Friday, December 30, 2011

Poor judgment?

Mississippi State squeaked it this time with a 23-17 win over Wake Forest, but the last few drives of the game shouldn't have been that close: in an astounding lapse of judgment, Dan Mullen had Relf throw a pass with 6 seconds left in the 1st half, rather than take the easy FG; an interception, hardly unpredictably, left State with zero points, which combined with a missed PAT earlier in the game, gave Wake Forest hope to the very end.

I'm not prepared to list other examples, but for a onetime offensive coordinator, Mullen's judgment has been spotty all season. The play-calling on offense has been unimaginative at best. When rumors flew that he might go elsewhere next year, I hoped he wouldn't. Now I'm not so sure.

(Not that MSU should pull an Ole Miss and fire its coach after he takes 'em to a bowl.)

Feels blind

How did it take me until age 42 to finally get around to listening to Bikini Kill?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The state and violence

Tim Snyder has an interesting takedown of Steven Pinker's new "violence" book. Interesting b/c it's not just a snarkfest (easy to do w/ Pinker). A taste:
Pinker believes that people are more pacific when they have the time and the occasion to repeat interactions and reconsider their actions. Yet he has trouble ­acknowledging that, according to his own story, the one and only agent that can create that sort of cushioned society with educated minds and spare time has been the functional welfare state. This refusal seems rooted in Pinker's commitment to free-market libertarianism. His book's vision of a coming age of peace is a good example of how two trends favoring political passivity -- the narcissistic discursiveness of the American left and the antistate prejudices of the American right -- conspire in the same delusion: that while we talk, talk, talk, markets do the work of history. Unlike the Enlightenment thinkers he lauds, Pinker fails to see that the state is not simply, as he puts it, "an exogenous first domino" that fell long ago, beginning a chain of events but remaining motionless itself. L'état, c'est nous: the state is what we do, how we vote, the military service we do or do not perform, the taxes we do or do not pay, the federal grants that we do or do not apply for.
Worth a look.

Strange - I would've have expected them to prefer Gingrich

Kevin Drum reports on a core Republican constituency:

Apparently, orcs support Romney. I guess I can see it: Utah, Mordor ....

Friday, December 23, 2011

Opportunity may knock, but opportunists just tape a note to the door.


And now I hope to take the opportunity to stay off the damn internet for a while.

Feliz Navidad, y'all.

MSSC first sitting for 2012

Up in time for Christmas. A follow-up to this post.

Asbestos/silica cases feature prominently among those to be argued, including a silica case on February 1 and, on January 30, the ConocoPhillips v. Lofton appeal in the case Philip Thomas described here.

We also note that the Dialysis Solution(s?) case, which raised the side issue whether amended Miss. Code Ann. 41-7-201 is constitutional, has been submitted without oral argument. 41-7-201 is the appeal statute in certificate-of-need cases, and the Legislature had amended it to provide for direct appeals to the MSSC. As the Court has tended to interpret the state constitution, that's probably unconstitutional, and it appears from the denial of oral argument that the Court doesn't find it a particularly tricky question. Interesting to see how that turns out.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Apologizing for their gay superpowers

This is too funny. Amy Koch was a Minnesota legislator who supported amending her state's constitution to ban gay marriage. "Was" until she resigned after it was learned she'd had an extra-marital affair.

Now, on behalf of his fellow gay Minnesotans, one man has apologized to Koch for what they did to the sanctity of Koch's marriage:
An Open Apology to Amy Koch on Behalf of All Gay and Lesbian Minnesotans

Dear Ms. Koch,

On behalf of all gays and lesbians living in Minnesota, I would like to wholeheartedly apologize for our community's successful efforts to threaten your traditional marriage. We are ashamed of ourselves for causing you to have what the media refers to as an "illicit affair" with your staffer, and we also extend our deepest apologies to him and to his wife. These recent events have made it quite clear that our gay and lesbian tactics have gone too far, affecting even the most respectful of our society.

We apologize that our selfish requests to marry those we love has cheapened and degraded traditional marriage so much that we caused you to stray from your own holy union for something more cheap and tawdry. And we are doubly remorseful in knowing that many will see this as a form of sexual harassment of a subordinate.

It is now clear to us that if we were not so self-focused and myopic, we would have been able to see that the time you wasted diligently writing legislation that would forever seal the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, could have been more usefully spent reshaping the legal definition of "adultery."

Forgive us. As you know, we are not church-going people, so we are unable to fully appreciate that "gay marriage" is incompatible with Christian values, despite the fact that those values carry a biblical tradition of adultery such as yours. We applaud you for keeping that tradition going.

And finally, shame on us for thinking that marriage is a private affair, and that our marriage would have little impact on anyone's family. We now see that marriage is more than that. It is an agreement with society. We should listen to the Minnesota Family Council when it tells us that marriage is about being public, which explains why marriages are public ceremonies. Never did we realize that it is exactly because of this societal agreement that the entire world is looking at you in shame and disappointment instead of minding its own business.

From the bottom of our hearts, we ask that you please accept our apology.

Thank you.
John Medeiros
Minneapolis MN
Of course, in the South (and I suspect in Minnesota too), many gays and lesbians *are* churchgoers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dead flowers?

More on the Dove-Vendler contretemps over Dove's Penguin anthology of "20th-Century American Poetry (Except Ginsberg and Plath)." (Via St. Crispin.)
Dove (on The Best American Poetry blog), objected: “What does it say about Vendler that out of the 175 poets in the Penguin Anthology she chose Gwendolyn Brooks and Melvin Tolson and Amiri Baraka to try to skewer me?” But in her review Vendler dismissed e.e. cummings as “sentimental” (as sentimental as Amiri Baraka, in fact) and was none too enthusiastic about Ezra Pound, either.

Vendler has certainly proven not to be those poets’ only detractor. James Fenton, in the London Evening Standard, wrote: “In most, though not in my opinion all, of her criticisms, Vendler put her finger on blatant weaknesses.” One: including Amiri Baraka’s “obsessive and anti-Semitic rant (‘another bad poem cracking / steel knuckles in a jewlady’s mouth’), which Vendler calls ‘showy violence’ that then turns sentimental. She’s right. What was Rita Dove thinking of when she reprinted this dreck?”

“Pretentious or ludicrous agit-prop” does not suffice in poetry, he suggested. Nor, says Alder, does poetry that, like Baraka’s, Dove can defend as “historically seminal.” If that is enough, he writes, where is the pop poet and folk crooner Rod McKuen? “Or,” asked Adler, “does the poetry have to be not just bad, but angry and bad?
Not as much as I'd have liked about omitting poets due to permissions fees:
Among many in-print and online critics of Dove’s selection, most have focused most on poets she omitted. Among those, most significantly, are a trio of diverse biography – variously black, messianic, white, vernacular, gay, suicidal, Jewish, melodramatic: Sterling Brown, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath. Dove has explained that extortionate fee demands from publishers, primarily imprints owned by the HarperCollins behemoth, led to the exclusion of those three and others.

The absences have led some observers to ask whether the depleted selection was worth publishing. Robert Archambeau, a poet and professor of English at Lake Forest College, wrote on his Samizdat blog: “If this were the only way I could represent 20th C. American poetry, it would have been better not to do it. … As a scholar and critic, I find the representation of poetry here … to be deeply flawed. As an academic, I’d find the anthology unusable.”
I must say, if I were asked to do "20th-Century American Poetry" and then couldn't afford to include Plath, I'd tell Penguin they needed to find another editor.

... A commenter, Fred Viebahn, at the Fenton link above provides a useful quote from a Rita Dove interview that doesn't seem available online:
As to the omission of Sylvia Plath and the permissions fee problems, Rita Dove has this to say in an interview in the Dec. 2011 edition of "The Writer's Chronicle", an American magazine for professional writers and creative writing programs:

"... the worst offender by far [demanding outrageous fees] was the publisher of Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg, whose 'couldn’t care less' attitude resulted in none of this house's authors being included ... Negotiations dragged on literally until the day when the anthology went into production; seeking common ground, I offered several solutions, including reducing the overall number of poems ... while meeting their exorbitant line fees ...The answer was nothing less than shocking: All or nothing. In other words, if I didn't pay the same high line fees for all their poets as well as, unbelievably, take all the poems I had initially inquired about, I couldn’t have Ginsberg nor Plath ... Pleas from upper Penguin management and even from one of the affected poets, who declared his willingness to forgo royalties, fell on deaf ears; the day before the anthology went into production, [the publisher of Plath and Ginsberg] withdrew all pending contracts and declared the negotiations closed."

Dove also explains that even if the budget had allowed paying more to this publisher's poets, it would have violated agreements with other publishers that did not permit to "be robbing Peter to pay Paul".
Pretty lame of HarperCollins. Anthologized poems are advertisements.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hitchens, thou shouldst be living at this hour ...

Obama needs to heed the Hitch example and lay off the sauce:
As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we've gotten done in modern history.
Wow. "Possible" exceptions. The strain of the job is getting to him.

Medicare spending

Via DeLong, some handy charts and discussion re: the recent claim that the Reagan-era shift to PPS reimbursement (i.e., fee-for-service rather than reasonable-cost) drove up Medicare spending. The claim itself, you will see, has some problems.

Have yourself a merry little solstice

I knew that Christmas occurs around the time of the winter solstice and was surely meant to do so, but I hadn't realized the strength of the connection:
In 46 BCE, Julius Caesar in his Julian calendar established December 25 as the date of the winter solstice of Europe (Latin: Bruma).
Our earliest source for Christmas on Dec. 25 is the Chronography of 354, though our MS for that is a 17th-century copy of what was supposedly a Carolingian copy ....

... N.b. that we have updated our related post on the seasons.

Readers who aren't Mississippi lawyers should skip this post

We've been watching the docket calendars at the MSSC, being curious about the fact that oral arguments have already been announced for 2012, well in advance of being listed on the case dockets or on the docket calendars.

The MSSC still has no docket calendar up for 2012, but the COA has announced its first sitting. I know these arguments were announced to counsel some weeks ago.

The argued cases still aren't mentioned on the docket for each case, however.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Of course, any valid explanation must include the Snow Demons.

Various bloggers have been complaining about the popular misconception that the earth's distance from the sun causes winter.

That is not in itself terribly edifying, but a little link-clicking did lead me to something I hadn't seen explained before, seasonal lag (or, why is summer hottest in August and winter coldest in January?).

... Fixed per Ugh, which is the old Sumerian word for "nitpicker."

I think much of the problem is that kids dutifully learn that the earth's orbit is an ellipse, and see pictures like this one -

- and, reasonably enough, suppose that such an eccentric orbit must make a difference in the seasons. Alas and thankfully, the Earth's orbit is about 0.0167, i.e., almost a circle.

"Said something to me that made it impossible for me to go on working for him"

Christopher Hitchens, back in his salad days as a touchy Trotskyite, recalls being hired for the newborn Times Higher Ed Supp:
Thus did I become a "Social Science Correspondent" on a paper that had yet to be printed: a Gogol-like ghost job which I held for about six months before its editor said something to me that made it impossible to go on working for him.*
"You're fired" were the exact words as I remember them.
--Hitch-22: A Memoir at 136 & n.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Newt Gingrich is strikingly at variance with America

God bless the Kevin Drums of the world for keeping up to date on sick little fucks like Newt Gingrich:
When pressed as to whether a president could ignore any court decision he didn’t like, such as if President Obama ignored a ruling overturning his healthcare law, Gingrich said the standard should be “the rule of two of three,” in which the outcome would be determined by whichever side two of the three branches of government were on.

That's fascinating, isn't it? Unless I'm misremembering my lessons from Schoolhouse Rock, just about every law ever passed was approved by two out of three branches of the government. So this means the Supreme Court would never be allowed to overturn a law. Surely even Gingrich doesn't believe such a thing?

Apparently not. In fact, he wants the judiciary to be independent 99% of the time — which brings to mind all the usual jokes about being a little bit pregnant — and defines the 1% this way:

Another branch would step in, Gingrich said, when a judge or a court makes a decision that is “strikingly at variance with America.”
My Republican friends? This is why you are a laughing-stock: because a wack-job like this is a serious candidate for your presidential nomination.

Judicial review was sketched out by Alexander Hamilton and established by a unanimous Supreme Court in Marbury over 200 years ago. It has been part of America a helluva lot longer than Newton Leroy Gingrich, who thus is exposed as strikingly at variance with America.

... Perhaps this deranged bluster is a sign of a fading candidate?

Vaclav Havel, 1936-2011

The playwright who directed a revolution. Like Christopher Hitchens, a heavy smoker, though his illness dragged on for many more years.

... And, apparently on the same date, Kim Jong Il bites the dust. Whither North Korea?

... I'd felt lame having nothing more than that question to pose, but I am heartened that the much more knowledgeable Robert Farley is pretty much in the same boat.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Our periodic Sebald plug

Why You Should Read W.G. Sebald.

"Rest in peace" seems like ill-wishing

Christopher Hitchens, dead in Houston, TX, the poor bastard.

You pretty much can't help reading about his death on the web today, but 3QD has a great battery of posts up.

Knock back some Johnnie Walker Black in his memory today. One could spend all day compiling quotes, but here's one from the NYT obit:
In 2007, when the interviewer Sean Hannity tried to make the case for an all-seeing God, Mr. Hitchens dismissed the idea with contempt. “It would be like living in North Korea,” he said.
... David Frum has some pleasant recollections.
At most parties, though, he was wit in a white suit. He’d enter the house and push past the offer of what he called the worst phrase in the English language: “White or Red?” He’d walk into the kitchen, to the small pantry where we keep our own stock of liquor, and help himself to a slug of Johnnie Walker Black, which I learned to think of as the whisky you drink when you’re drinking more than one. Soda, no ice.
(I do it the other way round; I shall give Hitchens' style a try.)
A friend of theirs once took Christopher Hitchens and his wife Carol Blue to dinner at Palm Beach’s Everglades Club, notorious for its exclusion of Jews.

“You will behave, won’t you?” Carol anxiously asked Christopher on the way into the club. No dice. When the headwaiter approached, Christopher demanded: “Do you have a kosher menu?”
... Glenn Greenwald dissents from the Hitchens celebration, in such a manner as to reaffirm my good opinion of Hitchens. For instance:
The blood on his hands — and on the hands of those who played an even greater, more direct role, in all of this totally unjustified killing of innocents — is supposed to be ignored because he was an accomplished member in good standing of our media and political class.
Uh, hello? Did the life and work of Christopher Hitchens do one damn thing to make the Iraq War more likely or more bloody?

And this:
One of the last political essays he wrote in his life, for Slate, celebrated the virtues of Endless War.
Following the link, one finds Hitchens (in Sept. 2011) objecting to the idea that a war can be objected to simply because it is "endless."
Human history seems to register many more years of conflict than of tranquillity. In one sense, then, it is fatuous to whine that war is endless. We do have certain permanent enemies--the totalitarian state; the nihilist/terrorist cell--with which "peace" is neither possible nor desirable. Acknowledging this, and preparing for it, might give us some advantages in a war that seems destined to last as long as civilization is willing to defend itself.
That does not seem obviously wrong, and it "celebrates" such war only inasmuch as it celebrates the defense of civilization.

What both those examples from Greenwald demonstrate is Hitchens's hatred of cant. Myself, I'm happy to have Greenwald around when he's fighting the good fight, and I welcomed Hitchens when he did the same - and even when he was fighting on the wrong side. Like Socrates and many less exalted debaters, he was a gadfly.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I dissent to that usage

Dissenting in part in today's Trejo v. State, Justice Randolph begins:
I concur with the adoption of the “community caretaking” doctrine, but dissent to the plurality’s result, which does not apply it.
"Dissent to"? I hadn't seen that before, which led me to wonder whether I'd been incorrectly writing "dissent from" all these years.

Bryan Garner, at least, says I'm okay:
dissent, v.i., takes from or against, not to or with.
("Against" being "idiomatic but relatively uncommon.")

The idea of "dissenting with" reminds me of the apocryphyal Churchillian blue-pencilling of a memo: "We do not fight 'with' the Germans. We fight either for or against them."

... Those who follow crim pro need to read this one for the plurality's take on the "community caretaking" doctrine. I confess to being surprised that a driver *can't* be pulled over for driving too slowly in the left-hand lane. I've been tempted to perform a few citizen's arrests myself on that theory.

Not all publicity is good publicity

Jon Chait's digs are now at New York mag, not New Republic mag, but the style remains the same:
When Romney planned to have Christine O'Donnell announce her endorsement of him, he may not have considered that it would involve her talking.
I'm not really sure how having a witch endorse a Mormon is supposed to be a net plus with the GOP base, but doubtless these things are clearer to political professionals.

Chait's summary of the Romney-Gingrich dilemma:
Romney is the handsome swindler who plots to win your mother's heart and make off with her fortune. Gingrich is like the husband who periodically gets drunk and runs off to spend a week with a stripper in a low-rent motel but always comes home in the end. Which one would you rather see your mother marry?

Don't really gotta go to Lowe's, after all

The New Yorker has a good summary of the manufactured outrage over TLC's All-American Muslim show and the bizarre decision by Lowe's to pull its commercials from the show.

My 7YO is too fond of building free projects at Lowe's for me to swear never to darken its doors again, but if I actually need to buy something, Home Depot is a better choice, at least until they do something equally obnoxious. (As I saw on a Buddhist blog once, there is no 100% wholesome commerce: "welcome to Samsara.")

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

David Mamet is batshit crazy.

Daniel Larison has exhibit A:
In abandonment of the state of Israel, the West reverts to pagan sacrifice, once again, making a burnt offering not of that which one possesses, but of that which is another’s. As Realpolitik, the Liberal West’s anti-Semitism can be understood as like Chamberlain’s offering of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, a sop thrown to terrorism. On the level of conscience, it is a renewal of the debate on human sacrifice.
Do we need any more exhibits? No, I didn't think so. Wowzers. I can't boldface the crazy parts -- it's all crazy.


Due to a sad little person who's not content to post on her own blog but has to crap on other people's blogs as well - maybe so someone will actually read her? - we are moving to comment moderation here. Maybe temporary, maybe permanent.

Sorry for the hassle, but since you are wasting your time even reading this blog, I can't say you're using your time wisely to comment here either.

Anyway, thanks for bearing with me while I learn how to handle this new wrinkle. Maybe I can at least turn off the obnoxious word-verification thing now.

I tried increasing it to "bring a dollar" for inflation, but he corrected me.

The kids' channel on SiriusXM plays a version of "Down on the Corner," which I was surprised to hear the 7YO singing in only somewhat garbled fashion. Having learned of his debased source, I picked up the CCR hits album and played the real song for him, a moment recorded via my sad BlackBerry excuse for a camera.

Happily, he is agreeable to my singing (croaking?) along, provided I don't mess with the words.

Can't possibly be true

But, hey, it's Alabama:
Bill Johnson (R), who ran for governor of Alabama last year, "has a secret life as a sperm donor for lesbian couples -- even though he has campaigned against gay marriage," the New Zealand Herald reports.

Johnson has used the "online persona 'chchbill' to meet women who want help to get pregnant. Under that persona, he has discussed making donations to at least nine women without the knowledge of his family in the US."

"Three of the women are now pregnant, and Johnson has assisted another three with donations in the past month."
This is broken by New Zealand media, as Johnson has apparently been doing disaster-relief work there, in addition to his other "work":
The Herald on Sunday approached Johnson on Thursday at a restaurant in Christchurch where he had just finished dining with one of the women he had successfully impregnated.

He said the urge to become a biological father was "a need that I have".
All God's children got needs.

N.b. that Johnson was not a terribly serious candidate in the GOP primary.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Do Palestinians exist?"

Jeffrey Goldberg provides the shocking answer!
The most important issue facing our economy and our future as a nation is obviously, do Palestinians exist? Newt Gingrich, for one, thinks this is a very important question. So do I. Therefore, I would like to give my answer to the question in this very public venue: Yes, Palestinians exist. I've seen them with my own two eyes. I've seen them in their cities, I've seen them in their villages. I've seen them on the beaches, I've seen them eating peaches. I've seen them in cars, I've even seen them in bars. Gay bars in Tel Aviv, to be exact. Ah, you might ask, what was Goldblog, a known heterosexual, doing in a gay bar in Tel Aviv? Well, how was Goldblog supposed to know it was a gay bar? Okay, the Palestinian dude grinding his shwarma against the Israeli dude was a clue. But I often miss such clues. I visited Andrew Sullivan in Provincetown once and thought that everyone was really muscular and shirtless by accident.
... Btw, Goldberg isn't linked on the blogroll here for the same reason Kevin Drum isn't: their sites have this goofy way of redirecting my link to the site page in general, rather than to their blogs. This problem is magnified by the P.O.S. blogroll widget that I have no right to complain about because it's free.



The entire rest of the season: Bills, Pats, Jets.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Total lunar eclipse tomorrow

6:45 a.m. EST, peak at 8:05 a.m. Last one till 2014, in these parts.

What the internet would've looked like in 1951

I'm not sure which is stranger, that incoming Hinds County sheriff Tyrone Lewis is selling water bottles and nylon bags, or that Jackson Jambalaya thinks it's amusing to make fun of how (some) black people talk:
That's right. Yo' Sheriff wants yo' money. Cuz we all know dat's what its about: mo money mo money mo money. Our two reviewers even gave it two special Zorro snaps. Get your Ty-rone Lewis merchandise now. And remember: no job, no problem, no credit, no problem, no money, PROBLEM!. Contact our flygirls below to get yo' Tyrone Lewis merchandise ....
But remember: Mississippi Republicans aren't racist, and anyone who suggests otherwise is a liberal bigot.

Stalin's daughter died

I had missed this, but Jeffrey Goldberg notes the death last month of Lana Peters:
At her birth, on Feb. 28, 1926, she was named Svetlana Stalina, the only daughter and last surviving child of the brutal Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin. After he died in 1953, she took her mother’s last name, Alliluyeva. In 1970, after her defection and an American marriage, she became and remained Lana Peters.

Ms. Peters died of colon cancer on Nov. 22 in Richland County, Wis., the county’s corporation counsel, Benjamin Southwick, said on Monday. She was 85.
A sad, strange life.

Mysteries of the Mississippi Supreme Court

A while back, we noted the oddity that the online docket calendar for the MSSC listed cases as submitted or set for argument without any docket entry's having yet been made in those individual cases.

The oddity proves even odder. The docket calendar as of today has not been issued for any 2012 sittings. But last week, we received letters from the MSSC on a couple of appeals, one to be argued in 2012, one not. Neither letter, however was noted on the individual cases' docket pages. Still ain't.

So, as the MSSC continues not to publish its internal operating procedures, we are left to infer the procedure. The sequence seems to be (1) letters to counsel, (2) update docket calendar, (3) update individual dockets.

It is particularly hard to understand why (1) and (2) shouldn't be simultaneous; preparing (3) is more time-consuming, I can see. But then why does (3) precede (2)?

None of this matters greatly in The Grand Scheme of Things, but if there's going to be a public docket online, then one would think it should accurately reflect what is going on in a given case.

... As of Dec. 13, the dockets finally state "Letter Issued by Supreme Court of Mississippi," correctly but belatedly dated to Dec. 2. No link to the letter indicating whether argument was granted or denied. Docket calendar still not up.

Feminism then, feminism now?

The best thing I've read in a while, by Jenny Turner (via).

The ghosts of Christmas past

"An 'American tradition' is anything that happened to a baby boomer twice."

Thursday, December 08, 2011

"But fascinating, Spock."

"Illogical, Captain. Most illogical."

Includes yet more reasons why the Pearl Harbor attack was an awful idea

Gerhard Weinberg has an article on myths of World War 2 that is tendentious and snarky, and has the additional benefit of being correct in many respects. (Via.)

The most dangerous part of an airplane

Popular Mechanics explains the amazingly stupid human error that led to the crash of Air France 447 in 2009.
Perhaps spooked by everything that has unfolded over the past few minutes--the turbulence, the strange electrical phenomena, his colleague's failure to route around the potentially dangerous storm--Bonin reacts irrationally. He pulls back on the side stick to put the airplane into a steep climb, despite having recently discussed the fact that the plane could not safely ascend due to the unusually high external temperature. * * *

Almost as soon as Bonin pulls up into a climb, the plane's computer reacts. A warning chime alerts the cockpit to the fact that they are leaving their programmed altitude. Then the stall warning sounds. This is a synthesized human voice that repeatedly calls out, "Stall!" in English, followed by a loud and intentionally annoying sound called a "cricket." A stall is a potentially dangerous situation that can result from flying too slowly. At a critical speed, a wing suddenly becomes much less effective at generating lift, and a plane can plunge precipitously. All pilots are trained to push the controls forward when they're at risk of a stall so the plane will dive and gain speed.

The Airbus's stall alarm is designed to be impossible to ignore. Yet for the duration of the flight, none of the pilots will mention it, or acknowledge the possibility that the plane has indeed stalled—--even though the word "Stall!" will blare through the cockpit 75 times. Throughout, Bonin will keep pulling back on the stick, the exact opposite of what he must do to recover from the stall.
An inexperienced pilot, a co-pilot who didn't ask enough questions, and a pair of sticks that don't work in tandem, so the co-pilot isn't forced to notice that the pilot is about to kill everyone on board.

The transcript is well worth reading.

"Black site" found

One of our dungeons:
The CIA operated a secret prison in the Romanian capital Bucharest where terrorism suspects were interrogated, an investigation by the Associated Press and German media has found.

Former CIA operatives identified the building where, they said, detainees were held and tortured.

The building belongs to a Romanian agency, Orniss, which stores classified information from the EU and Nato.

Orniss has denied hosting a CIA prison and the CIA has refused to comment.

The investigation, by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and the German TV network ARD, said those held in the secret prison included Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, who has admitted organising the 9/11 attacks.
... Scott Horton:
The Romanian officials naturally deny everything. It is noteworthy that Romania was seeking admission to NATO in the first few years after 9/11. It appears that the United States pressed Romania to cooperate with its black-site torture network as a means of gaining NATO membership — and indeed, the location of the black site itself, in a building that now sports a NATO flag out front, helps drive that point home.
Has NATO become a frat that one joins only after hazing?

But I'm sure he's really smart about something or other.

The CEO of a Wall Street firm like JP Morgan should be super-informed about economic matters, right? Being paid millions of dollars and all that, he should be up on his game?

Not so much, Yglesias notes:
Next time you read an article about the behavioral response to marginal tax rates on high income earners, I would urge you to refer back to JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon's fine whine that "most of us wage earners are paying 39.6 percent in taxes and add in another 12 percent in New York state and city taxes and we're paying 50 percent of our income in taxes."

The thing about this is that the actual top marginal income tax rate is 35 percent. The entire debate in congress over taxes is that President Obama wants to restore the top marginal rate to the level that Dimon thinks it already is. Meanwhile, Dimon doesn't even know what tax rate he pays. Just saying.
I would also note that, as far as I can tell, no one is forcing Mr. Dimon to live in New York. Connecticut has a lower max (6.5% vs. 8.97% in NY/NJ).

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Dies illa, vivet in ignominiam

So, beside that unpleasantness outside Honolulu in 1941, what else happened on December 7?
43 BC – Marcus Tullius Cicero is assassinated.

1815 - Execution of Marshal Ney.

1862 – US Civil War: Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

1869 – American outlaw Jesse James commits his first confirmed bank robbery in Gallatin, Missouri.

1917 – World War I: The United States declares war on Austria-Hungary.

1930 – W1XAV in Boston, Massachusetts broadcasts video from the CBS radio orchestra program, The Fox Trappers. The broadcast also includes the first television commercial in the United States, an advertisement for I.J. Fox Furriers, who sponsored the radio show.

1963 – Instant replay is used for the first time in an Army-Navy game by its inventor, director, Tony Verna.

1965 – Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras simultaneously revoke mutual excommunications that had been in place since 1054.

1972 – Apollo 17, the last Apollo moon mission, is launched. The crew takes the photograph known as The Blue Marble as they leave the Earth.

1982 – In Texas, Charles Brooks, Jr. becomes the first person to be executed by lethal injection in the United States.
Also the birthday of Bernini, Nestroy, and Cather, as well as Noam Chomsky and our own Thad Cochran. And who could forget the feast day of St. Ambrose?

That's a lot to commemorate - get busy!

... Kingfish links a fine collection of photos of Pearl Harbor. The captions leave something to be desired; # 28, "the battleships U.S.S. Casin and the U.S.S. Downes," promotes two destroyers to battleships, as well as misspelling the name of the Cassin. (The single-gun turrets was my second clue, right after the absence of any states named "Casin" or "Downes.")

Monday, December 05, 2011

The old WW1 whodunit

Richard J. Evans (whose Third Reich trilogy is very good) reviews the McMeekin book on The Russian Origins of the First World War that we noted a while back. Evans is not persuaded that any anxiety over the Straits led Russian to push for war in 1914, which undercuts the thesis of the book.

Russian "war guilt" more generally is an interesting question. Evans underplays the Russian general mobilization (vs. Germany as well as Austria-Hungary); I don't think it suffices to say that Russia just didn't have a plan for mobilizing vs. the latter, as gross negligence pretty much substitutes for malice. Unless my memory has completely funked it, the fact is that the first great power to mobilize vs. another was Russia vs. the German-speaking powers. That is too serious for Russia to be exonerated.

Evans does however note the shady French involvement:
any historian who writes on Russia and the origins of World War I surely needs to give the French alliance more careful consideration than it is accorded here. In January 1914, the French Prime Minister told Maurice Paléologue, about to depart for St. Petersburg to take up the post of French ambassador there, that “war can break out from one day to the next … Our [Russian] allies must rush to our aid. The safety of France will depend on the energy and promptness with which we shall know how to push them into the fight.” In the Russian capital in mid-July 1914, a top-level French delegation was enthused by displays of Russian military strength. “There’s going to be a war,” the wife of the man who would shortly be appointed Russian commander-in-chief told Paléologue: “There’ll be nothing left of Austria. You’re going to get back Alsace and Lorraine. Our armies will meet in Berlin. Germany will be destroyed!”
Paléologue's exact conversations with the Russians in July 1914 have long been suspected of helping push Russia into war.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

On being an editor

Deslauriers was about to realize his old dream: an editor's chair, in other words the ineffable joy of controlling other people, of carving up their articles, of commissioning copy and turning it down.
-- Flaubert, Sentimental Education, 2.3.

... "Ineffable" is carefully chosen there.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Don't avoid *this* trivia

Two chief justices of the United States have been portrayed on American currency (Federal Reserve notes).

(1) Who are they?

(2) What denomination did each appear on?


NYRB slapdown

Rita Dove is not a favorite poet of mine, but her slapdown of Helen Vendler's NYRB review is pretty effective.

But -- no Sylvia Plath? I don't know what's worse, that Dove omits her, or that Vendler doesn't remark it.

... UPDATE: It is said that copyright issues prevented Plath's inclusion. Interesting if true.

Christa Wolf R.I.P.

Christa Wolf died yesterday, aged 82 -- perhaps the best-known feminist from the other side of the Iron Curtain. In her early 30s she was a (rather unsatisfactory) informer for the Stasi; later, after her 1968 novel The Quest for Christa T., the regime retaliated against her. (The bit about "exile" in the obit seems a bit much; she died in Berlin.) The Guardian obit ranks her with Grass as "the nation's most important postwar writer."

Back in my grad-school days, I studied several of her feminist essays, which I recall as being more profound in some ways than the Western feminists I was reading; alas, the details fade, and who knows where that sheaf of photocopies ended up .... Perhaps someone will put together A Christa Wolf Reader.

(Via Jessa Crispin, who links to a good interview with her.)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

"This book is flawless, because all its deficiencies are deliberate products of art."

More bad-book blogging: students of brilliant invective will find this worth a look. Another sample:
a book that clatters around in a dark closet of irrelevancies for 450 pages before it bumps accidentally into its index and stops

Appellate-advocacy asininity

Howard Bashman relays a really choice example from California:
Those who practice before this court are expected to comport themselves honestly, ethically, professionally and with courtesy toward opposing counsel. The fact a respondent has no obligation to file a brief at all, in no way excuses his counsel's misconduct if he chooses to do so. The conduct of Timothy J. Donahue, Kim's counsel herein, which included seeking an extension of time to file his brief under false pretenses, and then filing a brief which was not just boilerplate, but a virtual copy of a brief for another case – including a boilerplate accusation of misconduct against appellants' counsel and a boilerplate request for sanctions based on a purportedly "frivolous" appeal – will not be countenanced. Donahue's response to this court's notice, informing him that we were contemplating the imposition of sanctions on our own motion, was both truculent and dismissive, going so far as to assert that we must have issued the notice in error. We did not. Nor did we appreciate him responding to our order that he appear to address possible sanctions against him by sending in his stead an attorney who had not been informed sanctions were being considered, and knew nothing about our order. Donahue's conduct on appeal was inappropriate in nearly every respect, and we hereby sanction him in the amount of $10,000.
The "false pretenses" part pertains to requesting time based on the alleged need for further research on a brief that in fact was simply cribbed from a prior case.

Which is worse - being hit for a $10K sanction, or having the court compare you to an ostrich? I would consider myself fortunate to get off with the latter, personally.

... This is a nice touch:
It is difficult for us to express how wrong that is. Sanctions are serious business. They deserve more thought than the choice of a salad dressing. "I'll have the sanctions, please. No, on second thought, bring me the balsamic; I'm trying to lose a few pounds." A request for sanctions can never be so lightly considered as to be copied word for word from another brief – much less copied in reliance on facts from another case that do not obtain in the present one. A request for sanctions should be reserved for serious violations of the standard of practice, not used as a bullying tactic.

Our profession is rife with cynicism, awash in incivility. Lawyers and judges of our generation spend a great deal of time lamenting the loss of a golden age when lawyers treated each other with respect and courtesy. It's time to stop talking about the problem and act on it. For decades, our profession has given lip service to civility. All we have gotten from it is tired lips. We have reluctantly concluded lips cannot do the job; teeth are required. In this case, those teeth will take the form of sanctions. * * *

We sanction Mr. Donahue in the amount of $10,000. In arriving at that amount, we have struggled with the absence of precedent. "How much do you sanction an attorney who lies to the court, seeks unwarranted sanctions, bullies opposing counsel, shows no remorse, and effectively vows to continue such tactics by endorsing his conduct when challenged on it?" does not seem to have been a question yet addressed by other courts.

Blogger glitch

I've just learned that Blogger has a "spam inbox" for comments it imagines to be spam, which seems to be batting about .500.

So if your comment mysteriously never posted, it wasn't me. Will try to keep an eye on that in future.