Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don't waste your time

Unless you are actually saving someone's life right now,* there is absolutely no better use of your time than clicking on these three links regarding three of the worst books ever.

(Yes, Amazon is evil, but click through anyway to read all the reviews; just don't *buy* the books.)

*And really, it may depend on who it is.

Amazon = evil.

I've quit and rejoined before due to their evil practices, and I recognize the need to save a buck in this sad economy.

But take a look at this and its links, and then maybe you will be more inclined to check out the available alternatives before hitting "Place Your Order" with Amazon.

Is it really worth a buck or two to support such a company?

Apple's new gopPhone?

Ask Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant for the iPhone, for ideas on where to eat dinner or whether you need an umbrella, and it will deliver helpful localized suggestions.

But try asking it to find a local abortion clinic, and the software turns up a puzzling blank — even in areas that clearly have such clinics. The response in Manhattan is: “Sorry, I couldn’t find any abortion clinics.” * * *

Megan Carpentier, the executive editor at a blog called The Raw Story, noted that Siri users in the Washington area are directed toward antiabortion pregnancy centers in Virginia and Pennsylvania — not the nearby Planned Parenthood.
In the future, you'll be able to buy not just a smartphone, but a partisanphone that will only find politically correct search results and load suitably biased apps.

At least the phone doesn't respond with the names of local adoption agencies.

... NMC in comments has a fine critique of search engines' utter uselessness for finding valuable restaurant reviews. Sounds to me like someone needs to start a website ....

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not a flip-flopper like that Romney

Newt Gingrich, 2011:
I wouldn't lie to the American people. I wouldn't switch my positions for political reasons.
Newt Gingrich, 2005:
If I see somebody who's earning over $50,000 a year, who has made the calculated decision not to buy health insurance, I'm looking at somebody who is absolutely as irresponsible as anyone who was ever on welfare. Because what they've said is, A, I'm gambling that I won't get sick, and B, I'm gambling that if I do get sick, I can cheat all my neighbors. Now, when you talk to hospitals, a very significant part of their non-collectibles are people who have money, but have calculated it's not worth the cost to pay. And so I'm actually in favor of finding a way to say, whatever the appropriate level of income is, you ought to have either health insurance, or you ought to post a bond. But we have no right in this society to have a free rider approach, if we're well off economically, to cheat our neighbors.
I'm sure Newt had excellent, non-political reasons for saying this in 2005 and presently condemning Obama as a socialist for the PPACA's insurance mandate.

(It's not a total "gotcha" by any means; one could like the mandate as a policy, but think it unconstitutional. But somehow I suspect that is not Newt's position.)

Legal writing tip of the day

From Tertullian, who turns out to have his own website (h/t Larison - who else?):
Est sapor et in paucis.

There is power also in brevity.
... I am tempted to use the following in a statutory-interpretation context sometime, but probably won't:
But this is the usual way with perverse and ignorant heretics; yes, and by this time even with Psychics universally: to arm themselves with the opportune support of some one ambiguous passage, in opposition to the disciplined host of sentences of the entire document.
"The Secretary, like the 'perverse and ignorant heretics' whom Tertullian correctly criticized, ...."

(I am not sure who these "Psychics" were, but I think they may have been those who tolerated divorce and whose sexual morality was not up to Tertullian's gold standard, at least after he became a Montanist; the New Advent Encyclopedia simply equates the term with "catholics.")

... I am proud to report that, at least as of the evening of November 29, 2011, this humble site is the top Google hit for "perverse and ignorant heretics."

Monday, November 28, 2011

"The tragedy of nobody in particular, but of the poor human race itself"

Reviewing Ulysses:
At his worst he recalls Flaubert at his worst - in L’Education Sentimentale.
What on earth did Wilson have against Sentimental Education?

That was July 1922 - Wilson did rather well laying hands on a copy of the book under review (published on Groundhog Day, Joyce's birthday) - but at least by 1938, in The Triple Thinkers, Wilson's opinion had improved: Flaubert's book is now "one of his most remarkable books" and "rather underestimated." He doesn't add, "by my younger self."

Tho he does say later in the essay that it "is likely, if we read it in youth, to prove baffling and even repellent." (Evidently.) Here Wilson gets it right:
... Flaubert's novel plants deep in our mind an idea which we never quite get rid of: the suspicion that our middle-class society of manufacturers, businessmen and bankers, of people who live on or deal in investments, so far from being redeemed by its culture, has ended by cheapening and invalidating all the departments of culture, political, scientific, artistic and religious, as well as corrupting and weakening the ordinary human relations: love, friendship, and loyalty to cause - till the whole civilization seems to dwindle.
If that sounds to you like a treatment that's been done before, I would respectfully submit that Flaubert did it first, and perhaps best.

... The title of Wilson's book in fact comes from an aside in a letter to Louise Colet: "what is an artist if he is not a triple thinker?"

Word challenge!

Do you know the difference between --

impassable and impassible?

impartible and impartable?

forcible and forceable?

educable and educible?

(H/t Bryan Garner's Modern American Usage.)

Useful advice from George C. Marshall

Marshall, not long after returning from Paris [in 1953], called Kennan into his office. "After discussing the problem on which we were to work he said that he had only one piece of advice to give: 'Avoid trivia.' That was a nice laconic piece of advice, wasn't it?"
-- Quoted by Tom Ricks.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kimberly Webb Joyner, 1970 to 2011

James Joyner has been one of my favorite conservative bloggers for years now - always someone whose opinion I could respect. I remember when he blogged about his marriage and honeymoon. Now, Kimberly has passed away, leaving James and two young daughters. God bless them all.

Friday, November 25, 2011

When an irresistible force meets an immovable object ...

... they are likely the offense and defense of the LSU Tigers.

Damn. I was hoping Arkansas was going to make the BCS interesting, and instead LSU made them look like Mississippi State.

The equity end-run around Rule 60

Via Bashman, an interesting op by Judge Southwick on the use of "an independent action in equity" to reopen a judgment long after the Rule 60 deadline has failed.

Not an easy thing at which to succeed, but having lost one's underlying case before the eighth federal judge ever to be impeached and removed from office -- and having the benefit of a House report attesting to the judge's coziness with your opposing counsel and expert -- turns out to do the trick.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What font will outlast the human race?

Futura. (Not Times New Roman -- it just seems like that on most days.)

... Of course, that also means that the American president whose name will survive longest is Nixon.

... Did they pick Futura because Kubrick had just used it for the titles in 2001?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Don't be an ostrich - UPDATED

Tomorrow is Turkey Day, but today is Ostrich Day, as Judge Posner and the 7th Circuit issue the first appellate decision I've seen with color illustrations for emphasis.

(And some good appellate advice on acknowledging adverse authority.)


... Updated after I found one of the op's pix online. Actually, I suspect that many lawyers wish to do just that during oral argument in the 7th Circuit.

... Philip Thomas notes the opinion and links to one of the chastised attorneys, who does not concur with the court's evaluation of his advocacy:
The case Posner said was controlling, Abad v. Bayer Corp., dealt with a product liability case out of Argentina.

“Not only is it on a different continent, the record we presented had no fewer than ten cases dismissed by Mexican courts proving that Mexico does not have any jurisdiction over foreign defendants,” McKeand said.
Well, let's see what the 7th Circuit thought:
In their response the defendants cite Abad repeatedly and state accurately that its circumstances were “nearly identical” to those of the present case. Yet in their reply brief the appellants still don’t mention Abad - let alone try to distinguish it - and we take this to be an implicit concession that the circumstances of that case are indeed “nearly identical” to those of the present case.
Ah, so the case was so entirely distinguishable that counsel ... didn't mention it?

I've seen this vice before: an attorney responds to what he thinks is a stupid argument by simply ignoring it. NEVER DO THIS. If the opponent's argument rests on John Adams' being the first president of the United States, point out the error (and, if possible, find a case to cite). If the opponent contends that 2 + 2 = 5, point out the error (and, if possible, find a case to cite).

Test your web page!

Via a commenter at the Volokh blog, here is, which will diagnose how quickly (or not) your page loads. Pretty cool.

Area man buys Moby compact disc

JACKSON - An area man yesterday became the first person since 2009 to purchase a compact disc by the electronic-music artist Moby, whose music has been downloaded by tens of millions of fans.

T.B. Anderson bought the recording not only on disc, but also from a retail store, Best Buy.

"I was watching those Bourne movies again and I noticed they all had the same song for the end credits, which turned out to be by Moby. And I liked the song, and he sounded vaguely famous, so I thought I would get the CD," Anderson said, referring to the song "Extreme Ways," which first charted in 2002 when compact discs were already becoming obsolescent.

Asked why he chose a CD rather than downloading the music to his iPod, Anderson confessed he had never "gotten into any of those i-thingies."

"Don't you have to have a Mac for that?" he wondered aloud.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons as you may never have seen it before

Man, when I was 17, I would've married one of these ladies in a heartbeat.

... D&D may be one of the few pastimes whose reputation can be enhanced by association with porn stars.

(Also, very cool that they're blending 3.5 and the old AD&D, and rejecting the abominable 4th Edition.)

"But no one ordered us to follow the law!"

That is, essentially, how the DOJ team that concealed evidence favorable to Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens is getting off from criminal contempt:
Mr. Schuelke bases his conclusion not to recommend contempt proceedings on the requirement that, in order to prove criminal contempt beyond a reasonable doubt under 18 U.S.C. § 401(3), the contemnor must disobey an order that is sufficiently “clear and unequivocal at the time it is issued.” See, e.g., Traub v. United States, 232 F.2d 43, 47 (D.C. Cir. 1955). Upon review of the docket and proceedings in the Stevens case, Mr. Schuelke concludes no such Order existed in this case.
Obstruction of justice charges are possible, if DOJ decides to prosecute its own. Follow the above link to Emptywheel for more quotes & links, including Judge Sullivan's order ("prosecutorial misconduct that permeated the proceedings before this Court to a degree and extent that this Court had not seen in twenty-five years on the bench").

Lincoln defeats Davis

Andrew Sabl:
Public Policy Polling’s latest survey of Mississippi included a hypothetical presidential election between Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. The result?

Lincoln would win out 55-28. That’s largely because of Lincoln’s overwhelming support from Democrats, 76-10. He only narrowly edges Davis with Republicans, 45-36, and the match up is actually a tie with independents at 44%.

That the state’s Republicans would give Lincoln only a plurality victory over the leader of the Confederacy is somewhat disappointing. But the poll contains some good news as well. Earlier this year, as you may remember, PPP found that only 40 percent of Mississippi Republicans thought interracial marriage should be legal. Now that number’s up considerably—to 52 percent.
See that interracial couple at the mall? Slightly over half of Mississippi Republicans think their marriage should be legal!


People sometimes say to me, ‘What’s the secret of a long marriage?’ And I’m like, ‘You don’t get divorced!’
--Olivia Harrison, in Martin Scorsese's "dog's breakfast" of a documentary, Living in the Material World.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Insoluble mysteries

What name did Achilles take when he hid among women? What song did the Sirens sing?

And why, when the only QB to score touchdowns vs. Arkansas last Saturday was Dylan Favre, is Tyler Russell going to start for the Bulldogs in the Egg Bowl?

Such mysteries may not "be beyond all conjecture," but they are damn close.

My untutored and amateurish opinion is that the constant QB switching isn't an effect of MSU's failed offense this yer -- it's a cause.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Torture: if it works so well at Gitmo, let's use it on campus!

So, always curious what sort of country I'm living in, I will be paying particular attention to what happens to this motherfucker (and his boss, and the UC-Davis chancellor):

Because if it's not pretty awful, then apparently I'm living in a pretty awful country.

See also Fallows.

... Duncan Black:

If it's ok for police to torture people with pepper spray given the circumstances at UC Davis, it's basically always ok for police to torture people with pepper spray.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mississippi in the news

Judge Wingate sentenced a woman to three years in prison for lying on a food-stamps application (when the guidelines apparently would've called for two to eight months, tops). Matt Taibbi ponders the discrepancy of her fate to that of the Wall Street fraud artists who plunged this country into a recession while themselves making out like bandits.

As Chuang Tzu observed:
A poor man must swing for stealing a belt buckle,
but if a rich man steals a whole province,
he is acclaimed as statesman of the year.
(Merton paraphrase.)

The right of the people peaceably to assemble

Well, I'm certainly glad those guys in black were able to defend themselves against that young woman.

(Photo by Randy Rasmussen for The Oregonian; story here; pic via.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

MSSC cert grants as percentage, 1998-2009

Drawing on the posted reports of the Miss. Supreme Court for 1998-2009 (all that are now available -- hey, where is 2010?), here's a graph showing not the number of cert petitions granted, but the percentage for that year:

That averages to 18%.

My sense is that cert grants have been more common in the past couple of years, but data only up to 2009 can't confirm or deny that impression, and I am not quite interested enough to accumulate the raw data off the handdown lists or Westlaw.

The bookshelf

Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer: Came at this one from a position of near-total ignorance on the subject. The historical approach worked well for me, and I have a new respect for the smarts that go into cancer research.

Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs: A good, quick read, again on a subject of which I was almost totally ignorant (I didn't even know where Silicon Valley was, exactly). Isaacson is a great explainer, as I found in reading his Einstein biography. A little disconcerting to read someone's biography and find descriptions of things that happened 4 or 5 months ago; if it will encourage you to read it, Isaacson pretty much concludes with Jobs's resignation, and doesn't give us any grim final scenes. According to Isaacson, the only grief he got in creating the book was that Jobs hated the dust jacket and designed a new one himself.

Peter Rowland, David Lloyd George: The life and career of the man who broke the Liberal Party. A sympathetic but unworshipful account.

H.W. Brands, The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin: In the middle of this one now, with Franklin at his most Anglophilic and 1763 just about to roll around. I picked this up at the Liberty Bell gift shop in Philly last year, having acquired a little curiosity about Franklin from the visit. I confess to being a bit underwhelmed by Franklin's genius, which so struck his contemporaries; maybe here too I should be reading Isaacson.

... Had to take back three books to the library unread because I simply didn't have time for them: Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Richard Miles, The New Deal by Michael Hiltzik, and Eisenhower: The White House Years by Jim Newton. Dipped into each and they looked good. But I finally remembered to order a copy of David Cannadine's Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy and have pledged to read that next.


Post-Nobel, the bookstore finally got in some volumes of Tomas Tranströmer.
Weather Picture

The October sea glistens coldly
with its dorsal fin of mirages.

Nothing is left that remembers
the white dizziness of yacht races.

An amber glow over the village.
And all sounds in slow flight.

A dog's barking is a hieroglyph
painted in the air above the garden

where the yellow fruit outwits
the tree and drops of its own accord.
Tr. Robin Fulton.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No hope for TBA, then

The Master said, "One who has reached the age of forty and is still disliked will be so to the end."
--Analects, book 17 (Waley tr.).

-- Earlier in the same book, it's said that anyone can change except the very wisest and the very stupidest people. So whether one is disliked is not just a function of one's virtues. We also can gather whether Confucius thought that public opinion was smarter than "the stupidest."

Would've brought a pretty penny on eBay

Following up a post by Brad DeLong, here are OKH situation maps from the Eastern Front. (Click "Maps" in the left sidebar.)
The German Eastern Front Situation Maps, 1941-45, formed part of the Captured German World War II Documents, brought back to the US by the US Army after 1946 and later accessed into NARA as Record Group 242. These consist of the daily maps, in 1-4 sections, depending on the extent of the fronts, produced by the Operations Branch of the German Army High Command (OKH), depicting the German-Axis and known/suspected Russian ground dispositions. Frequently, two sets of maps would be produced covering a single day, one showing ordered movements and the other the final positions. The original maps were finally returned to the Republic of Germany in the 1990s, after being reproduced on 8"x10" color transparencies (each section) for NARA holdings. These can be considered as historically accurate for German and Axis dispositions and a reasonable track of Red Army activities as the German forces knew them.

The state of the art

"Of course, this device is not to be confused with a linear accelerator 'for the provision of medical services' .... wait, sir, why are you smiling?"


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A conservative's reading habits

Serious fiction was perhaps the only class of book upon which he was cautious of embarking. He never began a new novel until he was assured that it ended well. If no such assurance was forthcoming, he fell back upon Scott, Jane Austen, Kipling, and Stevenson.
That's Arthur Balfour, as described by his niece and biographer. More on his reading. And his posture thereat.

So he and his lawyer practiced the "pedophile" question, but not ...

Re: Penn State's pedophile ex-coach Jerry Sandusky, WWTDD makes this catch:
Later Costas asked him if he was sexually attracted to young boys, and Sandusky takes nearly 20 seconds to say “no”.

Costas: Are you a pedophile?
Sandusky: No.
Costas: Are you sexually attracted to young boys? To underage boys?
Sandusky: Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?
Costas: Yes.
Sandusky: Sexually attracted? You know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. I … but, no, I am not sexually attracted to young boys.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Justice announces retirement

Justice George Carlson of the MSSC announced he won't run for re-election in 2012, creating an open seat in the northern district.

I question Chief Justice Waller's assertion that "no one" worked longer hours (I have one particular no-longer-serving justice in mind), but such trivia aside, Carlson's done a great job. His experience as a long-serving circuit-court judge was invaluable. I think this makes Lamar the justice with the most trial-judge experience now.

Am I the only one who finds it interesting that he won't step down early and let a gubernatorial appointee run from the bench?

... Judge Roberts of the COA was a circuit-court judge for 19 years, btw.

The world's most expensive photograph

Rhein II by Andreas Gursky, $4.3 million.

Or you can click the picture for the full-sized file, set it for your desktop background, and enjoy much the same experience as the new owner.

It's nice enough -- life imitating Rothko (though a light mist would help there) -- and I suppose "the Rhine" is almost intrinsically a political topic, so you can read some of that into it (the two banks seem functionally identical). But $4M?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A fable

"A Parable Against Persecution," by Benjamin Franklin:
1. And it came to pass after those things, that Abraham sat in the door of his tent, about the going down of the sun.

2. And behold a man weary with travel came from the way of the wilderness.

3. And Abraham arose, and met him, and said unto him, Turn in, I pray thee, and warm thy feet, and tarry all night, and thou shalt arise early on the morrow, and go thy way.

4. But the man said, Nay, for I will abide under this tree.

5. And Abraham pressed him greatly; so he turned, and they went into the tent; and Abraham baked unleavened bread, and they did eat.

6. And when Abraham saw that the man blessed not God, he said unto him, Wherefore dost thou not worship the most High God, Creator of Heaven and Earth?

7. And the man answered and said, I do not worship the God thou speakest of; neither do I call on his name; for I have made to myself a God, which abideth always in mine house, and provideth me with all things.

8. And Abraham's zeal was kindled against the man, and he arose, and fell upon him, and drove him forth with blows into the wilderness.

9. And at midnight God called unto Abraham saying, Abraham, where is thy stranger?

10. And Abraham answered and said, Lord, he would not worship thee, neither would he call upon thy name. Therefore have I driven him out from before my face into the wilderness.

11. And God said, Have I borne with him these hundred ninety and eight years, and nourished and clothed him, notwithstanding his rebellion against me, and couldst not thou, that art thyself a sinner, bear with him one night?
(Via; h/t H.W. Brands, The First American, at 305-06; Brand prints verses 7-11, to which I have conformed.)

... Plagiarized, it appears, though Franklin later claimed he had only sought to improve its style.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

And don't even get him started on the magazine

Looking up David Wondrich's recipe for the Sidecar, I browsed upon his comment on the Cosmopolitan:
A mutant child of the Sidecar and the Cape Codder (a vodka-cranberry-lime concoction with little to distinguish itself beyond '80s nostalgia), the Cosmopolitan was the theme drink of the 1990s. Like Celebration, Florida (the Disney town), it has the appearance of tradition with none of the workmanship. The purpose of a cocktail is to take the pronounced, even pungent, flavor of a liquor and, through careful blending with acids, aromatics, and essences, transform it into something new and hitherto-untasted. Vodka, though, has no flavor. If a cocktail is alchemy, this is just mixing.
TBA always has time for vodka-bashing.

... Re: the sidecar, meh: if you like citrusy drinks, then okay. Tho perhaps faking it with Christian Brothers for cognac and triple sec for Cointreau isn't fair to it.

"Don't make me send you another hippie."

Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography is a hoot thus far. Atari engineer Al Alcorn, finding that problem-child Jobs wants to quit and go to India, gets him closer to the subcontinent by sending him to Germany to solve a tech problem:
Jobs spent a few days in Munich, where he solved the interference problem, but in the process he flummoxed the dark-suited German managers. They complained to Alcorn that he dressed and smelled like a bum and behaved rudely. "I said, 'Did he solve your problem?' And they said, 'Yeah.' I said, 'If you got any more problems, you just call me, I got more guys just like him!' They said, 'No, no we'll take care of it next time.'"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Well, this is certainly one way to promote reading

Sasha Grey, actress, reads to elementary-school kids as part of something called Read Across America. Some parents are unhappy. I think the message is clear: if you won't read to your children, then porn stars will read to them.

I mean, it's not like Lindsay Lohan was allowed on school grounds.

(Also, it was very kind of her to donate her time, and she looks pretty cute reading to 'em.)

... Actually, the Wikipedia article we linked informs us that Grey, age 23, has been out of the XXX industry for a couple of years, trying what I suppose one might call "legitimate cinema." Obviously we have been misusing our time keeping up with other things than adult cinema. We wish her the best. (Via.)

Your tomatoes don't cost enough

Or so it appears from the results of Alabama's anti-immigrant law.
It’s a hard-to-resist syllogism: Dirty jobs are available; Americans won’t fill them; thus, Americans are too soft for dirty jobs. Why else would so many unemployed people turn down the opportunity to work during a recession? Of course, there’s an equally compelling obverse. Why should farmers and plant owners expect people to take a back-breaking seasonal job with low pay and no benefits just because they happen to be offering it? If no one wants an available job—especially in extreme times—maybe the fault doesn’t rest entirely with the people turning it down. Maybe the market is inefficient.

Tom Surtees is tired of hearing employers grouse about their lazy countrymen. “Don’t tell me an Alabamian can’t work out in the field picking produce because it’s hot and labor intensive,” he says. “Go into a steel mill. Go into a foundry. Go into numerous other occupations and tell them Alabamians don’t like this work because it’s hot and it requires manual labor.” The difference being, jobs in Alabama’s foundries and steel mills pay better wages—with benefits. “If you’re trying to justify paying someone below whatever an appropriate wage level is so you can bring [? "sell"?] your product, I don’t think that’s a valid argument,” Surtees says.
Paying less than what the labor is worth keeps prices down, so Americans at Walmart can have their shopping bills subsidized by underpaid, zero-benefits immigrant labor.

T-shirts for defense-lawyer nerds?

There's a rising market out there, I tell you! (H/t.)

CORRECTION: No depictions of self-sacrifice appear in this film

Too funny. At least they didn't callAtlas Shrugged "heartwarming."

I wonder what the Objectivist thing to do was when Penn State's coach was caught sodomizing a 10-year-old? Probably exactly what happened.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn State students protest in favor of child molestation

Joe Paterno is (finally) out of a job at Penn State, as is the president, Spanier.
As word of the firings spread, thousands of students flocked to the administration building, shouting, "We want Joe back!" and "One more game!" They then headed downtown to Beaver Avenue, where about 100 police wearing helmets and carrying pepper spray were on standby. Witnesses said some rocks and bottles were thrown, a lamppost was toppled and a news van was knocked over, its windows kicked out.
This after it became common knowledge that a grad student caught Sandusky in the act of sodomizing a 10-year-old, reported it to Paterno, and Paterno failed to report it to the police.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

This -- THIS is why God (or Gore) made the internet.

Presidential Candidates Explained Through Dungeons and Dragons Character Sheets.

(H/t Jim.)

The usual suspects

Bil Keane, creator and longtime producer of the seemingly eternal "Family Circus," has died, age 89.

There's no hint of foul play, and yet a few suspects come irresistably to mind:

Chronicle of a depression foretold, ch. LXVI

Greece's financial debacle is so last week. Ciao, Italia!
Unless the European Central Bank steps in, Italy will be shut out of the bond market very quickly. It will be unable to roll over its debt, and default will follow. This is basically Greece on steroids, since Italy is something like six times bigger than Greece. The eurozone deal announced a couple of weeks ago might have been big enough to handle a Greek collapse — though even that's not a sure thing — but it's not even close to being big enough to handle an Italian collapse.
Berlusconi's announced resignation, which ordinarily would be great news, now looks more like a particularly sleek, plump rat making its orderly way down the gangplank as the ship sinks behind him.

Steve Jobs, tweaker?

If Walter Isaacson's bio of Steve Jobs is as balanced as Malcolm Gladwell makes it sound, it should be a pretty good read.
In the nineteen-eighties, Jobs reacted the same way when Microsoft came out with Windows. It used the same graphical user interface--icons and mouse--as the Macintosh. Jobs was outraged and summoned Gates from Seattle to Apple’s Silicon Valley headquarters. “They met in Jobs’s conference room, where Gates found himself surrounded by ten Apple employees who were eager to watch their boss assail him,” Isaacson writes. “Jobs didn’t disappoint his troops. ‘You’re ripping us off!’ he shouted. ‘I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!’ ”

Gates looked back at Jobs calmly. Everyone knew where the windows and the icons came from. “Well, Steve,” Gates responded. “I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”
Gladwell's theme is that Jobs was a "tweaker" who perfected what other people came up with. As someone with a fundamentally uncreative, editorial personality, I can relate.

(Isaacson's bio of Kissinger suggests he has little fear of offending a living subject, and he plainly knew that was not going to be a problem for him by the time his book was published. Will read it when the library lets me have it.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

I don't remember even seeing Satan on the ballot

You can't make this up:
TUPELO - Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said Monday that "Satan wins" if voters reject Initiative 26 that defines personhood at fertilization.

"This is a battle of good and evil of Biblical proportions," the Republican gubernatorial nominee told a pro-26 rally attended by about 30 supporters at Tupelo City Hall.
Via NMC.

... Another link gets even worse:
No one was as upset as Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, despite the fact that the same polling that found Personhood too close to call also predicted he would be elected governor of Mississippi today. ”You’ve heard some very complex television and radio ads lately that say that these men here and many of the women that join us … somehow want to do harm to women,” he fumed. “Let’s just call it what it is, it’s wild and crazy. But that’s what the other side must do whenever we stand up for life and say, it’s simple, that child in the womb after conception has the same basic human rights as you and I.”

Bryant went so far as to compare the issue to the Holocaust and the Jews of Nazi Germany “being marched into the oven,” because of “the people who were in charge of the government at that time.” He described the ballot measure as “a battle of good or evil,” and warned, “the evil dark side that exists in this world is taking hold. And they’re saying, what we want you to be able to do is continue to extinguish innocent life. You see, if we could do that, Satan wins.”

Presumably referring to Christian leaders who have opposed or declined to support the measure, including the state’s Catholic and Episcopal bishops and a Baptist pastor in Greenville, Miss., who wrote a letter saying, “I’m a Christian and I love Jesus … I’m pro-life and against abortion … and I love Mississippi … but I’ll be voting NO on Initiative 26,” Bryant finished, ”Those who are out there and say, ‘I don’t know, it just seems too complex for me,’ remember this: You’re on the side of the lie. You’re on the side of taking the lives of innocent children. It is no more complex than that.”
What a fool we are stuck with for the next 4 years. If Prop 26 passed, it would not stop one abortion, so long as Roe and Casey are good law. And I'm sure Phil Fucking Bryant knows more about religion than ordained bishops know.

... And at 52% of precincts reporting, WLBT calls it for "no," 58/42. Satan wins!

... And, congrats to Kingfish! 52% with 98% reporting. OR NOT. Damn if they didn't get the numbers reversed. Typical.

Having a bad argument day

The Supreme Court today heard this term's misconduct-by-Orleans-Parish-prosecutors case. You know you're having a bad day when you're arguing on behalf of the prosecution in an appeal from a conviction in a brutal mass-murder, and you can't get John Roberts or Antonin Scalia on your side:
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, and you could argue, presumably you did argue, that before the jury, and that would be compelling evidence for the jury. And if you were the defense lawyer you really would like to have that statement where he said: I couldn't identify them. * * *

JUSTICE SCALIA: And not only the only eyewitness but if I understand it correctly the only evidence against the defendant. This was the only evidence against him, this one eyewitness identification, right? Was there anything else? * * *

JUSTICE KENNEDY: But just on the materiality point, I -- I just have to agree with Justice Ginsburg. What you're telling us is that when the defense stands up and said, and isn't it true that in this statement which you've just testified to on direct and which the police have put in on direct, you also said you could not identify any perpetrators of the murder -- and then the prosecutor says immaterial and the judge says strike it.
MS. ANDRIEU: But that's not -
JUSTICE KENNEDY: I just can't believe that.
MS. ANDRIEU: But that's not what he says. He says I can tell you about the one, the one who put the pistol in my face.
JUSTICE KENNEDY: I'm talking about the Boatner statement of 3/6/95, in which Boatner told police he could not identify any of the perpetrators of the murder. JA-259/60.
JUSTICE KENNEDY: And you say that's immaterial. I find that just incredible.
Pretty much the only way things could get worse would be if the Court just flat asked you why you were even making this argument:
JUSTICE KAGAN: Ms. Andrieu, did your office ever consider just confessing error in this case?
MS. ANDRIEU: I'm sorry?
JUSTICE KAGAN: Did your office ever consider just confessing error in this case? You've had a bunch of time to think about it. Do you know? We took cert a while ago. I'm just wondering whether you've ever considered confessing error.
Man, I hope she went straight to the bar after this.

Via Bashman.

... SCOTUSblog:
There may be many ways for a lawyer to realize that an argument before the Supreme Court is falling flat, but none can top this: a Justice asking if the counsel had ever considered simply forfeiting the case.

Silberman upholds ACA mandate

In a 2-1 op for the D.C. Court of Appeals. Via.

Haven't had time to read it yet, though it appears the dissenter would've held the court lacked jurisdiction, not that the mandate was unconstitutional on the merits.

... Here's a taste of Silberman's reasoning, which finds little to appreciate in the Randy Barnett school of constitutional law:
Appellants’ view that an individual cannot be subject to Commerce Clause regulation absent voluntary, affirmative acts that enter him or her into, or affect, the interstate market expresses a concern for individual liberty that seems more redolent of Due Process Clause arguments. But it has no foundation in the Commerce Clause. The shift to the “substantial effects” doctrine in the early twentieth century recognized the reality that national economic problems are often the result of millions of individuals engaging in behavior that, in isolation, is seemingly unrelated to interstate commerce. See Lopez, 514 U.S. at 555-56. That accepted assumption undermines appellants’ argument; its very premise is that the magnitude of any one individual’s actions is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is whether the national problem Congress has identified is one that substantially affects interstate commerce. Indeed, in case after case, a version of appellants’ argument–that Congress’s power to regulate national economic problems, even those resulting from the aggregated effects of intrastate activity, only extends to particular individuals if they have also affirmatively engaged in interstate commerce–has been rejected on that basis. See United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co., 315 U.S. 110, 121 (1942) (surveying cases). Whether any “particular person . . . is, or is not, also engaged in interstate commerce,” the Supreme Court expressly held, is a mere “fortuitous circumstance” that has no bearing on Congress’s power to regulate an injury to interstate commerce. Id.

* * * a single individual need not even be engaging in the harmful activity that Congress deems responsible for a national economic problem; it is enough that in general, most do. Thus, when Congress finds that organized crime harms interstate commerce, and that most loan sharks are part of organized crime, Congress can regulate even those individual loan sharks who are not part of organized crime. See Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146, 147, 153-57 (1971). Similarly, it is irrelevant that an indeterminate number of healthy, uninsured persons will never consume health care, and will therefore never affect the interstate market. Broad regulation is an inherent feature of Congress’s constitutional authority in this area; to regulate complex, nationwide economic problems is to necessarily deal in generalities. Congress reasonably determined that as a class, the uninsured create market failures; thus, the lack of harm attributable to any particular uninsured individual, like their lack of overt participation in a market, is of no consequence.

That a direct requirement for most Americans to purchase any product or service seems an intrusive exercise of legislativepower surely explains why Congress has not used this authority before–but that seems to us a political judgment rather than a recognition of constitutional limitations.
That last part about "political judgment" is what Hamilton and Madison argued was the effective check on the Necessary & Proper Clause.

... Orin Kerr has some more good snippets, for those not wanting to read the whole thing, and he observes:
Judge Silberman’s view is pretty much what I’ve been arguing since the mandate challenges were first filed, so it’s no surprise that I find this a persuasive reading of existing Supreme Court precedent. Of course, the Supreme Court is highly likely to review this issue soon, and the Justices are not bound by the implications of their prior precedents — or even the precedents themselves.
Stuart Benjamin comes out of hibernation at the VC to say that he would expect a Scalia op on this case to sound a lot like Silberman's.

The classics are wasted on the young

A young man, whatever his genius may be, is no judge of such a writer as Thucydides. I had no high opinion of him ten years ago. I have now been reading him with a mind accustomed to historical researches, and to political affairs; and I am astonished at my own former blindness, and at his greatness.
-- Macaulay.

Cain has a campaign slogan now

Via. See.

Osama's death, revisited

A self-proclaimed SEAL insider challenges that New Yorker article about the death of bin Laden.
Chuck Pfarrer rejects almost all of that story.

“The version of the 45-minute firefight, and the ground-up assault, and the cold-blooded murder on the third floor — that wasn’t the mission,” Pfarrer told TheDC.

“I had to try and figure out, well, look: Why is this story not what I’m hearing? Why is it so off and how is it so off?” he recounted. “One of the things I sort of determined was, OK, somebody was told ‘one of the insertion helicopters crashed.’ OK, well that got muddled to ‘a helicopter crashed on insertion.’”

The helicopters, called “Stealth Hawks,” are inconspicuous machines concealing cutting-edge technology. They entered the compound as planned, with “Razor 1″ disembarking its team of SEALs on the roof of the compound — not on the ground level. There was no crash landing. That wouldn’t occur until after bin Laden was dead.
Pfarrer also claims OBL was going for a gun when he was shot.

Whatever the merits of Pfarrer's account, his judgment sounds a bit screwy:
President Obama stepped up to a podium in the East Room of the White House that night to announce bin Laden’s death. That rapid announcement, explained Pfarrer, posed a major threat to U.S. national security.

“There was a choice that night,” Pfarrer told TheDC. “There was a choice to keep the mission secret.” America, Pfarrer explained, could have left things alone for “weeks or months … even though there was evidence left on the ground there … and use the intelligence and finish off al-Qaida.”

But Obama’s announcement, he said, “rendered moot all of the intelligence that was gathered from the nexus of al-Qaida. The computer drives, the hard drives, the videocasettes, the CDs, the thumb drives, everything. Before that could even be looked through, the political decision was made to take credit for the operation.”
Uh, what? Exactly whom was al-Qaeda going to suspect of sending in helicopters to take out OBL in the middle of the night? France? And how was shooting up a residence in Abbottabad going to stay "secret"? In Pakistan? This is why SEALs should stick to killing bad guys and not nurse strategic delusions.

There's also this:
And statements from as high as then-CIA Director Leon Panetta offered confirmation that the endeavor was a “kill mission.”

Pfarrer dismisses that assertion.

“An order to go in and murder someone in their house is not a lawful order,” explained Pfarrer, who maintains that bin Laden would have been captured had he surrendered. “Unlike the Germans in World War II, if you’re a petty officer, a chief petty officer, a naval officer, and you’re giving an order to murder somebody, that’s an unlawful order.”
Well, so one would think.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Russian Origins of the First World War

Looks very interesting indeed. (Via.) Apparently, the thesis is that Russian turned into a general European war what the Germans and Austrians would've been happy to keep a limited Balkan war.

I had known that Russia's decision for general mobilization (i.e., pointing the sword at Germany as well as at Austria) was a key step in creating the wider war, but it seems that McMeekin will argue this was more than just haphazard. Worth a look, even if the claim that it was "Russia's war even more than it was Germany's" sounds a tad overreaching.

Coffee mug of the day

"A Truly Dark Roast." Love it. More here.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Ole Miss fires Nutt, announces new coach [UPDATED]

Reports are that Houston Nutt will be given his walking papers after Ole Miss's humiliating loss to what is now demonstrably the second-worst team in the SEC, Kentucky.

Other reports indicate that Ole Miss already has lined up a replacement, though even the first name of the new football coach remains a mystery. A mysterious, very short man has been in and out of the offices of Pete Boone and Dan Jones, identified by sources only as "Coach Rumpelstilskin."

A source speaking off the record said that the new coach promises to turn the Rebels' losing season into "gold."

Asked what he had promised by way of a compensation package, Boone refused to respond, but teared up and left the podium.

... The online rumors seem to be true. I'll let those who know something about the subject explain why Pete Boone needs to leave, but I've been skeptical that Nutt is really some kind of problem. As my snark above indicates, you can't make straw into gold, and I've seen little to indicate that Ole Miss's team this year is much more than straw.

The Dawgs have been struggling too, mainly it seems because some good players left. No one seriously questions Mullen's coaching skills, but the man has to work with what he has. Same with Nutt.

All said, I wish someone would pay me $6M to fire me!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Why can't women drink out of water bottles?

It's a mystery only Madison Avenue can solve. Or create, rather.

(And don't miss the link at the bottom: "Women Laughing Alone with Salad." Because depriving your body of red meat and carbs can make you a little nutty, I guess.)

Talking about conservatism

Corey Robin is the definitely not-conservative author of The Reactionary Mind. (We linked to an essay of Robin's.) Daniel Larison is so conservative, he spends most of his time complaining that conservatives are too liberal. Both are smart. They have a chat. (Via.)

Where Obama Went Wrong, Some More of Obama's Greatest Mistakes, and Who Is This Obama Person, Anyway?

Ezra Klein has a critical review of Suskind's Confidence Men that examines the mistakes Obama's White House didn't make, and the ones it did. Good stuff, as usual from Klein (whom I need to read more often).

I would've added only that it was folly to cut a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts in Dec. 2010 without getting an agreement on the debt ceiling as part of the package. They knew the results of the election; they had no reason to expect the GOP would be reasonable or responsible.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Five Standard Excuses

Being unfamiliar with the program(me) Yes, Minister, I had not seen the Five Standard Excuses used by the civil service:
1 The Anthony Blunt excuse There is a perfectly satisfactory explanation for everything, but security prevents its disclosure

2 The Comprehensive Schools excuse It's only gone wrong because of heavy cuts in staff and budget which have stretched supervisory resources beyond the limit

3 The Concorde excuse It was a worthwhile experiment now abandoned, but not before it provided much valuable data and considerable employment

4 The Munich Agreement excuse It occurred before important facts were known, and cannot happen again (The important facts in question were that Hitler wanted to conquer Europe. This was actually known; but not to the Foreign Office, of course)

5 The Charge of the Light Brigade excuse It was an unfortunate lapse by an individual which has now been dealt with under internal disciplinary procedures
"According to Sir Humphrey, these excuses have covered everything so far. Even wars. Small wars, anyway."

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Nietzsche on reading

It is not for nothing that I have been a philologist, perhaps I am a philologist still, that is to say, a teacher of slow reading....For philology is that venerable art which demands of its votaries one thing above all: to go aside, to take time, to become still, to become slow — it is a goldsmith's art and connoisseurship of the word which has nothing but delicate, cautious work to do and achieves nothing if it does not achieve it lento. But for precisely this reason it is more necessary than ever today, by precisely this means does it entice and enchant us the most, in the midst of an age of 'work', that is to say, of hurry, of indecent and perspiring haste, which wants to 'get everything done' at once, including every old or new book: — this art does not so easily get anything done, it teaches to read well, that is to say, to read slowly, deeply, looking cautiously before and aft, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate eyes and fingers.
-- from the preface to Daybreak (tr. Hollingdale) (via).

... Nietzsche's bête noire, Pascal, put it more pithily: "Reading too fast or too gently, you understand nothing." ("Trop doucement" -- could be "slowly," but one has "lentement" for that.) De Man used that as the epigraph for Allegories of Reading.

It's not an if thing, it's a when thing

Kevin Drum explains the problems with Greece, the EU, and the Euro in Q-&-A format suitable for forwarding to one's friends and relatives who don't quite get what the fuss is about -- or for brushing up on one's own grasp of the news.

Copies of Timmy and the Commissar fetch high prices on eBay

The Edge of the American West blog is back in business, and informing us that the author of Danny and the Dinosaur was a Stalinist.

(Via - copyright M. Kupperman.)

And just the other day I had been pondering how Danny (and Sammy the Seal) are conservative in the classic children's-book manner: the dinosaur or seal can cut loose for a while, but has to return home in the end, restore the social order, etc.

"Chick-Fil-A is anti-gay!" (surround restaurant and chant until arrested)

I suppose it's not surprising that a Georgia-based fast-food shop that's closed on Sunday donates money to anti-gay groups ... but if its donations in 2009 were greater than said donations from 2003-08, that suggests a certain ideological stridency. (Via.)