Friday, April 29, 2011

Wittgenstein notebooks rediscovered

Wittgenstein died 60 years ago today. The Guardian reports some rediscovered notebooks:
... the only known handwritten version of Wittgenstein's Brown Book – notes from his Cambridge lectures in the mid-1930s. There are an additional 60 pages of manuscript for the Brown Book with a revised opening and other changes.

Gibson also believes that a pinkish Norwegian school exercise book in the archive, which has a complete and previously unknown narrative, may in fact be a missing Wittgenstein gem – something talked about but never seen. "This may or may not be the missing item called the Pink Book or Yellow Book that scholars have long been hoping for." There is also a series of thousands of mathematical calculations in which Wittgenstein examines Fermat's little theorem.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Check the sell-by date!

In a rare reversal, my wife was the one visiting Walmart yesterday, and she sent me a picture of one of her acquisitions:

Your reaction -- "huh?" or "oh yeah!" -- tells something about your age.

According to Wikipedia -- amazing, aren't they? -- this actually came out late 2010, but I guess it's only just now filtering down to the provinces. Apparently the Taco flavor was phased out around 1977.
Numerous impromptu online support groups have sprung up over the years among devoted fans who miss the original Taco Doritos flavor formula. Reincarnations and relaunches of the Taco Doritos, including the recent "Back By Popular Demand" campaign, did not recreate the original Taco flavor. The Taco chips included in the Zesty Taco/Chipotle Ranch "Collisions" bags were very close to the original, but were since discontinued in most of the country.[8]In late 2010 the Taco flavor recipe that was used in the 1980's returned in a limited edition "retro" styled bag incorporating the original Doritos logo, and in early 2011 the company announced that this incarnation would remain in the permanent product line-up.
The Taco flavor was pretty awesome, so I'm glad to see it return, though not to the extent that I regret having omitted to join any online support groups.

... From the article, an interesting Daubert "angle" (heh):
The company was sued in 2003 by Charles Grady, who claimed that his throat had been damaged because of eating Doritos. According to him, the shape and rigidity of the chips made them inherently dangerous. Grady attempted to admit into evidence a study by a former chemistry professor that calculated how best to safely swallow the chips. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court later ruled that the study did not meet scientific standards and could not be presented as evidence.

Fortunately for most of America, they're clustered where I live

Obama's long-form birth certificate has provided yet more empirical evidence for ... the crazification factor:
A new SurveyUSA poll finds that of those who have seen President Obama's newly-released detailed birth certificate, 71% are satisfied that he was born in the United States but 18% still have doubts and another 10% say the document released by the White House is a forgery.
28%. It's like the blackbody curve. Plus, the 18/10 split suggests we may be able to pin down the Special/General crazification values.
John: Objectively crazy or crazy vis-a-vis my own inertial reference frame for rational behaviour? I mean, are you creating the Theory of Special Crazification or General Crazification?

Tyrone: Hadn't thought about it. Let's split the difference. Half just have worldviews which lead them to disagree with what you consider rationality even though they arrive at their positions through rational means, and the other half are the core of the Crazification -- either genuinely crazy; or so woefully misinformed about how the world works, the bases for their decision making is so flawed they may as well be crazy.
So the core value is around 10%.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Doctors in the torture chambers

Of course, nothing will happen to these people.
We reviewed GTMO medical records and relevant case files (client affidavits, attorney–client notes and summaries, and legal affidavits of medical experts) of nine individuals for evidence of torture and ill treatment and documentation by medical personnel. In each of the nine cases, GTMO detainees alleged abusive interrogation methods that are consistent with torture as defined by the UN Convention Against Torture as well as the more restrictive US definition of torture that was operational at the time. The medical affidavits in each of the nine cases indicate that the specific allegations of torture and ill treatment are highly consistent with physical and psychological evidence documented in the medical records and evaluations by non-governmental medical experts. However, the medical personnel who treated the detainees at GTMO failed to inquire and/or document causes of the physical injuries and psychological symptoms they observed. Psychological symptoms were commonly attributed to “personality disorders” and “routine stressors of confinement.” Temporary psychotic symptoms and hallucinations did not prompt consideration of abusive treatment. Psychological assessments conducted by non-governmental medical experts revealed diagnostic criteria for current major depression and/or PTSD in all nine cases.


The findings in these nine cases from GTMO indicate that medical doctors and mental health personnel assigned to the DoD neglected and/or concealed medical evidence of intentional harm.
Of course, they didn't have to inquire -- they knew damn well what was happening. As Sullivan says, "the psychologists were part of the torture." Where's Robert Jay Lifton when you need him?

... Not to let my snark mislead, Lifton has been active in his condemnation of medical assistance in American torture.


Gates to leave, Panetta to Defense, Petraeus to CIA?

We knew Gates was ready to leave, but this suggests a grave lack of talent in Democratic ranks. Panetta's inability to reform CIA does not bode well for his taking over the Pentagon. And Petraeus at CIA is simply, well, weird.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Someone break the news to Jon Chait

Depriving at least one liberal blogger of the chance to write "Boss Hogg" posts for the next year and a half, Haley Barbour has announced he won't run for president.

Objectively, it's sensible. It's a long-shot race, he doesn't have the health for it, and he would do much better to run virtually unopposed for Thad Cochran's Senate seat in 2014, assuming Cochran doesn't step down sooner and give Barbour's (presumably GOP) successor the chance to appoint Barbour.

Attacking the lawyers, not the clients

Via Sullyblog, we see that the law firm hired by the House to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (which, recall, DOJ said it would not defend in court) has backed out, apparently under gay-rights pressure.

I'm with Sullivan on this one. I thought it was wrong, wrong, wrong to attack law firms who provided counsel to Gitmo prisoners. That doesn't stop being wrong when you flip the +/- signs.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Remedy is the guts of the judicial power. The rest is book reports."

Per CharleyCarp's suggestion in comments, here is Sabin Willett on what the D.C. Circuit and the Supreme Court have done to his clients and to the rule of law. A snippet:
In the end it wasn’t about enemies at all. For it was the Uighurs, of all people, upon whom the court house door at last was shut. With so much talk of Palau, people forget that when Judge Urbina ruled — when the stay entered, when Kiyemba I was decided — there was no Palau. And that decision is reinstated. So the options are irrelevant. No judge can order release in any place where his orders have effect. Whatever his view of the law of war, a reader of this blog must wince, a little, at the idea that the judicial power consists of being reassured by the jailer that the jailer will attend to his own unlawful act — at the idea that what controls a judicial remedy is not law, but the politics of Yemen, of Bermuda, of Obamacare, of the New Hampshire Primary. The court can do no more than accept the President’s representation that he is attempting to arrange an “appropriate” resettlement. Imagine that representation from, say, President Trump. Will we call that a judicial remedy?
Read the whole thing. If "Uighurs" makes you go "huh?" try Wikipedia.

A blog post of great social and political import

Eugene Volokh has an analytical post on vibrators, tho from a sociological perspective not a legal one. But as that's was always a TBA preoccupation (moreso perhaps in earlier incarntions of this blog, before the 5th Circuit legalized 'em), we link to it nonetheless.

Ole Miss professors teach witchcraft to tots!

How was the Reverend Wildmon not all over this?
In 2005, just before Halloween, psychologists at the Universities of Mississippi and Texas introduced 81 children from preschool through first grade to the "Candy Witch," who would replace leftover Halloween candy with a toy if the child asked for the Candy Witch to visit. In one group of children, the parents "simulated" a visit from the Candy Witch, while in the other group, the children did not receive any "visit." The researchers interviewed the children twice after Halloween, and once a year later, to measure levels of belief.
Summoning witches to receive toys in exchange for a pledge of faith? And this Satanic corruption of innocent children was paid for by your federal tax dollars, no doubt. Release the hounds!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"The bows and scrapes of mistresses and confessors"

Finally getting to reading Churchill's biography of Marlborough, and his fine rant on Louis XIV deserves posting. Apropos of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and associated persecutions:
We have no patience with the lackey pens which have sought to invest this long, hateful process with the appearances of dignity and honour. During the whole of his life Louis XIV was the curse and pest of Europe. No worse enemy of human freedom has ever appeared in the trappings of polite civilization. Insatiable appetite, cold, calculating ruthlessness, monumental conceit, presented themselves armed with fire and sword. The veneer of culture and good manners, of brilliant ceremonies and elaborate etiquette, only adds a heightening effect to the villainy of his life's story. Better the barbarian conquerors of antiquity, primordial figures of the abyss, than this high-heeled, beperiwigged dandy, strutting amid the bows and scrapes of mistresses and confessors to the torment of his age. Petty and mediocre in all except his lusts and power, the Sun King disturbed and harried mankind during more than fifty years of arrogant pomp.
... Without pretending to any analysis of his prose, note how Churchill is unafraid to marshal cliches -- "fire and sword," "cold and calculating" -- and assimilate them in a paragraph that doesn't sound at all cliched.

Unhappily, that qualifier about "in the trappings of polite civilization" has to do more heavy lifting now than it did when Churchill wrote.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Well, except for # 18.

Being busy with other matters, I failed to notice that April 13 was "Ask an Atheist Day." ("An opportunity for the general public — particularly people of faith — to approach us and ask questions about secular life.") So, almost, did Avram Grumer.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find out about National Ask an Atheist Day until pretty late, and there isn’t much time left. So I’m skipping the question phase and going straight to answers:

1. Nope, not ever.
2. Yeah, sometimes.
3. Not since Grant Morrison stopped writing it.
4. Well, I don’t really see that as a distinction worth drawing.
5. Take the N, Q, or R train to 57th Street, and walk one block north.
6. I don’t know that it’s really a meaningful question, given that the key terms are never defined.
7. A different breath weapon from each head.
8. No, that would be a terrible idea.
9. One’s an analogy Bertrand Russell came up with, another’s an early 3D CAD model, and the third’s a distinctive geological feature associated with a 1920s political scandal.
10. Templar, Arizona, by Charlie “Spike” Trotman.
11. Yeah, I’m pretty sure you could pick a dozen lines each from the Bible and the Koran and mix them together, and most Americans wouldn’t be able to tell which came from which book.
12. Murray’s Bagels, Sixth Avenue, between 12th and 13th Streets. Be sure to ask for belly lox; that’s the real stuff.
13. Well, I’m flattered, but no, thank you.
14. It seems that somewhere between PHP3 and PHP5, they changed how to access environment variables, and that bolloxed things up. Took me two hours to find the problem, but just a few seconds to fix it once I found it.
15. Well, I’ve seen different people use the word “numinous” to mean different things, so I really couldn’t say.
16. Three: One to change the bulb, and two to perform “É il Sol Dell’Anima” from Rigoletto.
17. You use it in the early game to pare down your hand by getting rid of Copper and Estates. Make sure to pick up some Silver or Gold first, or some Action card that grants a money bonus.
18. Boxers.
I'm not sure how different these are from the answers available on "Ask a Skeptical Lutheran Day."

Back to the drawing board!

The Pulitzers came out, and we are pleased by the absence of Jonathan Franzen's name on the list. Not that awards mean anything of course.

... The only winner I've read was Chernow's Washington, which was pretty good, but I'm a little sad if that was really the best American biography in 2010.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What? Insufficient time spent petting those little dogs?

Douglas Kmiec, the conservative law prof who made a small stir by supporting Obama in 2008, was rewarded by being named ambassador to Malta.

Now, having been criticized by the State Department's inspector general for excessive extracurricular activity, Kmiec has resigned:
The American ambassador to Malta resigned his post Saturday after criticism from the State Department's inspector general that he was devoting too much time to promoting better relations between religions.

Douglas Kmiec, a prominent conservative constitutional lawyer and member of the Pepperdine University faculty, said in letters to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he rejected the inspector general's conclusion that his advocacy was outside his official mission.

Kmiec wrote that the inspector general had a "flawed and narrow vision of our diplomatic mission" and said his writings had a "highly positive effect on our diplomatic relations."
He thinks he knows why the IG targeted him:
Kmiec said that when he worked for the Office of Legal Counsel in 1989 he recommended that inspector generals' work be confined to rooting out waste rather than evaluating departmental policies.

"I suspect I have just experienced a 'sting back,'" Kmiec wrote to Clinton.
Based on the article's description of Kmiec's transgressions, I gotta say I'm on his side:
But the inspector general's report, issued in February, says he had an "unconventional approach to his role" and devoted much time to writing on the "interfaith initiative." It said his official schedule was "uncharacteristically light," and that he had had "friction with principal officials in Washington, especially over his reluctance to accept their guidance and instructions."

At the same time, the report says, Kmiec had "achieved some policy successes" and was respected by Maltese officials and embassy staff members.

Department officials spent considerable time reviewing and editing Kmiec's writings related to religion, and they barred him from organizing conferences aimed at improving relations between religions, officials said.
Uh, excuse me? The guy is ambassador to Malta. I'm not even sure why we *have* a full ambassador in Malta, but how demanding can the job be? He could probably spend 10 hours a week on his "official schedule" and do just fine.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Because what could be more judicious than a Xerox?

A while back we noted the issue of judicial adoptions of a party's proposed findings, so it's interesting to note that a Canadian court has reversed a trial court on just that basis.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How's "painting yourself into a corner" for an analogy?

Sullyblog brings us a philosophy professor trying to explain why his department shouldn't fall under the budget axe:
Philosophers look at what can and can’t be inferred from prior claims. They examine what makes analogies strong or weak, the conditions under which we should and shouldn’t defer to experts, and what kinds of things (e.g., inflammatory rhetoric, wishful thinking, inadequate sample size) lead us to reason poorly. This is not to say that doctors, district attorneys, or drain manufactures cannot make decent assessments without ever taking a philosophy class. It’s also possible for someone to diagnose a case of measles without having gone to medical school. The point is that people will tend to do better if, as part of their education, they’ve studied some philosophy.
How grimly amusing, to see Anglo-American philosophers spend a century ruthlessly devaluing their profession, denying that it can say anything interesting about anything of interest, and then find themselves having to explain why their watered-down discipline is even worth funding on campus.

... More irony: a few posts previously, Sullivan had posted a link quoting Judith Butler from her essay "Violence, Mourning, Politics":
Perhaps one mourns when one accepts that by the loss one undergoes one will be changed, possibly for ever…I do not think, for instance, that one can invoke the Protestant ethic when it comes to loss. One cannot say, “Oh, I’ll go through loss this way, and that will be the result, and I’ll apply myself to the task, and I’ll endeavor to achieve the resolution of grief that is before me.” I think one is hit by waves, and that one starts out the day with an aim, a project, a plan, and finds oneself foiled. One finds oneself fallen. One is exhausted but does not know why. Something is larger than one’s own deliberate plan, one’s own project, one’s own knowing and choosing…

Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something. This seems so clearly the case with grief, but it can be so only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. One may want to, or manage to for a while, but despite one’s best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other, by the touch, by the scent, by the feel, by the prospect of the touch, by the memory of the feel. And so, when we speak about “my sexuality” or “my gender,” as we do and as we must, we nevertheless mean something complicated that is partially concealed by our usage. As a mode of relation, neither gender nor sexuality is precisely a possession, but, rather, is a mode of being dispossessed, a way of being for another or by virtue of another.
And yet, according to the heirs of Russell and Ayer, Butler is not doing philosophy; she's just yammering.

Ready for the J. Crew catalog to call

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Judicial activism

In this connection there is another anecdote of pleasant interest. The Hon. Josiah Quincy when a young man accompanied Judge Story to Washington and in his "Figures of the Past" relates that the judges of the Supreme Court usually dined together and their custom was to allow themselves wine only when it was raining. But "the Chief," said Story, "was brought up on Federalism and Madeira," and occasionally even on a sunshiny day would say "Brother Story, will you step to the window and see if there are signs of rain?" Story would be obliged reluctantly to report that he saw none, whereupon the Chief Justice would say cheerfully with a gleam of humor in his piercing eyes, "Well, this is a very large territory over which we have jurisdiction and I feel sure it is raining in some part of it. I think we may have a bottle to-day."
-- John Marshall: life, character and judicial services as portrayed in the centenary and memorial addresses and proceedings throughout the United States on Marshall day, 1901, and in the classic orations of Binney, Story, Phelps, Waite and Rawle, at 498.

... Madeira, a beverage of which I am innocent, was a great favorite of several of the Founders, perhaps in part for this reason:
Before the advent of artificial refrigeration, Madeira wine was particularly prized in areas where it was impractical to construct wine cellars (such as those in parts of the southern United States) because unlike many other fine wines it could survive being stored over hot summers without significant damage.
Marshall, a resident of Richmond, would buy it by the hogshead.

It's really no wonder they oppose gay marriage too

Interesting poll catch:
We asked voters on this poll whether they think interracial marriage should be legal or illegal- 46% of Mississippi Republicans said it should be illegal to just 40% who think it should be legal.
They go on to report who these mouth-breathers think should be president:
Palin's net favorability with folks who think interracial marriage should be illegal (+55 at 74/19) is 17 points higher than it is with folks who think interracial marriage should be legal (+38 at 64/26.) Meanwhile Romney's favorability numbers see the opposite trend. He's at +23 (53/30) with voters who think interracial marriage should be legal but 19 points worse at +4 (44/40) with those who think it should be illegal.
I doubt they think a Mormon should even be able to get married.


Because they're not "death panels" if they work for Blue Cross

You can read a lot about the GOP's plan to get rid of Medicare, and perhaps you already have, but the bottom-line takeaway from Krugman is pretty good:
Privatizing and voucherizing Medicare does nothing whatsoever to control costs. We’ve seen that from the sorry history of Medicare Advantage. I’m sure that the Republicans will claim savings — but those savings will come entirely from limiting the vouchers to below the rate of rise in health care costs; in effect, they will come from denying medical care to those who can’t afford to top up their premiums.

Oh, and for all those older Americans who voted GOP last year because those nasty Democrats were going to cut Medicare, I have just one word: suckers!
Cost control is important, but much of the rise in Medicare costs is not because of rising healthcare costs -- it's just that there are going to be more old people in America as the baby-boomers retire. That is not a waste of money, and we need to quit treating it like a waste of money.

Kevin Drum and the TNR bloggers are all over this, if you are looking for more details, but Krugman's skinny is correct. This "reform" simply requires the elderly to pay more for healthcare, so that the rich can pay less in taxes.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

On cremation

Christians abhorred this way of obsequies, and though they stickt not to give their bodies to be burnt in their lives, detested that mode after death.
-- Sir Thomas Browne, Hydriotaphia i.

Barbour and depression (see, not quite 100%)

Mother Jones has an article on Barbour's supposed failures to reform the state's child-protection agency, which gives some insight into Barbour's priorities and has the added bonus of actually focusing on something relevant he's done, instead of painting him as a crypto-racist. (I think Barbour *is* a crypto-racist, but that's insufficient as an argument against him -- what GOP candidates are not?)

Almost but not quite 100% unrelated, this little essay on David Foster Wallace's troubles, including a look at the self-help books he seems to've carefully studied, is worth a look for DFW fans. Via 3QD, go find the link yourself, what am I, your mother?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Student-free campus

Digging around for something else in our hard drive, we stumbled upon this news report, which we think was originally bylined April 1, 2001.

Chancellor Khayat Announces “Student-Free” Campus Plan

Elimination of students to beautify campus, attract alumni

With its pedestrians-only campus near realization, the Office of the Chancellor has revealed the “next step” for Ole Miss: no students.

In what Chancellor Khayat describes as “a bold move to the vanguard of the Great American Public Universities,” the University of Mississippi will adopt a plan to be 100% student-free by the year 2006.

“Having rendered the heart of our campus virtually inaccessible to commuters,” the Chancellor’s Mission Statement said, “we are now ready to take the logical next step: excluding students altogether. Our beautiful new campus, with its majestically renovated buildings, will now become an alumni park, free from student congestion.”

A spokesperson for the Chancellor’s Office emphasized the progressive nature of this step in the school’s Master Plan.

“We’ve been moving towards this for some time,” said Dusty Flack. “The gradual elimination of student parking, the decrepitude of our student housing, the financial abandonment of the library, even the awful slop that Aramark passes off for food—did anybody think these were accidents? I hope everyone appreciates the depth and foresight in Chancellor Khayat’s vision. Glory to his name!”

Business professor Carl Deutschmarx lauded the Chancellor’s plan. “The loss of tuition income will be more than balanced by the increased focus on fundraising. Chancellor Khayat is following good business practice: eliminate the inessential. Efficiency like that is the hallmark of a true genius of managerial science.”

Student reaction was varied. Some students, like Iwauna Parti, a freshman from American Samoa, reacted positively. “I don’t have to go to class any more? That’s super! Not that I was spending much time there anyway.”

Graduate student Deke Onstrukt, who has been working on his Ph.D. in Socio-Cultural Ideological Viewpoints (formerly “English”), praised the plan as “a brilliant inversion of conventional educational ideology. The transcendental signified has been deleted from Ole Miss, from which it was always already absent. Frankly, I had no idea Chancellor Khayat had even read Derrida.”

Some students expressed uncertainty as to the effect of the plan on their extracurricular activities. Buffie Blanchefille, a sophomore from Madison, wondered how her parents would react to the new plan. “I don’t know if they’re going to keep paying for my Chevy Behemoth SUV and my $1600-a-month townhouse if I’m not actually taking any classes. Maybe if the sororities stay open, it’ll be okay.”

A faculty spokesperson said that the professors were still studying the proposal. “We’re forming a committee right now,” said Faculty Senate member Pat Drudge. “Basically, while we think this holds a lot of potential for increasing our research opportunities, we’re a little concerned that the administration may use the fact that we’re not teaching any classes as an excuse to reduce our salaries, which are already well below the Southeastern Conference average. And I hope that the failure to consult us on this plan doesn’t imply any further targets for elimination.”

The Chancellor’s report spells out the future role of Ole Miss as a center for alumni gatherings and fundraising. Among other changes, the weekend festivities in the Grove will be extended to nine months out of the year; dormitories will be razed and replaced with alumni retirement villages; a riverboat casino will be built on the puddles in front of Farley Hall; and professional sports teams will be solicited to relocate to Oxford, where the currently renovated Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will be demolished and rebuilt twice as large.

On the question of where the school will obtain new alumni once students have been removed, Flack said that several alternatives were being studied. “The Biology Department might get to work on genetically engineering alumni straight from the lab, without the intervening childhood and student life-stages, and with salaries of at least $80,000 a year right out of the test tube. Another possibility is to make alumni status hereditary, which isn’t too far from how we work now.”

Asked whether negative press might focus on the idea that educating students is the central mission of a university, Flack said that criticism had already been anticipated, but the administration expected little trouble. “We’ve been putting the students last for years, and nobody said boo. Why jump up and start complaining at this stage?”

April 1

There will be no April Fool's posting at TBA. We are fools 365 days out of the year.