Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers withdraws

Fox News is just now reporting that Harriet Miers has withdrawn her own
nomination for the Court. She did this soon after submitting her revised
answers to the Judiciary Committee. The President also released a
statement, referring to the Senate's desire for private documents of the
White House--what would fall under attorney/client privilige. The Senate
needed them to make a decision; the White House needed to keep them
private to protect legal advice.

It makes for an honorable way out for all involved. In fact, I think
this follows Krauthammer's proposed script from last week--using the
privacy of these documents, combined with her faint paper trail outside of
these, to give a pretext.

Bush isn't going to be in a chipper mood right now, so I don't expect him to be bending over backward to make us happy immediately. But I think he'll still do the wise thing in the next pick, going for somebody with the experience and philosophy to do a good job on the Court and to stand up for the written Constitution.

Incidentally, I think that one thing that dramatically hurt Miers in the last few days was the revelation of her speech of a few years back, in which she defended judicial activism. She actually said that it was excused when the legislature doesn't do what some wish it would...well, then it's up to a judge to do it anyway. That's the kind of philosophy we're trying to eliminate on the courts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Fitzgerald's grand jury

For some reason, every time I see a blog refer to the Left's desire for Fitzgerald to issue indictments against Rove or Libby as "Fitzmas," I keep thinking of "Festivus" from Seinfeld.


So can the Telegraph get a refund?

Austin Bay covers the latest on George Galloway.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The trouble with Wilson

Here's a surprising article from the Washington Post, describing the problems with Joseph Wilson in the Niger uranium case and the revelations of his wife's CIA employment. It addresses his misstating the facts, and his egocentric, publicity-hound attitude. Surprisingly, it's co-written by Dana Milbank, no friend of the Bush administration. I tend to take an article like this more seriously when it comes from an administration critic, because the reporter has no interest in simply trying to make Bush look good.

I still have (or had) some regard for Wilson, as a result of his work in sheltering people during the Persian Gulf War, but he's pretty much blown it with me for his arrogance and lying or deception in all of this recent mess. What a blowhard.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Object lesson on why the ICJ would be a Bad Thing:

This article is Exhibit A. A judge in Spain has issued an "international arrest warrant" for three American soldiers. This comes from the incident in the Iraqi War (April 8, 2003) in which an American tank in Baghdad, thinking it was under fire, shot at a building that turned out to be the Palestine Hotel, where many reporters were staying. Three reporters were killed, including one Spaniard.

I think I saw this live on Fox News. I remember a rooftop camera watching one of our tanks moving through the city. The reporter narrating was saying something like, "Hey, here's one of our tanks--let's watch..." Eventually, you saw its gun barrel turn towards the camera (here I remember thinking, "You idiot cameraman! Get out of the way, stupid!"), but the cameraman didn't leave that spot. The tank fired, and there was a lot of shaking of the camera. I don't think the picture went blank, but rather it fell. The shell hit below the roof, as I remember.

The US Army wisely did not press charges against the soldiers. It said the use of force was warranted in that situation, where they thought they were under fire from the building. The Spanish judge, frustrated by what he calls a lack of judicial cooperation from the United States (No, really?! And thank goodness for it!) has decided to reach outside his country's jurisdiction and move on his own.

I'm sorry the reporters were killed. But it was an accident. It was in the enemy capital...during a shooting war. Does that mean nothing to these people? Can you imagine the reaction if this happened during World War II? A reporter sitting around in his hotel in Berlin in 1945, and is killed by a bomb or tank shell... Can you possibly imagine any judge outside the Axis countries issuing an arrest warrant for the men who fired the shot? Stupidity.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Red Light cameras causing D.C. crashes?

That's what I'm left wondering, after reading this article in the Washington Post.:

The number of District intersections deemed particularly dangerous by traffic engineers nearly doubled last year, a new study shows.

The city-funded analysis found that 330 intersections had at least 10 crashes, up from 176 in 2003.

Now, the article does not suggest that red-light cameras are to blame. And surprisingly, they don't even mention these cameras, except to say that

[D.C. police Inspector Patrick] Burke and other police officials have been strong advocates for red-light cameras and photo-radar devices, which take pictures of violators. The devices have generated hundreds of thousands of tickets, which are mailed to motorists.

That's it. A number of people, including Instapundit (although I don't remember where his exact post is), have raised suspicions, backed up by some studies, that red-light cameras can actually contribute to crashes. People don't know how strict the camera timing is, so they hit their brakes too hard, and the next guy rear-ends them. Why doesn't the Post's article mention this possibility? This is a huge rise in crashes in a really short amount of time. What has changed over this time period? I don't have the exact dates, but these traffic cameras came in about 2003 or so. Food for thought...

New books

I bought a couple of new books over the weekend and have started on them. First is Richard Feynman's Tips on Physics: a problem-solving supplement to the Feynman Lectures on Physics. It's a bit expensive, at $40, but it looks worth it, for the insight into showing physics students how to tackle a problem. Problem-solving is a tricky skill to pick up. It's rarely taught, and is rather expected simply to be picked up through osmosis or trial-and-error in the long course of studying physics. Missing the forest for the trees is a common problem to students, and professors often contribute to the problem by not organizing their lectures well. I've been at both ends of this, and I frequently struggle to find a way to explain problem-solving to my students. I reckon I might as well learn from the master, himself. Incidentally, the lectures in this book were taped, as all of Feynman's Caltech freshman physics was. The ones in this book were presented at the end of the year, before the final exam.

The other book is Madison Smartt Bell's Lavoisier in the Year One. The title first intrigued me. I remembered Lavoisier from my high school chemistry class. He and England's Joseph Priestly can both claim credit for the discovery of oxygen and for establishing chemistry as a modern science. Lavoisier, of course, lived in France, where despite being deeply involved in society under the old regime, he was an advocate of the French Revolution. It is this period that the title alludes to. The revolutionary government saw itself as perfectly rational, logical, and based on reason, in contrast to the old form of society, which it saw as too quirky, naturalistic (in my description), superstitious (their attitude on religion), and loaded with historical baggage. Examples of this include the creation of the metric system, that cold, unfeeling, and inconveniently-sized system of units that is still trying to push out our English system, which I think of as culturally tied, made to human and other convenient scales, and filled with interesting, comfortable quirks. (Wouldn't Shakespeare sound so silly if Shylock had demanded his half-kilogram of flesh? And imagine the "Charge of the Light Brigade" in metric: "Point-nine kilometers, point-nine kilometers, point-nine kilometers onward, All in the Valley of Death rode the Six Hundred...")

Among the changes to metric was a push to "reform" the calendar, to strip it of any religious, naturalistic, and historical ties. The year was to have months of three weeks each, each week of ten days, each day of 10 hours, each hour of 10 minutes, and so on. The months would be renamed to eliminate their historical baggage (I don't remember what those names were to be, and I don't speak French, but I think one was to be called "fructidor"--something to do with when you harvest crops?). And the coup de grace, the years would be numbered from the first year of the Revolution.

Despite his work on the metric system and his advocacy of the revolution, Lavoisier eventually lost his head, executed in the Reign of Terror. Killed by the very system he'd promoted. It promises to be an interesting biography and a study in how hyper-"rationalism" can run rampant, ignoring the restraints imposed by religion and history, to forget humanity and turn bloody. Men are rarely able to be forced into "rational" systems.

The culture of celebrity

John Epstein has a well-thought-out article on the culture of celebrity in the Weekly Standard. Not just the usual air-headed actors that we think of as "celebrities," but "public intellectuals" and writers, too. The best part of the piece is, I think, on the second page--when he gets onto intellectuals, professors, and writers. He doesn't spare himself in this description, either, which speaks well of his own attitude.