Friday, January 29, 2010

Separation of powers ... IN YO' FACE!

That's the message of the Mississippi Supreme Court to Haley Barbour, all nine justices having signed onto an order prohibiting the State Fiscal Officer (who he?) from cutting the budget of the judiciary branch, on the plausible basis that the SFO can cut "agency" budgets, and the courts are not an "agency."

Via the indispensable NMC.

... Kevin Upchurch is our CFO. Don't get held in contempt, Kevin, I'm sure your job doesn't pay enough for that.

... Y'know, the MSSC does have one of those newfangledy "web sites," and it does have a "news page" thereon ... it would not kill them to post such documents rather than leave various blessedly-well-connected blawggers to get them to us.

... Matt at Ipse Blogit thinks that "what is an agency?" is not so clear as the Court suggests.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Salinger no longer just metaphorically dead

Reports the Times. One's reminded of Dorothy Parker's response when Coolidge's death was reported: "How can they tell?"

Never was a Catcher in the Rye fan, but I did have a significantly underlined copy of Franny and Zooey for a few years.

... It occurs to me that we will now be subjected to a Catcher in the Rye film. Yecch. That couldn't possibly turn out badly. Winona Ryder once said she'd kill whoever tried to make a movie of Catcher, and it's not like she has a lot to lose these days ... maybe she's our best hope.

... Maybe they can get Peter Jackson to do Catcher and soup it up with CGI, like when Holden says something steams him, have CGI steam literally blowing off him. It worked so well for Jackson in his LOTR revisions. Or they could just get Michael Bay. A few explosions, a few bimbos, this book could really work!

Language is the tavern of Being

Heidegger, of course, was aware of the strangeness, indeed the nonsense, of his language. Carl Friedrich von Weisäcker once told him the Jewish anecdote about a man who perpetually sits in a tavern. When asked why he does so, he answers: "Well, it's my wife." "What about your wife?" "Oh, she talks and talks and talks ...." "What does she talk about?" "That, she doesn't say." When Heidegger heard the story he said, "Yes, that's how it is."
-- Safranski, Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil, at 311.

... But was Heidegger talking about his own philsophy, or about Elfride?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brown v. Mississippi

That was the landmark Supreme Court decision that held inadmissible evidence derived from torture, pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment. Three black men were tortured until they confessed to killing a white man, and the deputy who supervised the torture admitted to it on the stand. The Court quoted from Justice Griffith's dissent below (joined only by one other, Justice Anderson):
It is interesting to note that in his testimony with reference to the whipping of the defendant Ellington, and in response to the inquiry as to how severely he was whipped, the deputy stated, 'Not too much for a negro; not as much as I would have done if it were left to me.'
I wondered who the attorneys were. The petitioners were represented by Earl Brewer, onetime Democratic/Progressive governor of Mississippi, and J. Morgan Stevens, apparently one of the oft-omitted name partners of Butler Snow O'Mara Stevens & Cannada, which firm does not seem to include any information on its founders anywhere on its website.

For the state were W.D. Conn of Corinth and W.H. Maynard of Baltimore, MD. I can't find much on Conn; someone of his name was principal of the Alcorn County public school after 1894, and a William Dow Conn whose dates are 1896-1953 is listed on the same website's genealogy page; he seems to've graduated from Ole Miss as a bachelor of laws in 1906. W.H. Maynard appears active in the Episcopalian Church, perhaps a founder of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Baltimore.

Of course, the prosecutor was the future Senator John C. Stennis, whose career doesn't seem to've suffered. Wikipedia records that the petitioners pleaded guilty to manslaughter on remand, rather than face another (white) jury.

Stone cold Onion

Massive Earthquake Reveals Entire Island Civilization Called 'Haiti'
Less than two weeks after converging upon the site of a devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake, American anthropologists have confirmed the discovery of a small, poverty-stricken island nation, known to its inhabitants as "Haiti."

Located just 700 miles off the southeastern coast of Florida, the previously unaccounted-for country is believed to be home to an estimated 10 million people.
Even more astounding, reports now indicate that these people have likely inhabited the impoverished, destitute region--unnoticed by the rest of the world--for more than 300 years.

"That an entire civilization has been somehow existing right under our noses for all this time comes as a complete shock," said University of Florida anthropology professor Dr. Ben Oliver, adding that it appeared as if Haiti's citizens had been living under dangerous conditions even before the devastating earthquake struck. "Of course, there have been rumors in the past about a long-forgotten Caribbean nation whose people struggle every day to survive, live in constant fear of a corrupt government, and endure such squalor and hunger that they have resorted to eating dirt. But never did we give them much thought."

Added Oliver, "Had it not been for this earthquake, I doubt we would have ever noticed Haiti at all." * * *

"When we first landed there, I thought, 'No person could possibly live here,'" Oliver said. "Not only did the arid landscape look incapable of sustaining any sort of agriculture, but there was absolutely no infrastructure either. Had we known about this desperate, desperate place sooner, perhaps we could have shared some of our technological advancements with them."

"I've vacationed just miles away in beautiful St. Kitts many times," Oliver added. "Never did anyone say anything about this Haiti place."

Osama dead?

TBA has always been suspicious of wishful thinking that Osama bin Laden has managed to die unassisted by the U.S. military. But his latest alleged audiotape is not persuading many people that it's really his voice. Juan Cole analyzes the content and finds it unconvincing, and concludes:
I don't know if the old monster is dead, and some clever young engineers just have a program to emulate his voice, or whether he is alive and horribly disfigured (we have not seen him in an authentic video since October 2004). But I do have the severest doubts that he issued this audio message. And the interesting thing is that even if he did, almost no one in the Muslim world seems to care.
Marc Lynch, however, takes it at face value.

But then, poor Todd Palin would be condemned to celibacy

Alaska's legislators have noticed that they've never gotten around to criminalizing bestiality. I'm not quite sure how the word for "acting beastlike" got narrowed to "having sex across-species," which doesn't seem to be a characteristic of most beasts, but then the animals don't get to write the dictionaries.
Ronnie Rosenberg, the Fairbanks commission's chairwoman, told the State Affairs Commission on Monday that people who work or regularly volunteer at shelters are bound to eventually care for an animal that has been sexually abused by a person. In Fairbanks, an active duty soldier last summer was accused of sodomizing a dachshund that eventually needed medical care and Rosenberg said a more recent case has emerged involving a puppy.
Note the winning emphasis on "child" animals. And a dachshund? Medical attention or not, what kind of penile inadequacy is one confessing to by trying to fuck a dachshund?

Professions, like petticoats, ought to be discreetly concealed

Our Lawyers are mere lawyers, our physicians are mere physicians, our divines are mere divines. Everything smells of the shop, and you will, in a few minutes conversation, infallibly detect a man's profession.
-- John Gardiner, "perhaps Boston's most distinguished man of letters in the first decade of the nineteenth century," in Gordon S. Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, at 709.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Magnetic Fields, w/ diagrams ... etc.

Over at the AVclub, I see that the Magnetic Fields has (have?) a new album out, a bit more along their usual lines than the hard-to-hear-the-damn-lyrics Distortion.

And in the comment thread, I find that someone's blogging illustrations for each of 69 Love Songs. Too awesome for words, which makes it handy that there are pictures.

Speaking of pictures, this is a pretty terrible SF/Fantasy "Best 100" list -- okay yes, LOTS of Vance, good, but The Fountainhead??? non-ironically??? -- but it includes paperback covers of great interest, including this wonderful UK cover for Gravity's Rainbow that looks like it would've earned the author's unqualified endorsement:

OTOH, worst dust jacket ever must go to this UK job for Maske: Thaery:

So hard to single out the worst flaw: the utter irrelevance to anything in the novel? The generic-wizard-cover quality? The fact that the publisher had to correct the misleading nature of the cover by stamping "SCIENCE FICTION" on it?

Dungeon inmates forbidden to play in simulated dungeons

The Seventh Circuit (h/t Somin) has upheld a prison ban on Dungeons & Dragons. Another urgent amendment to the Constitution is needed!
After concluding that the popular role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (“D&D”) represented a threat to prison security, officials at Wisconsin’s Waupun Correctional Institution took action to eradicate D&D within the prison’s walls. Inmate Kevin T. Singer found himself on the front lines of Waupun’s war on D&D when prison officials confiscated a large quantity of D&D-related publications from his cell. * * *

Singer’s devotion to D&D was unwavering during his incarceration at Waupun. He frequently ordered D&D publications and game materials by mail and had them
delivered to his cell. Singer was able to order and possess his D&D materials without incident from June 2002 until November 2004. This all changed on or about November 14, 2004, when Waupun’s long-serving Disruptive Group Coordinator, Captain Bruce Muraski, received an anonymous letter from an inmate. The letter expressed concern that Singer and three other inmates were forming a D&D gang and were trying to recruit others to join by passing around their D&D publications and touting the “rush” they got from playing the game. Muraski, Waupun’s expert on gang activity, decided to heed the letter’s advice and “check into this gang before it gets out of hand.” * * *

In a December 6, 2004 letter to Singer, Muraski informed Singer that “inmates are not allowed to engage in or possess written material that details rules, codes, dogma of games/activities such as ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ because it promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling.”
Muraski clearly is what Bugs Bunny used to call a "maroon."

Unfortunately, Singer failed to present any evidence from experts in prison security, let alone sufficient such evidence to discredit the prison's "rational basis" for relying on Muraski's opinion. And it's evident the judges had only a faint grasp of what D&D is. Just goes to show the importance of diversity on the bench. To marshal only one famous recent quotation,
Which just goes to the importance of diversity. I would hope that a wise half-elf with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.
Will Obama's judicial appointments redress the deficiency of D&D-playing jurists? I would expect some Republican holds and filibusters, though the confirmation hearings would be priceless.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Get this amendment process started!

Eugene Volokh finds a gem in Rhode Island district court:
... plaintiffs proclaim that “[s]tudents should have the right to congregate and socialize whether for political or social reasons.” (Pls.' Resp. Mem. 16.) In fact, nothing in the record suggests that the gatherings serve anything other than “social purposes,” an objective that falls flat. Anyone who has college-aged children knows that “hanging out” is an important, even vital social experience. But just as the Constitution does not “recognize[ ] a generalized right of ‘social association’ “ of the type that includes “chance encounters in dance halls,” City of Dallas v. Stanglin, 490 U.S. 19, 25 (1989), it does not protect college house parties, no matter how many problems of the world may be solved at them. Under Stanglin, Plaintiffs cannot claim constitutional protection for get-togethers that do not serve political or expressive ends.FN4

FN4. In other words, while the Beastie Boys might disagree, the First Amendment does not imply a “right to party” dissociated from expression.
"Dude! Keep looking! I know it's in the amendments somewhere!"

... Not the first mention of the Beastie Boys in American jurisprudence, but the first quasi-citation to their work, that I can find.

Advil gives swifter relief than does U.S. Army?

"82nd Airborne battalion commander fired," Tom Ricks tells us, remarking that the odd thing about this is, well, how odd it is:
relieving a battalion commander in combat used to be pretty common, but has become increasingly rare in recent wars. Even General James Gavin, who thought relief was used too often during World War II, once gave an order to a battalion commander, who questioned it, so Gavin turned to the XO and told him he now had command of the unit. In my research on World War II, I have been struck at how swift relief was, but also how it wasn't necessarily terminal. Off the top of my head I can think of two division commanders who were relieved in combat (Allen and Ward) only to get command of other divisions later in the war. What's more, Brig. Gen. "Hanging" Sam Williams was not only relieved as an assistant division commander but also reduced to colonel-only to stay in the Army and eventually retire as a three star.
Under George Marshall, there was no hesitation in relieving a commander who didn't seem to be working out, and then either trying him out elsewhere (as Ricks notes) or just putting him out to pasture.

Whereas I fear that, today, command posts *are* the pasture, and the cows (bulls?) have a strong sense of entitlement. Perhaps this example will shake things up a bit.

... Ricks also notes that the ex-commander, LTCOL Jenio, says he is looking for a lawyer. Oh yeah, good luck with that. Hope the lawyer gets paid all up front.

Citizens United: Sky Not Falling, Says Blogger

Over at Salon, Glenn Greenwald has a judicious post (and follow-up) on why the Supreme Court's invalidation of corporation-targeted campaign donation limits is not the end of the world:
One of the central lessons of the Bush era should have been that illegal or unconstitutional actions -- warrantless eavesdropping, torture, unilateral Presidential programs -- can't be justified because of the allegedly good results they produce (Protecting us from the Terrorists). The "rule of law" means we faithfully apply it in ways that produce outcomes we like and outcomes we don't like. Denouncing court rulings because they invalidate laws one likes is what the Right often does (see how they reflexively and immediately protest every state court ruling invaliding opposite-sex-only marriage laws without bothering to even read about the binding precedents), and that behavior is irrational in the extreme. If the Constitution or other laws bar the government action in question, then that's the end of the inquiry; whether those actions produce good results is really not germane. Thus, those who want to object to the Court's ruling need to do so on First Amendment grounds. Except to the extent that some constitutional rights give way to so-called "compelling state interests," that the Court's decision will produce "bad results" is not really an argument.
Going on to consider the "bad results," Greenwald is jaded:
I'm also quite skeptical of the apocalyptic claims about how this decision will radically transform and subvert our democracy by empowering corporate control over the political process. My skepticism is due to one principal fact: I really don't see how things can get much worse in that regard.
His takeaway is that campaign finance laws are dubious under the First Amendment, don't work anyway, and would be better replaced by public funding of elections:
There are few features that are still extremely healthy and vibrant in the American political system; the First Amendment is one of them, and the last thing we should want is Congress trying to limit it through amendments or otherwise circumvent it in the name of elevating our elections. Meaningful public financing of campaigns would far more effectively achieve the ostensible objectives of campaign finance restrictions without any of the dangers or constitutional infirmities. If yesterday's decision provides the impetus for that to be done, then it will have, on balance, achieved a very positive outcome, even though that was plainly not its intent.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Po' Monkey's

In the future, everyone will be on Wikipedia.

Even "one of the last original juke joints" in a field west of Merigold, Mississippi, a mile off Highway 61.

Here's a recent closeup of the sign on the front:TBA only dropped by during the daytime (and did indeed slip a dollar into the donation box for taking photos), and is loosely planning a Thursday night visit.

Something else I did not know

Remember that seemingly gratuitous Civil War battle that Sergio Leone tossed into The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? Did you think it was a tad implausible that so many troops were out West fighting over god knows what?

Turns out it's based on an actual campaign, in which the South sought to seize the gold and silver of Colorado and suchlike.

Bonus trivia: co-author of a wargame based on one of the battles in this campaign? Dave Arneson.

"Wondering why in the hell we've spent the last two decades trying to elect Democrats to office"

TPM runs the musings of a "longtime political operative":
... something roiling underneath in Democratic politics right now. In nearly two decades in politics, I don't think I've ever seen people who have spend their professionals lives electing Democrats to office as angry at the people they elect as they are right now.

Ok....Since 1992, I've been a Dem political operative specializing in opposition research, so I'm pretty familiar with the back and forth negative attacks. The sense of anger has been building for a while....but here's what I sense is going on from friends and colleagues who I have talked to.

First, the politics:

1. Whether we pass HCR or not, and whether a D voted for It or not, they are going to be attacked on the negatives of HCR. So if they pass something at all, at least they have an accomplishment they can argue about. If not, what are they gonna say? Sorry, we've wasted a year of your time and abandoned our top domestic priority.

2. Our problem is not that we are liberal - it's that we are weak. And abandoning HCR feeds that perception

3. What other big thing will be able to do if we can't do this - we will have smaller majorities, and less flexbility.

So the point is that all the politics say pass something so we can have a public fight about it. The anger is stoked by the fact that the people we elect seem not to get the obvious (to us) point that not doing anything gives us no argument for the election.

And what is even more annoying is that its nadler, frank, weiner, maloney, grijalva hammering this right now. They are all gonna get reelected - but they are gonna serve in the minority if we can't get stuff accomplished.

The bottom line.. The people I'm talking too are wondering why in the hell we've spent the last two decades trying to elect Democrats to office, when they abandon their public policy priorities because Martha Coakley runs the most incompetent campaign in history of the world....
What he said. Anyone not a moron gets this. Congressional Dems don't get this. Ergo.

Nancy Pelosi, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you

TBA lacks words to express its contempt for Democrats in the Congress who evidently want to roll over and die on health care because an arrogant, complacent Massachusetts Democratic Party put up a sorry-ass Senate candidate and lost, leaving the Democrats with "only" a majority of FIFTY-NINE.

But we can find words on the internet. Jonathan Chait:
....[House Democrats are] angry, they're tired, they've lost interest in weighing the merits of a decent compromise option versus a catastrophic failure, and most of all they want somebody else to deal with it. If they fail to pull themselves together, future generations will look back at them, note that Congress had passed comprehensive reform in both chambers, had the backing of an eager Democratic president, and could finish the deal by getting 218 of their 256 Democratic members to sign on, and somehow refused. I still find the idea that they'll allow this to happen unfathomable. If they do succumb, it will be because some deep and recurrent character flaw rose to the surface at the worst time, once again.
Kevin Drum:
It's beyond belief that we could get this close to a century-old goal of liberalism — we are, literally, just a hair's breadth from the finish line — and then allow the most significant social legislation of the past 40 years to slip from our grasp just because we're tired and pissed. All we need is one roll call vote in the House. That's how close we are to passing this genuinely historic bill. One vote. Then the next day we can start in on the next 20 years work of improving and finishing what we've begun.
Matt Yglesias:
Two weeks ago health reform looked to be completely on track. Today the only impediment to it passing is that House Democrats who already voted in favor of health reform need to vote in favor of health reform a second time. Had Martha Coakley won the election in Massachusetts, House Democrats who already voted in favor of health reform would need to vote in favor of it a second time. What’s more, given that House Democrats have already voted in favor of health reform it’s already inevitable that they will be attacked for having voted in favor of health reform. It makes no sense substantively and no sense politically for anyone who was prepared to vote for health reform two weeks ago to not vote for it now.

Explaining the October Revolution, Trotsky said “power was lying in the streets--we picked it up.” Now I’m not one of those guys who gets sentimental about Trotsky; notwithstanding his falling out with Stalin they were both bad guys. But you’re talking about someone who had an understanding of political action.

Ever since November of 2008, power has been lying not in the street but in the halls of Congress. And it seems to me that many members of Congress have been simply unwilling to accept that fact. They want to evade responsibility. They want to talk about Chuck Grassley or Olympia Snowe or now Scott Brown. They want to talk about polls. They want to talk about tea parties. They want to talk about cable news. They want to talk about process. But they have to recognize what’s happening. The power is there. Anthony Weiner and Barney Frank and Evan Bayh are all autonomous human beings. If they choose not to pass health care, then they have the right to do so. But it’s up to them and they just need to decide. The way things happen in politics is that people put themselves in a position to do certain things, and then they do them. House Democrats are in a position to enact a sweeping reform of America’s health care system. Will they do it, or are there two parties that support the status quo?
This is, essentially, Nancy Pelosi's moment. Is she going to be content with a footnote as the first female Speaker, but a weak one who punted on the most important social legislation since LBJ? Or is she going to be remembered as the Speaker who made health care reform happen?

TBA is not sure what the answer will prove to be, but we know this much: voting against the Republicans is not enough to keep us supporting the Democrats. We have to be voting for something as well. And if the Democrats funk on this ridiculously hard-won legislation, then there's really not much reason to vote Democratic, let alone send these fools any money.

... More shame & loathing via Drum, here. My favorite:
The worst is that I can't help but feel like the main emotion people in the caucus are feeling is relief at this turn of events. Now they have a ready excuse for not getting anything done. While I always thought we had the better ideas but the weaker messaging, it feels like somewhere along the line Members internalized a belief that we actually have weaker ideas. They're afraid to actually implement them and face the judgement of the voters. That's the scariest dynamic and what makes me think this will all come crashing down around us in November.

This was all signalled by the Democrats' refusal to repeal the filibuster. It's damn absurd that in an institution ALREADY as minoritarian as the Senate, the opposition party should be able to impose a de facto supermajority requirement to pass anything. But the Democrats would not do this, because they think in terms of becoming the minority again. A party that *thinks* like a minority will *become* a minority. Ask the Mensheviks.

... And now we hear from Pelosi:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the Senate will have to amend its version of a health care reform bill before the House can pass it, the Washington Post reports.

Said Pelosi: "I don't think it's possible to pass the Senate bill in the House. I don't see the votes for it at this time."
Oh yes, because that's what the Speaker of the House does by way of leadership: counts votes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It all makes sense when you, er, think about it

Jonathan Chait thinks that PETA's latest nude-celeb ad "jumps the shark" because nude Sasha Grey is insufficiently relevant to neutering one's pets:

He neglects to observe, however, that if only our pets had sex the way porn star Sasha Grey is known for having sex, they wouldn't get pregnant, much.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The black site at Guantanamo

We've noted the report of the three men evidently tortured to death at Gitmo. Scott Horton has more. Andrew Sullivan summarizes:

This is the isolated part of Gitmo where paddy wagons came and went, whence screams could be heard during "aggressive questioning", and whence three corpses are believed to have emerged after the kind of treatment once reserved for totalitarian states but now indelibly part of the American way.

No, this is not a satellite of a secret Iran torture chamber; it is not a Soviet camp; it is not an isolated black site in North Korea. It is in Gitmo. And it is where America's founding principles came to die.

The corpses were delivered to their families with their necks cut out, to make it impossible to tell whether they were strangled to death in a session engineered by Cheney and Rumsfeld or whether they hanged themselves simultaneously as the cover-up insisted.
Kinda the test case for Obama: if you won't prosecute this, then what the hell will you prosecute?

When reality isn't acceptable, try philosophy

The worry that fuelled debates about the difference between appearance and reality was not the fear that the world might not turn out to be the way it seems to us – but rather the fear that it would.
-- Susan Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy.

... Nietzsche makes the same point, but not quite so neatly.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Even Aristotle had only four

Discussing a jury instruction gone bad, Judge Posner comments on causation, with an example of how not to prepare for oral argument:
Causation is an important issue in many cases in a variety of fields of law and has been so for centuries. Yet it continues to confuse lawyers, in part because of a proliferation of unhelpful terminology (for which we judges must accept a good deal of the blame). In the space of three-and-a-half pages in the government’s brief, we find the following causal terms: proximate cause, actual cause, direct cause, but-for causation, contributing causation, contributory causation, significant causal connection, sole cause, factor in the victims’ injuries, concurrent cause, meaningful role, possible cause, remote cause, and cause in fact. Black’s Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004) lists 26 terms in the entry for “cause.” The prosecutor was unable at oral argument satisfactorily to differentiate or explain the causal terms listed in his brief, or the three causal terms added to the instruction—“a factor that resulted in,” “primary cause,” and “played a part.”
As you might guess, the Seventh Circuit went on to hold that the additional terms were likely as clear as mud to the jury. (H/t How Appealing.)

... Why was the prosecutor the one arguing the case on appeal? I suppose there's some value to having someone who was at trial, but appellate-advocacy skills are not the same as courtroom skills.

Late-breaking news

Yahoo now feeds in what it clairvoyantly discerns to be my local news, but the headlines get truncated. As today, for instance:
Report: Tiger Woods Undergoing Sex…
Well, yes, so I've heard.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bailout premiums

Mark Kleiman makes lots of sense:
We now know that sufficiently large financial institutions enjoy implicit insurance from the taxpayers, because they’re “too big to fail”: i.e., so big that letting them fail risks cascading failure, as letting Lehman fail turned out to do.

The value of that insurance depends on the size of the institution and the risks it takes.

So charging all large financial institutions, whether called “banks” or not, an “insurance premium” based on size and risk on a seems both equitable and efficient.
Whinging about how this will supposedly make banks less able to lend is just that, whinging. Banks lend because it's how they make money. Paying their property insurance premiums is a cost of doing business; so should be paying "bailout premiums."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Proclaiming my coordinates at the intersection of "lawyer" and "D&D nerd"

My shirt came in!

For those who are squinting, that's "Hey, I don't make the rules, I just twist them to my purpose." Here's the context, kinda.

Friday, January 08, 2010

TBA road trip?

TBA's family has the chance to spring-break in Vermont this March. TBA, being parsimonious broke, finds the price of flying 4 people during airline primetime exorbitant.

Whereas, via MapQuest, it becomes evident that you can't really drive from Jackson, MS to Vermont without going near ... Gettysburg.

I figure, drive the battlefield on the way up, swing through Philly on the way back for Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the dinosaurs in the museum. See some America & stuff. Wooooo!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

"A man of letters in the most usually accepted sense: i.e., he was not a man of anything else"

Via Clive Davis, whom I no sooner discover than he's quit blogging, here's something you don't see every day -- an appreciation of Stefan Zweig.

The bookshelf

Peter Wilson, The Thirty Years War. The must-read of the season for European-history nerds. At 800+ pages, less readable than Wedgwood's 1938 classic, but promises to cover the second half of the war in detail, which she rather slid through as tedious. N.b. -- do not buy copy with missing endpaper maps.

John Keay, China: A History. If anyone can make a one-volume survey of Chinese history into more than One Damn Dynasty After Another, it should be Keay. Just put the late Han to rest.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. In my lit-theory days, I never could take this book quite seriously enough to pick it up; I mentally categorize it as leading a "second wave" of theory that put Foucault et al. together into a radically subversive mix and, well, jumped the shark. (See here.) So I was delighted to visit the bookstore the other day and find a new paperback reprint -- in Penguin Classics. Too damn funny not to own a copy, and it dovetails nicely with my new resolve to read theory and philosophy for their fictional value.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

What was wrong with "consulting"?

Bristol Palin, high-school graduate, age 19, has now opened her own firm in "public relations."

As Mom so proudly showed, credentials and experience don't matter.

Lawsuits are rarely about the principle of the thing

At How Appealing, we see that the two guys framed by Illinois prosecutors have settled for $12M. Apparently, the state didn't like how the oral arguments went.

Pity not to make some case law, but it could've gone the wrong way, and the first concern has to be some recompense for the plaintiffs.

Hello, Weather Service?

There's been some mistake. Mississippi seems to be getting Michigan's weather. Those crazy postal abbreviations, no doubt! Please fix.

Love, TBA. P.S. -- Brrrrr.

Drone attacks: better than a sharp stick in the eye?

FWIW, here's one Farhat Taj reporting that the people of Waziristan are not actually all that uptight about drone attacks:
The people of Waziristan are suffering a brutal kind of occupation under the Taliban and al Qaeda. It is in this context that they would welcome anyone, Americans, Israelis, Indians or even the devil, to rid them of the Taliban and al Qaeda.
With flowers?
Therefore, they welcome the drone attacks. Secondly, the people feel comfortable with the drones because of their precision and targeted strikes. People usually appreciate drone attacks when they compare it with the Pakistan Army’s attacks, which always result in collateral damage.
Especially the people of Waziristan have been terrified by the use of long-range artillery and air strikes of the Pakistan Army and Air Force. People complain that not a single TTP or al Qaeda member has been killed so far by the Pakistan Army, whereas a lot of collateral damage has taken place. Thousands of houses have been destroyed and hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed by the Pakistan Army. On the other hand, drone attacks have never targeted the civilian population except, they informed, in one case when the funeral procession of Khwazh Wali, a TTP commander, was hit. In that attack too, many TTP militants were killed including Bilal (the TTP commander of Zangara area) and two Arab members of al Qaeda. But some civilians were also killed. After the attack people got the excuse of not attending the funeral of slain TTP militants or offering them food, which they used to do out of compulsion in order to put themselves in the TTP’s good books. “It (this drone attack) was a blessing in disguise,” several people commented.

I have heard people particularly appreciating the precision of drone strikes. People say that when a drone would hover over the skies, they wouldn’t be disturbed and would carry on their usual business because they would be sure that it does not target the civilians, but the same people would run for shelter when a Pakistani jet would appear in the skies because of its indiscriminate firing. They say that even in the same compound only the exact room — where a high value target (HVT) is present — is targeted. Thus others in the same compound are spared. The people of Waziristan have been complaining why the drones are only restricted to targeting the Arabs. They want the drones to attack the TTP leadership, the Uzbek/Tajik/Turkmen, Punjabi and Pakhtun Taliban. I have heard even religious people of Waziristan cursing the jihad and welcoming even Indian or Israeli support to help them get rid of the TTP and foreign militants. The TTP and foreign militants had made them hostages and occupied their houses by force. The Taliban have publicly killed even the religious scholars in Waziristan.

I have yet to come across a non-TTP resident of Waziristan who supports the Taliban or al Qaeda.
Of course, if she had, she might not have survived to write this article.

Via 3QD. A little googling finds this blog post by Taj, along the same lines, with a spooky comment about her being a CIA agent and she'd better watch out. One need only look at the blog itself to realize that one is in the midst of politics that would take a while to unravel.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Read something smart today

Not TBA, of course. Brad DeLong links to chapter 12 of Keynes's General Theory, on the barriers to a rational market (the "animal spirits" chapter). Unlike much of the GT, very readable for the non-economist. Plus teeming with present applications.

If you've never actually read anything by Keynes, here's your chance to see how very smart he was.

Annoying judge tricks # 4

(4) Issuing a "revision" of a 68-page opinion without including any statement of just what, actually, is being revised, so that one must collate the two versions to discover what changed.

Since the present example is the Paul Minor case, TBA is hoping someone else will do this. But there's no need. A footnote could be added to explain just what the revisions are.

Nothing "conservative" about torture

Andrew Sullivan tirelessly explains Morality 101:
The Christian distinction Thiessen and Cheney reject - and the core of the heresy they embrace - is that between self-defense and cruelty. Because they believe that the US is inherently good and its enemies inherently evil, they cannot conceive that they themselves are just as capable of evil as al Qaeda. But you are, Dick, you are. Yes: calm, old, unruffled old Cheney - just as prone to absolute evil as Osama bin Laden or me or anyone mortal. It is not conservative to believe that human nature has changed just because you now have power. It is not conservative to believe that the threat you are grappling with is somehow uniquely different from every other threat ever made against a free people and therefore merits the secret but irrevocable trashing of ancient norms of morality and central pillars of a just war. That's as radical as it gets.
If torture were such a wonderful way of obtaining information, the police would use it legally and routinely; the courts would use it at trials. Indeed, that is how it used to be. When Frederick the Great abolished judicial torture, his judges were aghast: how are we going to get confessions? they protested.