massage at his hotel room late at night, which opens him up to this type of accusation. Being with a woman in a hotel room at night, one-on-one, is asking for this kind of trouble, no matter how professional and innocent your intentions might be. It would have been easy for Gore to ask someone from hotel security to be present during the massage, to act as a kind of chaperone.

The woman's credibility gets a bit murky for me when she states that "Gore had finished a beer and opened a bottle of Grand Marnier while she was in the room." Come on, even Gore is not silly enough to mix beer and Grand Marnier in his stomach.

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"Decoy Jews" 

The Dutch government has come up with an interesting technique to deal with rising anti-Semitism and resulting overt acts among the Muslim population in the country:
A hidden-camera video showing Jews being harassed on the street in a Moroccan neighborhood of Amsterdam has led Dutch authorities to consider combating hate crimes with "decoy Jews" — undercover police officers wearing yarmulkes.

Enthusiasm for the unusual idea is a sign of the ongoing tension between the Muslim minority and the rest of the Dutch population over issues of immigration and crime.
It is good that steps are being taken to deal with this problem, although it is distressing that the problem exists at all, less than 7 decades since the era of Anne Frank in the Netherlands.

There are entrapment issues that the linked article references, so it is not clear whether prosecutions could be successful, but the intention seems to be to make certain neighborhoods not Judenrein.

I think it could be challenging for many Dutch policeman to get in character for this assignment. I suggest they study the work of Eddie Murphy in "Coming to America," who, with great talent and good makeup, transforms from a American actor who is black into a European emigre Jew.

"What do you know from funny?"

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The dragonfly rescue 

The TigerHawk Teenager made some excellent bacon and French toast this morning, complete with genuine maple syrup. We ate it for brunch on the front porch, enjoying the spectacular weather while it lasts (the forecast for tomorrow is dismal).

This time of year the dragonflies are out in force, having gorged on the black flies of May and June, very few of which remain to torment humans. One of these little angels of heaven landed on my plate and caught his wings and legs in the syrup pool.

Dragonflies and syrup do not mix well

We wanted to rescue the dude, but they are so fragile we worried about hurting him. After discussion, we settled on diluting the syrup with water from the lake. Sure enough, that loosened the sweet trap enough for us to gently flick the fellow on to the table...

Sadly, his two left wings were still stuck together...

Drying the wings

...so we bathed him a second time...

More cleaning required

...and that got him briefly airborne, just far enough to grab a perch on my ankle so that he could finish drying off.

Hanging on

This last picture came seconds before he delicately took wing for parts unknown, dragonflyish vim and vigor fully in evidence.

Ready to take wing!

The most Christian Scientist thing I have done all day.

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A short note on staged apologies 

I've never once "demanded" or even gently requested an apology from somebody who has, possibly, offended my dignity in some respect. I very much appreciate an apology freely given, but if none is forthcoming sua sponte then I am not interested. Worse, a demand for an apology is itself inherently false: It is rarely a genuine attempt to bury the hatchet, and usually intended, consciously or otherwise, as an escalation of the conflict. This business of demanding apologies is "honor culture" bullshit, and I do not traffic in it. You want to live that way, move to the Middle East.

Not surprisingly, I deplore as irredeemably tedious the staged, forced, or career-groveling apologies from public figures who have said something mean-spirited, sarcastic, candid, or un-PC. Who needs or wants an apology? I'd much prefer a moment of self-recognition along the lines of "I'm a moron to have [insert "flapped my gums," "insulted that powerful dude or constituency," "given voice to my actual opinions" or -- the Eliot Spitzer version -- "bought sex"]." We all do stupid things. The question is whether you know you do stupid things and whether you are brave enough to acknowledge that to yourself, much less the general public. Or are you the sort of person who believes that being "tired, angry, and hyperbolic" is exculpatory?

I mean, why do I notionally hide behind a nom de plume? I write stupid things, that's why!

Anyway, with that in mind go off and read David Weigel's laughable non-apology apology and Tom Maguire's response thereto. They are both funny, in the laugh-at and laugh-with senses, respectively.

And if either of them gets it in mind to "demand" an apology from me, screw 'em. I'll meet them both outside.

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Finreg passes, and it will have a big impact 

The financial reform bill -- "finreg" to the cognoscenti -- got through the House and Senate conference this morning at 5:39 am. The New York Times covers the politics, and the Street has a nice analysis of the bill's provisions. I wish I were expert enough in the ways of Wall Street to know whether this massive new law actually addresses genuine problems we are likely to have again. Like most armies, Congress tends to fight the last war, and I worry that is what is happening here.

That said, I generally agree that institutions that take insured deposits should not do risky things. The question is whether we need institutions that do not take insured deposits to step up and do those things instead. Put differently, if proprietary trading goes away will that have the effect of making debt capital in particular systematically more expensive?

Anyway, neither linked article answers my question: Will Goldman Sachs now give up its bank charter so that it can continue to do proprietary trading, and if it tries will the government let it?

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Adirondack moon 

Half an hour ago, from my front deck...

Adirondack moon

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From the archives... 

Four years ago today, the TH Teenager and I were in China, hanging with pandas. Today, we are on our way to the Adirondacks for a long weekend of mountainous fun. I am already relaxing.


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A worthy McChrystal link 

I recommend Marc Ambinder's balanced take on General McChrystal, including this bit:

An apt response to President Obama from the military side: your words, Mr. President, are well-taken, but please, please apply this standard to your civilians too. We all want to win the war. That means that the President needs to figure out the dysfunctions in the relationships among the senior civilians on the ground -- he needs a Ryan Crocker-like diplomat who has credibility with Hamid Karzai. Making these changes is on the President, not on Petraeus.

There is a chance that McChrystal's dismissal, as unfortunate as it is, will drive a new and sensible discussion of our policy in Afghanistan. But read the whole thing.

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My new tires 

My new bike tires, Vittoria Rubino Pros. I'm sure you enjoy the color as much as I do.

Nice tires

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Petraeus for McChrystal 

Lots o' links at Instapundit, with this helpful observation:

Brilliant choice by the President. He removes his hand-picked choice for someone he had no confidence in just 2 years ago.

Don't fail to take this trip down memory lane.

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The Anosognosic's Dilemma 

How do you know what you do not know? Or, put differently, why are incompetent people usually surprised when you fire them, even though you have bluntly and repeatedly explained that they are not performing to the standard? Answers here.

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Rules for pelicans 

I woke up to find this photograph in my email, from a friend on holiday in Australia. It came with the following "rules for dealing with pelicans":

1. Never let them position their asses over you

2. Hold your ground, even it seems like things are in a frenzy.

That seems like broadly useful advice, actually.

Pelicans down under

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Wednesday morning brink-of-vacation tab dump 

I've been busy again, an excuse that runs thin I'm sure. And I now need reading glasses. And the dog ate my blog fodder. And, no, I do not know quite what to make of the McChrystal situation, except that I agree that President Obama has to fire him or he might as well put on a dress and swish around, and maybe also that we will massively screw up the Special Operations Command if we hold them to the same standards of choreographed politesse that seem otherwise to be required in today's public square. We need a few rough men who will do great violence in the night. Such people are rarely pretty in print (or prints, but not my point). Anyway, read the link -- Barack Obama screwed up plenty starting with his catastrophic West Point speech last year which "demoralized his own side while elating the enemy and encouraging Afghan friends and neutrals to scramble to make their accommodations while they could." That (and other atrocities) explains McChrystal's rage and frustration, but does not excuse his insubordination.

That said, good point here.

The rich are not a class, but an ever-changing roster. Most millionaires are only such for a year. Puts populist-bashing of the "rich" in a different light. Check out the other information about social mobility, too.

News you can use: More Reading Glasses single people are sexually active, and fully a third of middle aged singles say they will sleep with another person after one date. Idiotically, if not surprisingly, condoms are not nearly so popular as sex.

Seattle greenyness: Compostable meat trays. What will they think of next?

San Francisco innovates yet again: San Francisco board passes cell phone emission law. If you retail a cell-phone in San Francisco, you have to disclose the amount of radiation that the phone puts out. Even though there is no evidence that any individual person in that city would know what that information would mean for their own safety.

I've been saying the same thing for a long time:

The chairman of the Business Roundtable, an association of top corporate executives that has been President Obama's closest ally in the business community, accused the president and Democratic lawmakers Tuesday of creating an "increasingly hostile environment for investment and job creation."...

"In our judgment, we have reached a point where the negative effects of these policies are simply too significant to ignore," Seidenberg said in a lunchtime speech to the Economic Club of Washington. "By reaching into virtually every sector of economic life, government is injecting uncertainty into the marketplace and making it harder to raise capital and create new businesses."

Not being Barack Obama's "closest ally in the business community," I did not wait so long to speak truth to power. Look, we have a lot of debt to pay off. To do that, we and our posterity will have to save vastly more money or inflate our currency. Either way, we will have to destroy our own standard of living unless we can get substantially more real economic growth. That will not happen until federal, state, and local governments stop threatening massive new regulation and transforming new taxes. It is as simple as that.

Lawyers who write nastygrams to bloggers have fools for clients.

Jeff Bezos gave a wonderful address to Princeton's graduating class of 2010: "It's harder to be kind than clever," and the differences between gifts and choices. And some questions we should all ask ourselves. Wise words to that very gifted crowd.

This will surprise nobody other than liberals: In the past forty years, public school employment has risen ten times faster than public school enrollment. Even if the quality of education in our public monopoly schools had improved -- does anybody really think that it has? -- this would be a staggering collapse in productivity. What other American endeavor has performed so poorly? Do you really want to feed this incompetence with more money?

The Washington Post, in its news pages, sees an important change in South Carolina. Lede:
The Republican Party stepped away from its long and uncomfortable history of racial and ethnic politics in South Carolina on Tuesday, nominating an Indian American woman for governor and an African American man for the House.

You tell me what that means.

More tabs at Maggie's. Only they call them links, which is more accurate but less cool.


BONUS LINK: Another reminder that the generation that fought World War II is passing from Middle Earth.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Headline of the day 

If this headline is any indication, President Obama's friends in the press are beginning to turn.

Headline of the day

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Competence watch: The mortgage program hits a wall 

Much as we on the right like to argue that the mainstream media is in the tank for Barack Obama, some journalists are beginning to lift the curtain:

The Obama administration's flagship effort to help people in danger of losing their homes is falling flat.

More than a third of the 1.24 million borrowers who have enrolled in the $75 billion mortgage modification program have dropped out. That's more than the 27 percent who have managed to have their loan payments reduced to help them keep their homes.

Turns out that the homeowners let in to the program without proving up their income -- the Obama administration pressured banks to forgo due diligence in the interest of time -- in fact do not earn enough even to make the payments on the modified mortgages. They are dropping out as they miss their payments, and will soon go in to default, which is not good if you are long houses or home mortgages.

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Camera dump: New colors at the Haven 

Hoagie Haven, a Princeton landmark for at least two generations, is sporting an excellent new color scheme.

The Haven gets a paint job

Sort of surprising it took them this long.

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Yachting and golf 

It is hard to imagine a CEO who is more tone deaf than BP chief Tony Hayward, caught watching a yacht race while his imperfectly abated well gushes in to the Gulf of Mexico. Dude, I get that you need to unwind, but lay off the Richie Rich bit until, say, six weeks after you've capped that bastard. If you need a change of pace, see a NASCAR race, or go to the pub and play some darts, or chop some wood and clear some brush, or volunteer at a soup kitchen.

The question, of course, is whether BP has the worst public relations advisers in the history of the universe, or whether Tony Hayward is ignoring them. There is no third possibility, and that is itself a reflection of his poor management of the situation.

Oh, and no, life ain't fair, especially when the Obama-besotted media is involved.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Justice, Italian-style, and the punishment of the decisive 

From my very learned and interesting Facebook scroll, this news from Italy, where prosecutors have indicted scientists for manslaughter for having failed to predict an earthquake.

As my FB friend points out, Italian meteorologists had better look out. First they came for the geologists...

It seems to me that democracy is not quite so good for justice as one might have supposed. Prosecutors are politicians, and have learned to take their incentive compensation in headlines, rather than money. It is leading to the criminalization of ordinary course but high profile decisions that turn out badly in retrospect, whether in business, finance, politics, charity, and so forth. Prosecutorial zeal and its private counterpart here in the United States, the tort lawyer armed with expansive interpretations of the common law, are making people justifiably reluctant to make difficult decisions, just when we need more such people.

My solution: Substantially increase the pay of prosecutors and thereby attract top people to the job, but bar them from running for elective office or accepting a non-prosecutorial political appointment for ten years after they stop being prosecutors. Pay them in money and satisfaction in a job well done, not celebrity, and they will spend their time going after actual criminals.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Brit explains Princeton reunions to his countrymen 

An Englishmen explains Princeton reunions, and the differences between the British "graduation" and the American "commencement" in general, to his countrymen back home. Lots of interesting insights in to the meaning of class -- not in the Marxist sense -- in the United States. And don't miss the subtle distinction between a British "procession" and an American "parade."

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Photo trivia question of the evening 

Without resorting to Google, where is this store and what is its significance? Points awarded for detail.

mellow johnnys

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

BP: With friends like these... 

When you're in a lot of trouble, sometimes you'd rather your friends just said nothing:

BP's Russian partners, who had sparred with the British company over management at the venture in recent years, last week came out publicly to defend BP's environmental performance amid the Gulf crisis. Mikhail Fridman, who leads the group of Soviet-born billionaires, said BP was much more concerned about environmental and safety issues than most Russian companies, adding, "I don't think there's a threat to the stability of the company in a purely financial sense."

Oh. Good point. If a group of "Soviet-born billionaires" commends you for exceeding the environmental standards of "most Russian companies," what are we all so damned worried about?

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Cubicle sculpture 

Somewhere in New Jersey there resides a cubicle dweller who knows how to dress up a desk-top Buddhist sand garden.

Cubicle sculpture

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book recommendation 

For those of you looking for entertaining and topical non-fiction, you can do a lot worse than The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis, the author of Liar's Poker and Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. It is the story of the very few traders and investors who both predicted the bursting of the housing bubble and acted on their foresight. I recommend it without reservation, at least until I think about it harder.

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Austin through the windshield 

No, I wasn't driving (this time)...

Austin through the windshield

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Lunchtime video fun: The coffee spill 

I believe that I have long ago established my credentials as an unreconstructed booster of the integrated oil industry, so you know that if I think this send-up of BP is funny, it's funny:

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Frustrated Liberal New York Billionaires 

I attended a dinner last night sponsored by a law firm which invited a group of their clients, including many very successful and well known investors. This particular law firm, and many of their clients, are tenacious and dogmatic supporters of the Democratic Party. If I had to guess, I would bet 80% of this group voted for Obama and gave all their money to candidates of the Democratic Party.

Well, I was surprised and not a little amused at how unhappy they were - and stridently so - with pretty much every policy decision pursued thus far by the Obama Administration. Save for taxes, which this group had no problem seeing increase, they thought every major policy initiative of the current administration was a disaster - healthcare, energy, employment, TARP, card check - they were furious.

It gave me pause, actually, to see this group - which had so ardently opposed George W. Bush - seem similarly unhinged talking about Obama. Some of the commentary was completely loopy, akin to Tom Friedman's infatuation of being China for a day (so we can "impose" the obvious solutions to all our problems). And this from people who were actually Obama's supporters. I had to ask myself, what did they expect?

In the end it was a useful reminder that economic success alone is not much of a measure of, well, anything really, other than money. Historical knowledge was pathetic. The whining; the sense of entitlement; the absence of any genuine wisdom was really startling. The wisdom of "flyover country" trumped this "elite" group of deeply confused and flummoxed limousine liberals.

Can't wait til November.

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"Day of Reckoning" 

New Jersey's Governor Awesome on our national "day of reckoning." No, you would not want Chris Christie next to you in that middle coach seat, but is there any plausible argument that he is not the most eloquent governor in America today? Speaking without a script (as he does below), Christie is, for my money, a country mile more articulate -- yes, I used the "a" word -- than President Obama.

Glenn Reynolds' correspondent had this to say, and I agree wholeheartedly:

Am I crazy, or is an overweight man with a thick New Jersey accent the most effective communicator of commonsense conservative principles in America today?

Chris Christie has bull rushed his way to the front of the 2012 pack of presidential contenders. I think we’ve got a great crop of potentials, but I can easily imagine the majority of moderates (even some moderate liberals) in the northeast section of the country listening to Mr. Christie and nodding their heads in agreement. If you look at the subject video, everyone in the room is hanging on his every word. People of every race are in the crowd and he’s just laying it down for them.

Given the precedent set for inexperience in 2008, who's to say it's not plausible? My main objection is that we desperately need him here.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Say it ain't so, Al 

That great font of journalism, Star Magazine, reports that recently separated Al Gore had an affair with Laurie David, the ex-wife of comedian Larry David (via Glenn Reynolds).

Instapundit passes along and agrees with the sentiment of a reader: “Please don’t let there be a sex tape, please don’t let there be a sex tape. . . .”

Amen to that.

CWCID: Instapundit

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Peace teachers 

The actions of two teachers at the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, have come under considerable criticism. There are likely first amendment issues here protecting the speech of the teachers, and perhaps helping to insulate them somewhat from possible disciplinary action (along with their union), but I would guess that there will be some people who are sympathetic to their anti-war position who would nonetheless question the appropriateness of holding up signs at an assembly recognizing graduating seniors who are entering military service.

My first reaction to this is that the actions of the teachers were in poor taste. The teachers of course have a right to their views, although as a legal matter, it is not clear to me the extent to which they can use the school (especially such an assembly) as a forum to air their political views.

Ms. Verani states in the video above, "It was not against them at a personal level," demonstrating that she is tone deaf on this matter -- only six students are being honored at an assembly, and it is then and there that she chooses to exercise her right to dissent, and that shouldn't be considered personal? I love Michael Corleone's line from The Godfather as much as anybody -- "It's not personal, Sonny, it's strictly business," -- but this is at least a little bit personal. The teachers are either directly or indirectly criticizing the career choice decisions of six students in a public forum.

A good teacher can spur on a classroom debate among students and act as an effective moderator, without the students being able to discern the underlying views of the teacher during the debate. Realistically, however, over the course of an entire school year, a truly strident teacher may make his or her views all too clear on a particular subject. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that activist teachers would intentionally try to discourage military service during one-on-one discussions with students, based on their hope that if not enough people sign up, the U.S. must eventually stand down. Of course, when dealing with teenagers, telling them they should not do something might have quite the opposite effect.

Incidents such as this will add to the increasingly unsympathetic view that many people have toward unionized public school teachers.

The best part of this story is the huge applause and standing ovation the honored students received from their classmates, as is clear in the video.


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The Father, the Son, and the bolt 

Even if you are not a religious Christian, or at all superstitious, this can't be a good sign:
A six-story-tall statue of Jesus Christ with his arms raised along a highway was struck by lightning in a thunderstorm Monday night and burned to the ground, police said.

The "King of Kings" statue, one of southwest Ohio's most familiar landmarks, had stood since 2004 at the evangelical Solid Rock Church along Interstate 75 in Monroe, just north of Cincinnati.
I was going to ask rhetorically, "What are the chances of that?" but then I read further down in the story that this locally famous "Touchdown Jesus" statue was constructed of plastic foam and fiberglass over a steel frame, so I suppose the chances were actually pretty decent to get hit by a bolt of lightning from the heavens. Still, with Father's Day coming up, it seems to me that father-son relationships should be cast in a positive light this week.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Meritocracy and teachers unions cannot coexist 

Glenn Reynolds links to a post by David Brooks on the Atlantic site, "Teachers are fair game." Read the whole thing -- it is short -- but here's where it lands:

It used to be that a few policy wonks would write essays assailing union rules that protected mediocre teachers; these pronouncements were greeted with skepticism in the media and produced no political movement. Now powerful political players, most notably President Obama, are making such arguments. The unions feel the sand eroding under their feet. They sense their lack of legitimacy, especially within the media and the political class. They still fight to preserve their interests, but they’ve lost their moral authority, as we’ve seen in New York City, Denver, Chicago, and even Washington, D.C.

Two cheers to President Obama for endorsing meritocracy for teachers, but not the full three. That would require intellectual honesty about this fundamental point: Meritocracy and unions are both philosophically and actually incompatible. Unions and rewards for better individual performance -- merit -- cannot coexist in the same place in the space-time continuum. Why? Because the only arbiter of merit is the employer. If the employer decides who gets paid more and who gets paid less, then the interests of individual employees and the employees as a group are no longer aligned, which violates the philosophy of unionism. As a practical matter, it gives employers much greater leverage over the union, because the high-performing (and therefore better paid) employees will support the employer rather than the union in moments of conflict.

So, for those few of you who still wonder why employers oppose unions, it is that unions drive meritocracy from the shop by design and organic imperative and that severely hurts the ability of the enterprise -- schools, businesses, whatever -- to compete. Of course, for most of the last century American public schools were effectively monopolies. Neither school boards nor unions were under any real pressure to perform from any political force that could actually do anything. All of that has changed with the charter school movement, because public charter schools compete with public monopoly schools. Not only do the charter schools (and small voucher programs) manufacture competition where there was none before, but they legitimize the political demands for the meritocracy that the legacy schools need to get back in the game.

At a basic level, this is all very obvious: Genuine meritocracy and authentic unionism are inherently incompatible. Everybody knows this, right? Well, not on the left, where you have a great many people who do not understand how enterprises function at a basic level. Sometimes I wonder whether Barack Obama is such a person. When he calls for merit pay for teachers, does he understand that he is calling for the functional (if not legal) abolition of teachers unions? Perhaps he does, but he knows that many of his allies in the (non-union) lefty chattering classes do not and he is trying to do the right thing (weaken teachers unions in advance of their neutering) without getting in trouble with his Volvo-driving base. Or perhaps he does not, which would not surprise me in the least. Either way, two cheers to President Obama for calling for meritocracy among teachers, but three cheers for following it through to its ineluctable conclusion.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

San Francisco angles 

I walked around San Francisco for a couple of hours this morning, from Market across the city on Powell (with a couple of detours), then back along the Embarcadero to Market. I took some pictures along the way with my point 'n' shoot, the big camera being something of a load on a trip this long.

Bay Bridge





Alcatraz. (I always take a picture of Alcatraz, but this one is a bit different.)


Ladder walking...

Street show

There are a lot of very fit women who do not take the grey out...

Grey and hot



Pier 39

Stuff that flies...

In flight



Next up, LA and the OC.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Possibly the best car ad you will ever see 

Tip o' the tricorner hat to Dodge for this masterpiece. Almost makes me want to own another Dodge. Almost.

Candidly, it's more than a little surprising that Dodge's Obama administration overlords signed off on this one...*

*Yes, that was a joke. Goddamn.

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Cadaver lab photo of the day 

The opening steps in a minimally invasive spine fusion procedure, on a cadaver...

Cadaver lab picture of the day

I love this stuff.

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A short note on the Obama administration's aggressive prosecution of leakers 

Every now and then a strange paragraph slips by the editors of the New York Times. Today, the dead-tree paper features a story on its front page about the Obama administration's surprisingly aggressive prosecution of people who leak government secrets. Right there, only six paragraphs down:

In 17 months in office, President Obama has already outdone every previous president in pursuing leak prosecutions. His administration has taken actions that might have provoked sharp political criticism for his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was often in public fights with the press.

Sometimes the truth is too obvious to ignore.

Much as one might welcome the Obama administration's new concern for national security, one is almost forced to point out the Machiavellian angle: The article leads with the case of Thomas A. Drake, who leaked a good part of the "NSA wiretapping" story that did so much to energize the media and the left against the Republicans. In other words, President Obama is aggressively prosecuting somebody who made an important contribution to his own election. We doubt that he has failed to consider the collateral political benefit, that he will deter "dissenters" in his own government from leaking against him.

Read the whole thing.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday night science: Mountains found! 

Cool! We've found a new mountain range. We sort of knew it was there, but now we know what it looks like.

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You know you have a public relations problem... 

...when you are still more unpopular than BP.


Goddamn. That's bad PR mojo.

Goldman's problem is that rather than failing so miserably as to require a bailout it made too much money during the financial crisis and its aftermath. There's that, but also this: Democratic politicians bash it because they are trying to delegitimize the finance industry (so as to get their regulatory package through) and Republican politicians bash it because Goldman is, well, a Democratic firm.

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Friday night parody video: Can it get more wrong than this? 

Somehow, I just know it is stupid of me to post this....

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BP and the special relationship 

Even before the British Petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, relations between the U.S. and the U.K. had stagnated a bit during the Obama administration. Now, the understandably harsh language that President Obama is directing at BP has alarmed British politicians, as they have watched BP's share price be nearly cut in half, and worry about the effect on the many British pensioners who hold the stock.
The Gulf of Mexico oil spill risked turning into a transatlantic diplomatic rift Thursday after U.S. threats to have BP fork out billions more for the disaster caused a precipitous slide in the blue chip's stock, hurting retirement savings for millions of Britons.

British lawmakers are even pushing Prime Minister David Cameron to get President Obama to tone down his stinging criticism of the oil company, complaining that hostile rhetoric will have severe implications for pensioners with nest eggs in the company.

The share slide has since April almost halved BP's market value to 69 billion pounds ($101 billion), costing it the spot as Britain's biggest company - and some worry it could become a takeover target for upstart firms in Asia. BP said there was no reason for the stock drop, stressing its strong finances.
I do not believe that the welfare of British pensioners is even a secondary or tertiary consideration for President Obama, nor should it be. The important issue, however, of BP's financial future and the extent to which the Obama administration acts for short-term domestic political optics and not the long-term clean-up effort may have a doubly bad effect. BP needs to survive in some form and have robust cash flow from its myriad (and hopefully safely operated) other projects so that it can fund the clean-up effort in the Gulf, which will most likely take a number of years. Using the bully pulpit that results -- intentionally or not -- in beating down the share price to achieve political points may not help BP's ability to pay for the clean-up.

It should be noted that under federal law, BP's direct liability for economic damages is capped at $75 million per incident, according AP's reporting, although Speaker Pelosi wants to do away with the cap, and one can infer that she would like to do so retroactively.

In my view, BP should pay for the clean-up as it has promised, possibly along with some of the contractors involved in the original incident. For it to do so, there should be a clear path for it to survive and be profitable in some form. Seizing U.S. assets willy-nilly, as much as that would make some people feel good, probably doesn't provide sufficient immediate and near-term liquidity (when those assets are re-sold at a steeply discounted value, and the seizure litigation is dealt with) to fund the clean-up. BP and the U.S. government will need to arrive at some sort of comprehensive agreement, probably with BP operating under a consent decree and with set minimum pay-out requirements over time. Quantifying those figures helps everybody, I believe, and has the side effect of providing a degree of cost certainty to the Britons and others who are BP shareholders. There is a long way to go before the situation is calm enough for such an agreement to be reached.
"We don't believe BP has a funding issue," said Evolution Securities analyst Richard Griffith, "but given the overwhelmingly hostile nature of the U.S. government, the company may decide to suspend payments until the wells are capped and the cleanup sufficiently advanced to convince the U.S. that it can afford all the costs as well as pay dividends.

"Unilateral action against BP over its U.S. operations, be it unreasonable or illegal, hangs over BP."

"There is a lot of very irrational and short-term selling going on," said Robert Talbut, the chief investment officer at Royal London Asset Management, a shareholder in BP. But he added that talk of a potential sale of assets or takeover bid - PetroChina Ltd. has been suggested by some as a potential suitor - was not surprising.

"I can understand exactly why someone else would want to buy the BP assets," he said, "because I think they are grossly undervalued at the moment. As a shareholder, it's not something I would welcome."
The unhappy scenario of PetroChina swooping in to gobble up what might be left of BP presents an interesting possibility. A small army of American trial attorneys wants to litigate on behalf of clients who have suffered in many ways because of the spill, and decides to take its case to Beijing (talk about a irresistible force meeting an immovable object). What are the chances that a large Chinese company will make additional payouts to U.S. litigants?

UPDATE: The debate, via Instapundit, in the NYT blog, about whether the USDOJ can tell BP to suspend its dividend so that more cash is available for the clean-up. While the legal backdrop sets the tone for the comprehensive negotiated settlement suggested above, politics and image will be at least as important. If BP wants to survive, as Exxon did after the Valdez, it will have to play ball. A reasonable guess is that BP would volunteer to significantly reduce but not completely eliminate its dividend. Again, killing BP is lose/lose -- the better way to fund the clean up is a high level of payouts over a number of years, with relatively little of it going to lawyers.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

ACORN, voter fraud, and Barack Obama 

It will be interesting to see how aggressively the non-Fox MSM covers this story:

The radical activist group ACORN “works” for the Democratic Party and deliberately promotes election fraud, ACORN employees told FBI investigators, according to an FBI document dump Wednesday.

The documents obtained by Judicial Watch, a watchdog group, are FBI investigators’ reports related to the 2007 investigation and arrest of eight St. Louis, Mo., workers from ACORN’s Project Vote affiliate for violation of election laws. All eight employees involved in the scandal later pleaded guilty to voter registration fraud.

Project Vote is ACORN’s voter registration arm. Project Vote continues to operate despite the reported dissolution of the national structure of ACORN.

The handwritten reports by FBI agents show that ACORN employees reported numerous irregularities in the nonprofit group’s business practices.

One employee told the FBI that ACORN headquarters is “wkg [working] for the Democratic Party.”

According to one report, an ACORN employee said the purpose of “[f]raudulent cards” was “[t]o cause confusion on election day to keep polls open longer,” “[t]o allow people who can’t vote to vote,” and “[t]o allow to vote multiple times.”....

The report also notes that employees were “[c]onstantly threatened” and that the staff were “instructed on what to say to FBI.”

Another report indicates an employee told the investigator, that ACORN “[t]old employees not to talk to the FBI.” The FBI is “‘trying to intimidate you.’”

Given Barack Obama's professional upbringing as a community organizer and past affiliation with ACORN, concerned righties will smell a conspiracy if Eric Holder's Justice Department does not open a new investigation against the group. Obstruction of justice convictions have been obtained with less. The answer to that question, though, probably turns on a predicate: Since the original investigation was in 2007, why didn't the Bush Justice Department bring a case?

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Sarah Palin's breasts 

Sarah Palin's breasts are suddenly the objects of great interest on the left, not because of their obvious appeal, but as an opportunity to accuse her of having enhanced them with implants. This controversy follows an earlier obsession with Sarah Palin's medical care, the election-year spat over whether she is indeed the mother of her son Trig or (alternatively) was reckless in flying back to Alaska to give birth to him.

I suppose I have two small observations.

First, does the left enhance -- and I use the word advisedly -- its appeal among the electorate by suggesting that we ought to ridicule women for getting breast implants? The boobery need no further reminder that the left disdains their sense of aesthetic, but if liberals want to beat them over the head with it, fine. This may, in the end, be Palin's greatest contribution to conservative political fortunes: She suckers the chattering left in to reminding everybody that they are, well, snots.

Second, we note that privacy in medical matters is the legal foundation of the Constitutional right to abortion, per Roe v. Wade. This right to privacy is apparently so sacred that (so says the left) it is reasonable to sacrifice fetuses to defend it. One would think that the left, therefore, would be reluctant to intrude on even Sarah Palin's medical privacy. Of course, that would require some measure of intellectual honesty, which is apparently beyond the capacity of many liberals when Sarah Palin is involved.

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Damning with any praise 

If this isn't poetic, I don't know what would be:

Hezbollah on Wednesday saluted veteran US reporter Helen Thomas's "courage" for her controversial comments against Israel, which sparked a furor and forced her to retire.

If some American racialist group had issued this statement, it would have made headlines in our own mainstream media, no doubt complete with implied shadowy connections to the Republican Party. There is no such attention when Hezbollah says something like this, which may explain why so many squishy transnationals think of these bastards as a legitimate political organization rather than a cancer on the world that must be destroyed.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Ridiculing Helen 

Satire can sometimes be the best medicine, and in that spirit, it might be worth reading Iowahawk's post, The Golden Girls from Brazil, and then watching Jon Stewart compare and contrast Helen Thomas with an altered Elmo from Sesame Street.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Thank You, South Carolina - The Race to Replace Disgrace
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

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Public service announcement: Summer reading lists 

With only the greatest respect for your erudition, I hereby direct you to Amazon's huge page of "summer reading lists.". Lists, discounts on books, what more could you want?

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A short note on the double-barreled attack on medical technology 

A short summary of the new excise tax on medical device companies:

A 2.3 percent excise tax on companies that supply medical devices like heart defibrillators and surgical tools to hospitals, health centers and ambulance services will cost medical device manufacturers an estimated $20 billion in new taxes over the next decade. And they say that will force them to lay off workers and curb the research and development of new medical tools.

The Democrats in Congress who pushed this tax argued (and still argue) that device companies would get a windfall from all the new patients entering the system. Well, some will and some will not. To the extent that more Americans can purchase elective procedures because they will now have insurance, companies that cater to those procedures will probably sell more of their products. But most medical devices, in dollar terms, support procedures that are not elective or barely so, and are handled by providers as charity cases now. Sales of those products will not increase because there are more patients "in the system," so the tax will reduce rates of return.

As the linked article only implies, the tax has a much bigger impact on start-ups than on established profitable companies. Because the tax hits revenues, it makes it harder for start-ups to become profitable at all. That simple fact will make venture capitalists and angel investors less willing to fund med-tech, and that will reduce both innovation and employment. Perversely, less innovation from fewer start-ups will also reduce future competition for established companies, and less competition gives the big companies more leverage in negotiating with hospitals. This is obviously not what the Democrats were hoping to get from the tax, but it is an almost absurdly predictable "unintended" consequence.

Of course, the much more aggressive posture of the Obama FDA toward new medical devices -- requiring clinical data where none would have been required in years past, for example -- will have an even greater impact on new innovation, or the availability of new products to Americans. American device companies are already deciding to launch new products in Europe first and so they can judge whether they warrant the much greater investment now required to license them in the United States.

Fortunately, all these new products and excellent surgery performed by American surgeons "on holiday" will still be available at a very reasonable price.

In India, for people with the means to go there.

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Maggie does the "dead parrot" 


From a reader, via Maggie's Farm, where there is always great stuff.

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Scott Sipprelle wins the GOP nomination in New Jersey's 12th 

Scott Sipprelle, the Princeton Republican (did I just write those words?) who is the favorite of the conservatives in town (closeted or otherwise!), won his primary contest against the "tea party endorsed" candidate yesterday. He has secured his chance to run against Rush Holt, the Democratic incumbent in New Jersey's 12th Congressional District. Holt is a nice man, but he is an academic liberal (formerly a physicist at Princeton's Plasma Physics Lab) who has distinguished himself first by voting with Pelosi and Co. at essentially all opportunities and second by having the world's most arrogant bumper sticker: "My Congressman IS a Rocket Scientist." Apologies to those of you who have just puked on your keyboard.

Anyway, Sipprelle can win, so please consider tossing him a few bucks. This year, every little bit helps.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Making wealth "out of thin air" 

Bill Whittle's "commencement address you won't hear on campus" is extraordinarily good, and hereby assigned to all the people I'm allowed to assign stuff to. There is much that is great in it, but his point that we can create wealth "out of thin air" is both essential and lost on most people.

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How to be of service, if you dare 

Sometimes, there is nobody better than Thomas Sowell:

Every year about this time, big-government liberals stand up in front of college-commencement crowds across the country and urge the graduates to do the noblest thing possible — become big-government liberals.

That isn’t how they phrase it, of course. Commencement speakers express great reverence for “public service,” as distinguished from narrow private “greed.” There is usually not the slightest sign of embarrassment at this self-serving celebration of the kinds of careers they have chosen — over and above the careers of others who merely provide us with the food we eat, the homes we live in, the clothes we wear, and the medical care that saves our health and our lives.

What I would like to see is someone with the guts to tell those students: Do you want to be of some use and service to your fellow human beings? Then let your fellow human beings tell you what they want — not with words, but by putting their money where their mouth is.

You want to see more people have better housing? Build it! Become a builder or developer — if you can stand the sneers and disdain of your classmates and professors who regard the very words as repulsive.

Would you like to see more things become more affordable to more people? Then figure out more efficient ways of producing things or more efficient ways of getting those things from the producers to the consumers at a lower cost.

That’s what a man named Sam Walton did when he created Wal-Mart, a boon to people with modest incomes and a bane to the elite intelligentsia....

Of course, serving customers with only your wits and freedom of contract is a lot riskier than going to work at a job from which you highly unlikely to be fired.

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Back to the yard signs! 

Longstanding readers know that in 2008 I waged a long twilight war defending my McCain signs against liberal vandals. Well, I'm back. Behold, perhaps the first GOP yard sign on Princeton Borough's Vandeventer Avenue in, well, living memory:

GOP yard sign

That's a sign for Scott Sipprelle, a very promising local Republican who stands a solid chance of beating our incumbent, Rush "I vote with Nancy more than 99% of the time" Holt. Assuming he gets past today's primary. I woke up this morning in Hartford and realized that my house is a block from the precinct polling place, so I sent Scott a message on Facebook offering up my front yard. Team Sipprelle stepped up, so we've been getting the name out on my very busy street since mid-morning.

I got home from my New England road trip in time to vote around 6:45 this evening. For those of you keeping track at home, my polling place is in the Methodist Church at Vandeventer and Nassau, across from the Garden Theater. Naturally, I asked the precinct officers how many people had voted from each party. Fully 87 Democrats had voted, even though there were no meaningful primary contests. I was only the 9th Republican, notwithstanding a "tea party" challenge to Sipprelle's "establishment" candidacy. Yes, Republicans are outnumbered 10-1 here in Princeton Borough, or at least in my precinct.

If Scott wins, I'm keeping that sign up all summer.

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The NYT, Antizionism and Bigotry 

The flap over Helen Thomas's anti-Jewish remarks and obvious bigotry, about which I commented yesterday, has resulted in her unceremonious retirement. Good, and good riddance.

I was not particularly surprised to note that the New York Times buried the story on page A14 of today's front section. Let's just say that when a progressive, liberal lefthander of the first order engages in crass bigotry, they get the protection of a pile of pages ahead of them and rationalizations for their commentary.

What I was more than a little surprised about, however, was the nature of the article. Read it carefully.

First, the title - "Reporter Retires After Words About Israel."

Actually, Helen Thomas Retired After Words About Jews. She made no reference to Israel. She said "they should get the Hell out of Palestine." She said "they should go back to Poland and Germany..."

Whether the writer realizes or not, this article thoroughly strips the mask off the increasingly faux distinction for many between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish bigotry (or what most call anti-Semitism). I read someplace yesterday (it might have been the Corner) a quote about "scratching an Anti-zionist and before too long finding the antisemite within." That's a little unfair - the nation of Israel, like any nation can be subject to criticism without the critic necessarily being accused of bigotry against the nation's people. Having said that, I think bigots have latched on to the distinction quite happily because of the sudden political acceptability of anti-zionism.

I must admit, I am shocked to see that, even in the New York Times. William Safire and A. M. Rosenthal must be spinning. I would have thought that even the maroons now in charge of editing that paper would be conscious and literate enough to keep that mask on. I stand corrected. They're bigots. The fellow who wrote the article - Jeremy Peters - could be 3 things: 1) a fellow lefty progressive protecting Helen Thomas who nonetheless recognizes her bigotry; 2) a moron who doesn't immediately see the important nuance here; or 3) a bigot.

Can you imagine if Rush Limbaugh had made the exact same comments Helen Thomas made? A14? Without making a single reference to bigotry, anti-semitism or anti-Jewish bias? Are you kidding me? One last quote from Helen Thomas - "I am a liberal, always will be a liberal, and will die a liberal."

As my friend TH would say, release the hounds...

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The end of fun 

This post makes me sad because it is so true:

I can't remember when I last saw a diving board (in the United States) or a seesaw. And until very recently, I had not seen a jungle gym of the sort I used to play on when I was a kid, but I spotted one in the yard of a former school and church in Ann Arbor, and I was lucky enough to have my camera handy.

For that you can blame the lawyers, and the judges who reshaped the common law to supply a financial remedy for every injury. There is, though, a broader assault on fun, and it comes from many places that all pretty much amount to taking risk of one sort or another out of life. Risk of injury, risk of insult, risk of discomfort: All these are reasons to ban law darts and jungle gyms, raise the drinking age, forbid ethnic jokes anywhere other than comedy clubs, and keep the kids indoors because it is raining or snowing.

Who are all these people who never want to run a goddamned risk? What is the true root of our national obsession? I wonder, sometimes, if antibiotics are to blame: Early and random death from disease was commonplace before World War II. You could die at any time, so breaking your arm falling from a jungle gym just did not seem like a problem. Unfortunately, in the reframing of risk in our daily lives we have forgotten the benefits of it: Risk is the price for most great and fun things. Sadly, few people today accept that exchange or even acknowledge that one comes with the other, and now we are fixing to expunge risk from our economic lives just as we have from the playground.

Will we ever remember what we have lost?

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Diagnosing Vader 

It turns out that Darth Vader just needed more time on the couch, and perhaps a prescription for Xanax:
The manipulations of Anakin Skywalker, also known as Darth Vader in the "Star Wars" saga, have long been ascribed to the Dark Side of the Force. Now, psychiatrists suggests that the actions of the Jedi Knight could be used in teaching about a real-life mental illness.

A letter to the editor in the journal Psychiatry Research explores just what is wrong with Vader. French researchers posit that Vader exhibits six out of the nine criteria for borderline personality disorder. Unstable moods, interpersonal relationships, and behaviors are all characteristics of this condition, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. It affects 2 percent of adults, mostly young women.
Now the Emperor, he really had problems, and was just a bad dude. I would guess many psychiatrists would not even agree to treat him (kind of like the fictional debate that took place among Dr. Melfi's colleagues in The Sopranos). But it would make a good SNL skit.

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Medical device moment 

The video below is a couple of years old, but is just now going viral, so I am adding to the spread of the virus here.

A baby, born deaf, has received a cochlear implant, and the video captures the initial activation of the implant, and the baby hears his mother's voice for the first time.

Is it possible that the "corporate tools" working at medical device companies actually play a role in making moments like this possible? For those Americans who might believe that the federal government can (and rightly should) pick which technologies ought to receive the funding necessary to go all the way from the inventor's lab to the patient, you might want to rethink that, and watch the video again.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Al Campanis and Helen Thomas 

Remember Al Campanis? He was the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1968 to 1987. The end of his tenure came when he appeared on Ted Koppel's Nightline and made certain infamous remarks responding to a question from Koppel as to why there weren't more black managers and executives in baseball. Campanis responded along the lines of "they may lack certain necessities" or thereabouts. End of career.

And then there's Jimmy the Greek. Jimmy was the betting line maven who used to do the NFL Today with Brent Musburger, focused on betting lines and points spreads. One day he was a couple drinks into a bender when he made some idiotic comments about the advanced musculature of black athletes . End of career.

Now we have Helen Thomas. Considering the blatant and rabid anti-semitism captured in that video, she should face similar exile. Let's see. Her slurs, in my view, were infinitely more grotesque.

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