Monday, December 14, 2009

What has just turned me in favor of global warming

Not in favor of believing it exists (which I already do, although I'm skeptical of details), but in favor of it happening. As in: I want more of it!

Take a look at this record of historical temperatures from ice core samples in Greenland and Antarctica and quake in fear. Good GRIEF we're lucky to be living in one of those warm, terribly-short interglacial periods! And from the Antarctic data, it looks like this is by far the loooongest interglacial in the 400,000 years recorded in that ice core.

Meaning: fear the coming ice age! Maybe we're meant to be producing extra CO_2 to prevent another ice age and save civilization itself.

A little Rumanian culture

Two items from Rumania today: news and music. A Rumanian friend told us about the pianist Florin Chilian, whose beautiful song "Zece" ("Ten") I've linked to. And for keeping up with the news, there's the foreign broadcast of Rumania's public television network, TVRi, which functions a bit like the BBC World Service. It broadcasts online for expatriate Rumanians, and I just noticed the news ticker at the bottom of the screen has one line in English. Huh.

Amazing libraries

Oddee compiles a picture tour of the 20 most amazing libraries around the world. Fascinating to look through. I'm most intrigued by the private library of Jay Walker, described in much more detail in this Wired article from last year. I've got a friend with an extensive private library in his apartment--something as large as many high school libraries, in fact--but it's still got nothing on this one, which is full of artifacts as well as books.

So are the Brits trying to make a detour around Prince Charles?

I shouldn't be able to care less, but I have some reluctant interest in how succession works in monarchies. In the early days, succession wasn't a matter purely of inheritance, and you could have several competing claims to the throne. This often resulted in battles and hacking and poisonings and the Norman invasion and such, so eventually, the British and other monarchies started clearer rules for inheriting the title. Less bloodshed that way, but the problem arose that the people who are born in the line of succession are not necessarily born with the talents for ruling. Ahh, the problems inherent in a system of inherited privilege. Aristocracy..."rule by the best" my foot.

In the modern day, the monarch in Western countries does a whole lot of nothing but can be fairly said to be a rallying personality for the nation in times of crisis, at least until the whole Princess Diana mess came about, and the famous British stiff upper lip turned into weepy, pouty, maudlin nonsense. Anyway, you still get the problems from time to time that the next in line for the throne will be a nut and therefore, at the least, an embarrassment. So it is, apparently, with Prince Charles, and therefore we are seeing hints that the royal family is finding ways around him.

I'm a little disappointed, to tell you the truth. I think a King Charles III would provide great entertainment for a long time, not the least to us foreigners.

Climategate: roundup of the deeper analysis of "Mike's Nature Trick"

There have been a few really excellent articles lately that probe "Mike's Nature trick" in good depth.

Anthony Watts has cross-posted this article from The American Thinker, which is the best one I have found for understanding just what "Mike's Nature trick" really is. We've been wondering if there was any outright manipulation of the data to reach a predetermined conclusion, and I believe Marc Sheppard has found the smoking gun. Briefly: in the IPCC reports, when they've shown the so-called "hockey stick" plots (a thousand years of nearly-constant temperatures, followed by a sharp rise in the 20th century), they've had several data sets to use for reconstructing the historical temperatures. One of those is from tree rings. Thermometer records aren't consistently applied until about the 20th century, so we can't compare them with the tree rings or other "proxy" measurements except in the 20th century. But the tree ring data show a decline in temperatures from about 1940 (and a steeper decline after ~1960) to now, while the thermometer records go sharply upwards in the late-20th century. The discrepancy is a little embarrassing. So what do you do, if you're trying to convince people that this is all settled science? In order to "hide the decline," you either don't plot the tree ring data after 1960, or you simply fake it to make it match the thermometer records.

The UK's Daily Mail provides a good summary of the foregoing article, along with some context. The American Thinker piece is more technical, and the Daily Mail's might make a good introduction to it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Global Warming e-mails hacked: a roundup

In the area of politically-sensitive science, the big news this weekend has clearly been the hacking of e-mails from East Anglia University's (UK) Climate Research Unit (CRU). About a decade's worth of e-mails were posted online by the hackers, including e-mails from some of the world's most prominent promoters of the idea of manmade global warming (anthropogenic global warming, or AGW). These men are not only very prominent supporters of this idea, but their data and analyses form the core of much of the understanding of global warming. They're also at the center of the problem with calibrating tree ring measurements to temperature, which erupted a couple of months ago.

The e-mails show some reprehensible behavior for scientists to be caught in: exchanging information about papers they're refereeing, trying to bully a journal's editor, covering up inconvenient data (how to hide a dip in temperatures), and worst--deleting e-mails requested under Britain's Freedom of Information Act.

I'll surely talk more about this later, but for now I want to post a roundup of the major blog posts about this. In no particular order...

Pajamas Media's Charlie Martin
Belmont Club/Pajamas Media's Richard Fernandez
Ace of Spades part 1
Ace of Spades part 2
Andrew Bolt (Australia)
Tim Blair (Australia) part 1
Tim Blair, again
Tim Blair, part the umpteenth (now with swag!) (No, seriously--you can buy your "Hide the decline" T-shirt here!)
Hot Air's Ed Morrissey
Jules Crittenden
Pajamas Media's Charlie Martin (with a detailed list of the interesting e-mails)
Pajamas Media's Ed Driscoll
Ann Althouse on the Washington Post's coverage (it's not bad)--plus, a Thomas a Becket reference!
Roger Pielke
Aaaaand the Washington Post.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I've got two words for you: IN! SANE!

That's my reaction to reading about this new regulation on the sale OR ACQUISITION of any unlabeled wood or wooden products.

This is so incredibly broad, it seems that being given (note--not just buying, but even acquisition!) a toothpick could subject you to prosecution, if that toothpick does not carry a label as to the genus and species of wood it's made from. Or paper--the regulation even lists paper explicitly. Furthermore, even if they decide not to prosecute you, they can still confiscate the materials.

Un. Be. Lieveable!

Friday, November 06, 2009

One more on Honduras...

Again, from Commentary's "Contentions" blog.

Commentary on the Honduras deal

Jennifer Rubin discusses the deal on their blog. She thinks the State Department realized they were out on a limb with the ridiculous threat not to recognize this month's presidential elections, and this is their way of stepping back from the edge.

A Victory for Honduras?

The other day, I had been disappointed to read that Honduras had been bullied into accepting a US plan to reinstate Zelaya, contrary to their constitution. But now the practical meaning of this deal is getting worked out, and it doesn't seem too bad. Apparently, the US has taken back its threat not to recognize the Nov. 23 presidential elections, even if Zelaya is not back in power. That was the biggest stick in our arsenal, because Honduras might have been able to weather a few months of sanctions, as long as it could expect a return to normal conditions once the new president was inaugurated.

A threat of apparently endless sanctions was a shocking one and ridiculously reasoned. Now the US has apparently backtracked, and while we still say "Zelaya should be returned to power," we're only going to require that Honduras vote on whether to accept him back. Well, didn't their congress & supreme court do that to begin with? No matter. The outcome will be similar this time, and it will allow them to be welcomed back into our good graces.

The only justification for our sanctions I could find anywhere was one analysis that said the Organization of American States has an item in its charter that says no [democratically elected?] leader can be deposed without a trial. Since the Honduran constitution doesn't have a mechanism for impeachment, there was a conflict between their constitution's rules and the OAS'. Since this certainly wasn't an antidemocratic military coup (which the OAS rule is designed to prevent), the rest of us should have looked at this as a mere technical violation and suspended any enforcement of it. Instead, we acted as if the OAS rule was the more fundamental one and tried to make them violate their own constitution.

Well, I say that, but I think the Obama administration's actions can't be laid at the feet of a stubborn commitment to OAS rules and procedures. [giggle! snort!] Zelaya is an emerging leftist, and I'm worried they liked him and his policies enough to see any action against him as a threat.

Anyway, Zelaya has realized the implications of the new deal and understands this won't force Honduras to reinstate him at all. Let's hope not.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Artificial Black Hole in a Lab

No, not that kind of black hole, but something that simulates its effects on microwaves. They've been working on making acoustic analogues of black holes lately, but this is one that works with microwave beams. Interesting.

Magnetic Monopoles discovered! ...well, in crystal structure, anyway.

Via Instapundit: Still, pretty exciting, because of the applications you might be able to do. Step one: Magnetic currents.

Should the US finally drop our push for Turkey in the EU?

Reading this article, I'm wondering if we've finally lost Turkey altogether. If so, the only things tying it to the West are its membership in NATO and its desire to join the EU. We ought to use these as leverage to restrain Turkey's anti-Western and anti-Israeli actions.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Nobel Peace Prize: Obama gets an "A" for effort.

The Mrs. just put it this way. Perfect!

Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me!

Obama just won the Nobel Peace Prize.

For what, exactly?! Teddy Roosevelt is the only other sitting President to earn a Nobel Peace Prize, to my knowledge, and Roosevelt thought it would be wrong to accept it while in office, so he waited four years to go and actually pick it up. What did Roosevelt do to earn it? He brokered the end of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905.

What did Obama do to earn it? He, um... Well, Iran has promised Or Russia! They're no longer threatening, no they're not. Wait, something will come to me...

UPDATE: He's the third sitting President to win the prize (I almost mistakenly wrote "earn"). Wilson won it in 1919.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The President's address to schoolchildren

I keep seeing this described in the press as an address to "all" public school children. But since the Federal Government can't actually require any school to put this program on, I hope that "all" simply expresses their hope as to who will tune in.

I've read through the Ed. Department's teacher's guide for the address several times (this is the pre-K through 6th grade guide) and am left wondering what this speech will cover. There's a lot about what the President will ask the kids to do and how the kids can help the President.

Maybe it's innocuous: "study hard and go to school." Typical for modern presidents, where our view of his role, sadly, has degenerated into a lot of this sort of thing. But harmless and actually a bit of good for the kids.

But I wonder whether or not this will be where Obama makes his push for community service, which his campaign had said he'd require of all students. The Mrs., who grew up in Communist Eastern Europe, rolled her eyes and said that was what they had to do every school year--two weeks of working out in the fields. You weren't actually required to do that, interestingly enough. You'd just have to repeat the school year if you opted out, that's all...

There's also the problematic phrasing in this teacher's guide:
"Why is it important that we listen to the President and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress, or the governor? Why is what they say important?" is not important to listen to any of them! It is important for them to listen to us. We have absolutely no obligation, under any interpretation of our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, other founding documents, writings of the Founding Fathers, or of the whole premise of our system of government, to "listen to" our elected officials (or bureaucrats, for that matter). Our system is predicated on their listening to us, and there is not the converse idea of our needing to listen to them.

We are not wards of the state. We are free men. Our President needs to listen to us, and we go about our lives without needing him to tell us to do things for him. Now, again, if he's just going to tell the kids to study hard, that's fine. It's the advice of any adult to a child. But he gets no special consideration by being President, and he needs to remember that.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Ted Kennedy's Soviet Gambit, again

Commentary by Investor's Business Daily here. They bring up the 1799 Logan Act and ask if Kennedy violated it, even though the Soviets didn't take up his offer of help.

I'm still amazed this man wasn't drummed out of office for his behavior.

Left-wing astroturfing for town hall meetings

Caught on tape. A "Health Care for America Now" guy tells people how to drown out opposing questions and block the camera's view with signs.

Obama's arm-twisting on Honduras

O'Grady investigates the lengths to which our administration will go in pressuring Honduras to take back their would-be dictator.

One thing I'm curious about: Honduras has presidential elections coming up this November. Once they elect and inaugurate a new president, will our sanctions and threats against them cease? If any of these measures last a day past the beginning of their new administration, I'll have to believe it is purely punishment for having ousted a favored leftist. I think it is, anyway, but there won't be any pretext for maintaining these sanctions after the next Honduran administration takes office. Let's see how that goes...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blood for oil: Libyan edition

"The British government decided it was 'in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom' to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal."

These letters were sent two years ago by minister Jack Straw to Kenny MacAskill, the man who made the decision this month to release the bomber. Originally, Straw opposed including the bomber in a prisoner-exchange deal (letting Libyan and British prisoners serve out their time in their home countries). But... "Straw then switched his position as Libya used its deal with BP as a bargaining chip to insist the Lockerbie bomber was included."


Fireballs seen in the sky

Article about lights and sounds observed in the sky last week. I got a call from this reporter, asking what it might have been. No major meteor showers going on, he noted. Probably space debris, and I had a student see these the same night.

So does US Space Command have a public information number?

Ted Kennedy's Soviet Gambit

Article here. This is astonishing. A Soviet memorandum from 1983 documents how Ted Kennedy tried to make a deal with the Russians to undermine Reagan's foreign policy and give the Soviets the advantage in nuclear negotiations...and to help Kennedy run for president.

It's a tribute to our free and open system that this man was still walking around free, despite having done this.

Is the Lockerbie bomber really dying?

Real questions come up, noted here. The idea that his release was part of a deal to get the Libyans to make an oil deal with Britain is getting some documentary evidence now. I'll link to that story when I find it again.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The idiots at State

Cowards. Idiots. Weasels. Unwilling to stand up to real tyrants but bullying democratic countries committed to the rule of law. This administration is turning hard Left in its foreign policy. (%*(!!

America has no Caudillo

I think I'm using that word correctly. Anyway, Foud Ajami at JHU puts Obama's failure to rule by personality into context very nicely here.

Thousandth post!

OK, something more substantial in the next one, but I couldn't let this go by when I saw Blogger note that I had 999 posts.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

LIGO rules out long-wavelength gravitational waves

Story summarized on Slashdot here.


"The federal government does not have the power to regulate Americans simply because they are there." Finally! I'm seeing somebody with real knowledge of the Constitution write what I've believed for a long time. Why am I not seeing more conservatives make these points?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The self-refutation of postmodernism

Mark Baulerlein takes down Stanley Fish's (old) defense of Social Text in the 1996 Sokal hoax. Fish essentially says that those post-modernists were taken in by Sokal's hoax because they relied on his credentials and didn't evaluate the truth of his paper's claims.

Surprisingly, he means that as a defense.

Goldberg on the hidden costs of "Cash for Clunkers"

Article here. He starts with Bastiat's "Parable of the Broken Window," of which this is a wonderful example. I was explaining this to our older daughter the other day, and she picked up on the reasoning very quickly.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Damn Yankee watch

A longer excerpt of that Voinovich quotation:

"We got too many Jim DeMints (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburns (R-Ok.). It's the southerners. They get on TV and go 'errrr, errrrr.' People hear them and say, 'These people, they're southerners. The party's being taken over by southerners. What they hell they got to do with Ohio?'," Voinovich said.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rule by Technocrats

Convergences (a blog I'm not familiar with, aside from this article) tackles the issue, "Can Science Rule Society?" Some interesting discussion, but I find it hard to identify the author's point, if there is one. There's a lot of on-this-hand/on-the-other-hand, without coming to a clear conclusion. But I think the author is wary of rule by scientists.

If that's the point, I agree, although perhaps for other reasons. Science and scientists (I am one, after all) can identify processes and facts and so on that relate to practical issues before the government. But the question of policy--of what we should do about it, if anything--is not a scientific question. It's a political one.

Let's take global warming. Is there global warming? If there is, is it man-made? If there is, and we wanted to stop or reverse it, what techniques would work? These are entirely scientific questions.

If there is, should we stop/reverse it? That's not scientific. A scientist can give the consequences for different policies, but science cannot tell us which policy (if any) to take. Science itself is morally neutral. Man's well-being, morality, and ethics are not scientifically determined. These can come from common sense (in easy cases), from political ideals, and most fundamentally from established religious and moral systems.

The article misses some of this, for instance with sex education. It declares abstinence-only education a failure (I'm not familiar with studies; it's not much of an interest of mine) and denigrates the idea, saying the issue is well-suited for rule-by-scientists. But pregnancy and STD infection rates aren't the whole issue. The morality of the actions are also important, and that's something entirely missed by looking at statistics. Should sex-ed be resigned to or even encouraging of sexual behavior by kids? A scientific approach misses this whole question.

Heck, let's take it up a notch to eugenics. There was a great job of rule by science! Scientific principles were driving the whole scheme. But should it have been done at all? Ahh, you see, that wasn't a scientific question, and the immorality of the program was dismissed by those Progressives who pushed for a scientific government.

Policy can or should be informed by research (depending on what we're talking about), but the decision of what to do cannot often be a scientific one.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

US Revokes visas for Honduran diplomats

Story here.

I don't get this. I mean, I'm eager to hear the reasoning for the other side, but I just don't hear any justification that isn't patently superficial and brief. I really thought we wouldn't go this far against Honduras. This is the option they were left with, given that they don't have the impeachment process in their country (which would be a good thing to add, really). There's not been a military takeover, and the democratically-elected government remains as it was, minus the former president. Honestly--why are we doing this?!

...but don't question his patriotism!

Bill Maher on whether Sarah Palin has a political future: "You never know with this stupid country."

I actually thought Obama's election would make liberals more "patriotic," in a sunshine-patriot's sort of way. Interesting that it hasn't been true for Maher, anyway.

Damn Yankee watch

Next exhibit: Sen. George Voinovich, "Republican" of the damnyankee state of Ohio.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In which I engage Lunar Landing Conspiracy Theorists

Probably a mistake, but here are my two replies to commenters regarding Whoopie Goldberg's lunar landing denialism:

Post one.
Post two.

Monday, July 20, 2009

ATF says Tennessee's Firearms Freedom Act has no force in law

Story here. Nice. I hope this really picks a fight. Instapundit says the ATF is on solid legal grounds but that it won't play well.

I know the past 70 years of Federal behavior has been to ignore Washington's limitation to regulating only interstate commerce, so Glenn might be talking about precedent, but I've still got to think the state is the one on solid legal ground by both the meaning and letter of the Constitution. It defends Tennessee's intrastate firearms from Federal regulation.

I say, bring back nullification!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Abolish the Foreign Service?

See Powerline for the letter. The former Chief of Staff to the Counselor to the Secretary of State (say that three times fast!) writes to defend Obama for not appointing more Foreign Service Officers to ambassadorships.

I've got family and family of family and friends of family who are career FSOs, and I have an admiration for what they've done, but I've also gotten the same impression this correspondent does about many or most FSOs. The problem of going native seems to be a really big one, and I'm grateful it didn't happen with my relatives.

I didn't know about the Foreign Service being modeled on Bismark's F.S. Interesting.

Honduras: Zelaya's hints of force against the congress

Mary Anastasia O'Grady reports in the Wall Street Journal. He'd used thuggish tactics earlier this year in fights with the congress for things outside presidential powers. Not surprising, and perfectly in keeping with his being a Chavista.

Conrad Black has an article on Honduras in National Review. One thing that surprised me in this, if I understand correctly, is that Honduras doesn't have provision for impeachment of its president. Huh.

Oh, H*** No!

Commenting on the theme by Neal Peirce in my previous post, George Mason's Bob Nelson manages to forget an explicit Constitutional protection in this post: "Is the U.S. Senate Obsolete?".

As far as I can tell, he's annoyed that small-population, rural states get the same representation in the U.S. Senate as, say California and other overgrown states. I appreciate that the Federal government has wildly overstepped its Constitutional powers all across the board, but it's not only the Senate's fault, and that's the one place we small states can defend ourselves from the bullying of big states.

That's why the Constitution has a single provision which can never be amended away: the equal representation of states in the Senate.

Should we get rid of that? Insert my post title here.

UPDATE: Of course, I'm asking rhetorically. It's not even possible to get rid of that!

Arrogant City Slicker Watch

Exhibit A. Neal Peirce, of the Washington Post Writers Group. He asks, "Are States Obsolete?" and shows a profound ignorance of the governmental origins of the United States. He seems to think (this appears to lie behind his thinking--it's not stated explicitly) that the Federal government created the states (the original 13 as well as the rest), and thus that the borders are arbitrary subdivisions of a single government. Recall, of course, that the thirteen sovereign states (countries) after the Revolution created the Federal government between them. They're pre-existent and are Constitutionally the default loci of sovereign power. Only those powers the states have voluntarily ceded to the Federal government can be exercised by it.

Beyond that, he writes, states' problems arise from the excessive influence of rural lawmakers in their general assemblies. Oh, if only we could have a heavier hand of the urbanites at work in our capitals!

Ugh! I'd place this also in my Damn Yankee file, but I don't know for sure if he is or not. Ignorant city slicker, for sure.

Read the Citystates Group website's mission, posted here:

Our mission… to reflect a new American narrative. From a 20th century of cheap energy, endless automobility, burgeoning suburbs, threatened cities. To a challenge-packed 21st century: fast-rising energy costs, perilous carbon emissions, deepening have-have not divisions. But a time of exciting promise, too: rejuvenated cities, new citistate-wide consciousness, more protected lands, the most urban rail starts in a century.’s quest: to chronicle struggles, illuminate pathways to more vibrant, equitable, sustainable choices for grassroots America and citistates worldwide.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Honduras: Republicans vs. Democrats

Story here. I'd feel better if there were some Democrats on our side on this. So far, I haven't seen any substantive defense of Zelaya, and I'd really like to read one.

A relative sort of sympathized with my opinion but said the rest of the Honduran government had made bad PR moves. Well, I agree, but that doesn't justify our government's response.

Of all people, our State Department's job ought to involve digging beneath the superficial appearances (="looks like a military coup") and find out what was actually going on (say, read those sections of the Honduran constitution their government cited).


Honduras: Chavez calls up the State Department

Story here. Best line, delivered with (I believe) a totally straight face: "I believe at various times the Venezuelan government has been supportive of a process that would lead to President Zelaya's return."

Ya think?!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Francis Collins to head NIH

But according to the New York Times, "Pick to Lead Health Agency Draws Praise and Some Concern." Well, how even-handed of them. There are two basic objections to Dr. Collins. The first is his very public embrace of religion.

Those two sentences have an eerie sound to them.

Miguel Estrada: the Honduran "coup" was constitutionally required

Read it here.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A little more on Honduras

From Reuters, which kind of takes the pro-Zelaya line as a given. But it's clear in reporting how Chavez has been acting in this situation, both in public and behind the scenes. Maybe we should be more worried that he's taking a less-public role all of a sudden. It might mean he's got devious plans going on.

In related news, Hillary Clinton has given an interview with the last free television station in Venezuela. She doesn't come out and condemn Chavez but has some subtle criticisms. I wonder if that will accomplish anything or hearten anybody in that country. At least Globovision is happy she talked to them.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Roundup on Honduras

Some of these are a few days old, but I want to archive the links here so I don't have to keep the browser tabs open:
The DC Examiner

Open Market

Donald Sensing

Donald Sensing, again

Lightning on Mars

They've detected lightning on Mars caused by dust storms. Pretty neat.

One of the rare things that will make me visit my Senator

Let me introduce you to Section 304 of the "Cap and Trade" bill (Waxman-Markey).

This will be the law that forces you to make your home much, much more energy efficient. Wait--did you think you owned your house? That how you lived in it was your business? That the kinds of appliances and the windows and the furnace and whatnot were all matters for you, a free man, to decide?

Hah, hah, hah...silly person! No, you, my friend, are a ward of the state and unable to live your own life. Here, let us decide these things for you.

What the heck?!

As far as I can tell from this story, a private pool in Philadelphia just kicked out a day camp that had its black children swimming there (which it had permission to do). The club even seems to have given this as the reason.

Outrageous. Hopefully there's another explanation, but this is really surprising.

Using distributed computer processing to work out primordial life

Interesting article from on using distributed computing (like SETI@home and Einstein@home) applied to biology. The idea is to simulate the conditions and constituents of Earth's early oceans and see if you can get simple cells evolving from pre-biotic material.

The headline is entirely wrong, though: there's no toy model of the "universe" being simulated, but rather a toy model of an ocean. But to the writer's credit, the head of the project did use just that phrase, himself.

It's a really interesting project. As the designer notes, though, chemical reactions run faster than the computers can simulate them at the moment. So the simulation would run more slowly than a real-lab experiment. On the other hand, you've got the ability to control details in a way that you don't in a lab, and some day, the processors will be much faster.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Univ. Chicago to allow mixed-sex dorm roomates

What could possibly go wrong?

Update on Honduras

Good summary of the events so far in Honduras. It seems that two pro-Zelaya protestors were killed in clashes at the airport yesterday. Those police have got to restrain themselves: they're on a thread as far as foreign opinion goes, and maintaining a light hand on the population is necessary to hold on to any chance of legitimacy in the eyes of other governments.

Of course, I can't understand why the rest of the world, America first and foremost, has sided with Zelaya, who was trying to make himself into a strongman. It seems so clear that the Honduran government is in the right on this--that they followed the law and preserved their constitution--that I'm eager to find any reason we have for taking Zelaya's side. If I could try to see it from the State Department's point of view, I could at least analyze what their reasoning is. But no matter how much I read, the only thing I can come up with is that it was the army that carried out the orders to depose Zelaya. That's it. And so, in the State Department's phrase book, this has become a "military coup," despite the fact that the entire rest of the government (except the executive branch) acted together, and the army simply carried out a warrant from the supreme court.

The army is not in command of the government. Zelaya was the president, not "the government," in the odd wording of our administration (saying Zelaya "is" the government we recognize), and the entire rest of the government remains intact. I really, really, really don't get this. As Mary Anastasia O'Grady (who has the coolest name, by the way) writes in the Wall Street Journal, "Reason has gone AWOL in places like Turtle Bay and Foggy Bottom."

Code among Jefferson's papers solved

It's not a code Thomas Jefferson created (and he did make some), but rather one a friend sent to him in a letter. It's lain unsolved from 1801 until now. Robert Patterson, math professor at U. Penn and a friend of Jefferson's, sent it to him as a challenge, while they were discussing code and cipher techniques. Jefferson didn't solve it and was clearly impressed.

Now another mathematician, Dr. Lawren Smithline of the Institute for Defense Analyses, has cracked the code. Check out the WSJ article on the story for the details of how Patterson enciphered his message. Really impressive. And you'll enjoy Patterson's humor in what the message actually says.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Octavio Sanchez on why it wasn't a "coup" in Honduras

Octavio Sanchez, a lawyer and former Honduran government official, explains the Honduran constitution to the rest of us and points out why the congress didn't just impeach Zelaya:

According to Article 239: "No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform [emphasis added], as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years."

Notice that the article speaks about intent and that it also says "immediately" – as in "instant," as in "no trial required," as in "no impeachment needed."


He was detained and taken to Costa Rica. Why? Congress needed time to convene and remove him from office. With him inside the country that would have been impossible. This decision was taken by the 123 (of the 128) members of Congress present that day.

The actions taken in Honduras last week make sense in the light of this explanation. I wondered at first (just to play devil's advocate) whether his statement "of the 128 members of Congress present that day" left any room for force used to keep some pro-Zelaya legislators away, but no: The Honduran congress has 128 members. So 123 congressmen voted on this.

The provision of several unchangeable parts of the constitution is interesting. I think ours only has one--that no amendment could reduce the number of senators a state has. But what's more interesting is the enforcement for this is just about self-acting. It did require the Supreme Court to issue a writ to enforce it, but the result is one with no provision for a trial: if a president suggests amending the constitution to allow himself to stay in office, he's out immediately!

The reasoning for the exile makes sense, although I don't know if it was necessary. But then, I'm not a Honduran. I imagine they can run their government on their own terms.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Obama Doctrine

Joshua Muravchik has a masterful article at the Wall Street Journal analyzing the Obama Doctrine in foreign policy, such that there is. It's an eye-opener. Obama and his administration are apparently downplaying the promotion of democracy and, to some extent, human rights. These are at the expense of laudable (but, in my mind, secondary) issues that promote a livable, civil society, once you've actually got liberty and democracy.

What was surprising was to see the quotations in which Obama or Sec. State Clinton actually denigrate or minimize democracy. It's long, but check out the whole thing.


Rush Limbaugh is talking about the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill the House passed last week. He has said that hidden within it is a nationwide home energy-efficiency standard for new buildings. One, that's unconstitutional. The Federal government can't legislate how you build your house, although your state can. Second, according to Rush, it is based on California's standards. That's to be expected, but those must be pretty stringent, considering the state's politics. That's an "ouch" in practical terms. Third, and here's where I want to check that Rush has his information straight, he thinks it would regulate the sale of inefficient homes in some way. Specifically, he said it would prohibit their sale, unless you upgraded the efficiency, although he said it was how he understood it, so he's not quite as sure as on the previous points.

What?! That's going to really, really come down hard. If this is true, I'm fighting it.

More on Honduras vs. Iran

Hillary Clinton, speaking about the Iranian elections:

Obviously, they have a huge credibility gap with their own people as to the election process...And I don't think that's going to disappear by any finding of a limited review of a relatively-small number of ballots. But clearly, these internal matters are for Iranians themselves to address. And we hope that they will be given the opportunity to do so in a peaceful way that respects the right of expression. And it has been my position and that of our administration that we support the fundamental values of peoples' voices being heard, their votes being counted. And we'll have to see how this unfolds.

(Emphasis mine)

Compare with her statements on Honduras' kicking out of its president--a process done through constitutional channels, and intended to stop him from becoming a strong-man:

The action taken against Honduran President Mel Zelaya violates the precepts of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and thus should be condemned by all. We call on all parties in Honduras to respect the constitutional order and the rule of law, to reaffirm their democratic vocation, and to commit themselves to resolve political disputes peacefully and through dialogue. Honduras must embrace the very principles of democracy we reaffirmed at the OAS meeting it hosted less than one month ago.

(Emphasis mine)

Notice a difference in tone between how our administration treats an oppressive, anti-American, terrorist-supporting, vote-rigging (we believe) theocracy on the one hand, and a democracy that's going through legal means to preserve its democracy, on the other? Hmph.

The idea of political class privilege

If constituents threaten to vote against their representative because of that representative's votes in the legislature, that's "terrorism" and shouldn't be allowed (or, if it's free speech, "it's extremely unfair").

Thus sayeth the Speaker of the California Assembly, Karen Bass. Wow, talk about your stereotype of a self-serving politician

Comparing Iran and Honduras

How does Obama treat these two situations? Legal Insurrection says, "We speak softly to our enemies, but use a big stick against our friends."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cap and Trade passes the House--but there's no correct copy of the bill!

This just makes me angry. Not only could the lawmakers voting on the awful cap-and-trade bill last night not possibly have read the whole document in the time given, but there is no complete copy of the bill in existence! The 300+ page additions (to the 1000+ page bill itself) that were slipped in at 3:00 AM Friday aren't even simple additions. They're instructions for revising the rest of the bill. Filled with things like,

"Page 15, beginning line 8, strike paragraph (11)..."

Absolutely spitting mad. That's what I am. Deceitful, good-for-nothing centralizers of power at the expense of liberty and the Constitution...and they can't even know what they're voting on....

UPDATE: I'm going to breathe more just to emit more CO2 for spite.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Evidence of ancient Martian lakes

The University of Colorado's Di Achille has announced the discovery of a dry lake shore on Mars, found with the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. "Shalbatana Lake," as they're calling it, was down in a deep valley and about the size and depth of Lake Champlain. Funny thing, though--this lake seems to have formed when Mars was already cold and dry. The warm, wet period astronomers have been establishing was already gone by this time. Interesting.

Friday, June 05, 2009

How to turn Congress into a rubber stamp

Propose that an independent advisory commission propose laws and have the Congress simply vote up-or-down on them. That's what the Obama administration wants Congress to do with some changes to Medicare. Have the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission write the bills and require Congress to vote on them as-is. Of course, even that wouldn't require Congress to approve; they could still vote them down. But it would put Congress on a footing more like the President's veto power.

It would be nice to see this discussed in terms of Fascist political theory--how do you organize government in that system? Where does the real power lie?

Lamar Alexander's proposal on GM ownership

Put the stock certificates in individual taxpayers' names. Interesting. Get it out of the hands of the government and back into private hands. It's certainly better than what's going on now, anyway.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Homosexual marriage vs. the kinship system

This is a thought-provoking article by Sam Schulman on how homosexual marriage would clash with the kinship system. This is not exactly where I come down on the issue; my objection is primarily moral and only secondarily social, while his is mostly social. And I am not entirely sure about the primacy of the kinship system, which he seems to place as the root justification for marriage. Nevertheless, my disagreements are essentially matters of degree, rather than of kind.

Schulman is a master writer and knows how to write a sophisticated and meaningful sentence, without being obscure. This whole article is a joy to read, and on substance, he raises issues I hadn't thought about. It could easily be an article for First Things. I'm going to keep an eye out for his essays in the future.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Did Obama's team make Chrysler shut dealerships of GOP donors?

Lots of blogging being done about this. The dealers who've been closed are overwhelmingly GOP donors.

But one basic statistic that must be found is the percentage of GOP donors among the dealers remaining open. For instance, what if Chrysler car dealers in general tend to be GOP donors? Then having a high percentage of Republicans among those that are closed would be what we'd expect, all other things being equal.

If, on the other hand, the dealers that remain open show a significantly lower percentage of GOP donors, then we ought to start being suspicious. Even at that point, there might be non-political reasons for the discrepancy. Perhaps there's a correlation between dealers that perform poorly and dealers that donate to the GOP. The neighborhoods could have a different economy that affects both, for instance. Though if that were the case, then it would make a nice retort to the "rich Republican" stereotype.

Anyway, thus far, I haven't seen anyone do a look at the control sample, and we ought to withhold judgement until then.

Monday, May 25, 2009

North Koreans apparently conduct nuclear test

To quote Gomer Pyle, Surprise, surprise, surprise! Actually, the surprise for me is that Russia has called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting.

Damn Yankees

Trying to break the tradition of Presidents sending wreathes to the Confederate memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. It's a tradition I was unaware of, although as a member of the D.C. camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I have taken part in several activities there. I just don't remember a wreath from the President. Southern Senators, Congressmen, etc., yes.

Interesting that they say President Bush changed the tradition from sending the wreath on Jefferson Davis' birthday to (Yankee) Memorial Day. Yankee Memorial Day is different from Confederate Memorial Day. Offhand, I don't recall the exact dates, but I think Confederate Memorial Day as we celebrated it there was on Davis' birthday. We don't have any services on Yankee Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

British Parliament scandal: a sentence I wouldn't see in the American version

The British Parliament is going through an expense-account scandal this week. Members of Parliament have been claiming all kinds of things as reimbursable expenses (especially house-related items) , and the public is getting absolutely outraged. Some MP's are claiming that these are within the rules, but if so, the rules themselves are a scandal. Sounds like the House banking scandal back about '92 that helped usher in the Republican majority.

But here's one sentence that I wouldn't expect to find in an American version: "Mr Hogg was forced to stand down by David Cameron, the party leader, after it emerged that he had 'claimed' for the cost of having his moat cleaned because it was listed on the bills for his estate."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I wish...

that Turner Classic Movies wouldn't ruin the channel with this disgusting pandering to ethnic grievances. They're running grossly heavy-handed interviews with hispanic actors about hispanics in film. It's non-stop whining and complaining about the roles hispanics get or got in movies. Please, please, PLEASE stop! Come on--you've got a respectable reputation, but you're ruining your image. Plus, it's just cringe-inducing to watch. Yeugh.

...and they're away!

Congratulations and deep thanks to the STS-125 crew for such a great mission.

Atlantis is "go" for release!

Hubble release in 15 minutes

The astronauts are preparing to release the Hubble Space Telescope in just 15 minutes! As I see the screens now, they've got it detached from the docking ring and are holding it with the Canada Arm.

All has gone well in this final servicing mission, and we can only pray our telescope holds up for several more years.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Good line from the space walk

"I'm ready for a hot shower and a good meal."

--John Grunsfeld, on finishing up his EVA for today.

(The other astronaut laughed and replied, "We'll...uh...see what we can do.") Actually, they do have halfway decent facilities on board, and the food's improved a lot since the '60s. No more freeze-dried meals.

Hubble Servicing Mission 4

I'm watching John Grunsfeld (whom I've met a few times) do some repair work on the Hubble right now. It's funny how an ordinary thing like operating an electric screwdriver can become so exciting when you see it done in space.

I was sad to have the camera I used for my grad school work (WFPC2) finally be removed after 15 years of service. I feel like holding a memorial service for it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Egypt's pig cull

Unsurprisingly, it's exacerbating religious tensions. The oppressed minority Coptic Christians are the only ones raising pigs, of course. So even if Egypt's Moslems weren't intending to take an anti-Christian measure, it has been felt that way. Of course, there's no reason to cull pigs anywhere because of the swine flu--it's already made the jump to people, and the person-to-person transmission is what is causing the problem now.

I'm not sure about the reporter's description of relations between Christians and Moslems in Egypt as "usually harmonious." Actually, that may be true, but there's a lot of tension there, and it doesn't take too much to make strife bubble up.


Solid Rocket Boosters have separated successfully


T-2 minutes

Watching the last shuttle mission to the Hubble

T-7 minutes and counting! I can't wait to see the new instruments (COS and WFC3) installed. My old camera, WFPC2, is being retired, though...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Fiscal discipline? Riiiight.

So spendthrift California, having gotten themselves into a nice mess with their budget, actually decides to do something that might help, namely cut some salaries. And the Obama administration tells the state to raise those salaries back or lose its "stimulus" package. Would you be surprised to find out that the employees (home healthcare workers) were in a union? Would you be shocked to learn they were in the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)? Would you be aghast to be reminded that SEIU was a really, really influential group with Obama's campaign?

Nah, didn't think so.

P.S: The blatant loss of any pretense of principle is really what gets me, though. Telling a nearly-bankrupt state to spend more, or else?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Best line on Arlen Specter

Mark Hemingway at NRO's Corner:

I read that he was switching parties, but I was disappointed to learn he's still a Democrat.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Roots of Italian Fascism

An older (1980s) article; worth reading now that I've read Jonah Goldberg's book. It brings up the differences between fascism and naziism, which I'd never known before reading Liberal Fascism.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Protestors turn on CNN's hack reporter at the Chicago Tea Party

Wow. Very worth watching. I found myself wishing I'd been able to say that to her, myself.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Texas governor reminds everybody that secession is a right

Not saying any of us need to go this far, but it is a right, after all. Amen, brother!

Totalitarian architecture

Nazi design: Impressive and intimidating. They stripped out the decoration from classical architecture and scaled it up, massively. It does have the intended effect of making you feel the power of the state and its domination.

Soviet architecture was its cousin. Here one architect gives it a gothic twist. (I note his imitation of Monet's studies of Note Dame in varied lighting.)

Both of these have some connection to these other early 20th century designs from around the world. Not that I'd want to live in any places like these, but the Metropolis movie set was pretty impressive. Still, they all dwarfed the human scale. Man was essentially a cog in the machine in some of these visions.

Strange but interesting...

...musical scores and notation.

Some of it's just art, using musical notes for abstract decoration. But I'm more interested in those that are innovative uses of notation that actually mean something as music--Sylvano Bussotti's "Pour Clavier" (1961) or John Stead's "Play II" for harpsichord and synthesizer (although I'm not sure if it's really writing music). There's also "World Beat Music," which cleverly uses actual notation to draw a map of the world. Pretty neat, but I wonder if it actually sounds pretty. In college, we performed the world premier of a piece called "Pyramids." The conductor's score drew out a pyramid at one point. It didn't sound like much.

An amazing mechanical pocket calculator

The Curta pocket calculator, designed from within a German concentration camp, of all things. Absolutely amazing device, with about all the details you'd want, here. And yet, more here. And here's an online simulator.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The UN's blogger front on piracy

The "UN Dispatch" bloggers are such tools. Of course, that blog is funded at least in part by the UN Foundation, so what else would I expect?

Origins of modern liberalism

Fred Siegel writing in Telos about how modern liberalism evolved historically. Very scholarly; lots of things I wasn't familiar with, and Siegel seems to have a deep understanding of the evolution of political thought and movements.

Roundup of pirate discussion

Here's a set of links to various articles on the ongoing pirate problem. A lot of Americans were probably unaware of the extent of worldwide piracy until this past week, because this is apparently the first time in over two centuries (can that really be true?!) that pirates have attacked an American-flagged ship. But it's been a real danger for quite some time. I remember an old National Geographic article from about the 1950s on piracy in the South China Sea, and a decade ago, I first found out how bad the problem still was there, and that it was even coming back in the Caribbean.

So here are links to several articles I've read or planned to read recently:
Strategypage on why the pirates are immune from attack.

Fabius Maximus on why we don't hang pirates any more. I don't think I agree with his apparent stand (that we shouldn't treat piracy as a capital crime or as a problem beyond the normal criminal code), but he's worth reading.

The Weekly Standard's Seth Cropsey on why we need to hit the pirates' land bases.
Cropsey, again, on Obama and the pirate problem.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fairy-tale cottages in Los Angeles


The proper way to deal with pirates

Bret Stephens wrote about the legal issues for the Wall Street Journal last year. I'm coming to this from the "hang 'em" school of thought. Honestly: we absolutely should execute pirates, and only a tough and public campaign against them will make much headway against the current scourge.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

SCOTUS justices participate in Shakespearean mock trial

Twelfth Night goes judicial. I'm glad these guys get the chance to do a few things like this; I bet it was fun for them, too. The comment by Breyer is, perhaps, illuminating. Good retort by Alito.

Chinese & Russian spies probing our electricity grid

Well, I'm glad these are being caught. Of course, we don't know what other intrusions we don't know about. They're leaving behind sabotage programs to be activated in case of war, it seems.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Administration refusing repayment of TARP money?

Here might be why. Force the banks to keep the government's money, and the government keeps control of the bank.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Theology, Quantum Mechanics, and Chaos Theory

Well, that's neat. I've been developing some thoughts for a while now about taking chaos theory and quantum mechanics and applying them together to some theological questions. In particular, can God act directly in the world without violating His own rules of physics? I have no problem with this happening, and I assume that most miracles are a suspension of the laws of physics. But could God work within these laws to get a result that wasn't already set from the beginning of time? And thus, in a way that we wouldn't be able to detect or observe any breakdown in natural laws. Being a theistic evolutionist, this would work out nicely in having a divinely-directed natural selection, without the need for a suspension of "normal" evolution in any places, like Intelligent Design looks for.

My basic idea here is that the Heisenberg uncertainty relations between position and momentum, or between energy and time, and so on, give us small error bars on these variables. And in nonlinear systems (described by chaos theory) like much of the world is made of, small uncertainties grow into very large ones in a short time.

I've got to go now, but let me post these links to some related thinking that's been done in both science and religion:

Open theism and physics (I'm not convinced by Open Theism, but it's worth reading.)

Quantum Mechanics and the chaotic orbit of Hyperion (Really fascinating--I'd never heard of this before.)

The paper cited by the Discover article in the above link.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Jimmy Hendrix was a conservative

Who knew? Well, apparently the biographers cited here did.

Abstract Mad Libs

I love this. Might have to use it on my next paper or conference poster...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Was there a gun sitting on the table?

The Obama administration pushes GM's CEO out the door. Why couldn't this have been done with a formal bankruptcy procedure, again?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Human Achievement Hour and Wikipedia politics

Liberal Wikipedia editors are at it again. This time, they're repeatedly deleting an article about Human Achievement Hour, the pro-Man counterpoint to the so-called "Earth Hour." This is the kind of thing that keeps me from letting my students cite Wikipedia as a source. Since I looked it up, it's been deleted, while I had the page open.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NewScientist goes for tabloid science. Again.

Then again, maybe the National Academy of Sciences is going tabloid, too. This whole disaster scenario for a coronal mass ejection hitting the earth is just 'way over the top. I'll summarize: the electrical lines could go down and take a while to repair. Apparently, that will cause millions of people to die, and the survivors will turn to cannibalism and living in caves. OK, kidding about the cannibalism part, but they actually do claim "millions" of deaths in the US, only because the power's off.

Have these people never heard of back-up generators? Yes, there'd be a hot market for them, and you'd get a lot of selling out, but this solution already exists. Do no key businesses have backup generators for power? Oh, sure, they admit this, but they think that the fuel will run out in hours and can't be replaced, because the gas stations won't have power to pump it out of the tanks. Uh-huh. And there's no way for them to get it out of the ground? None of them could buy backup generators, for instance?

Sheesh! The tunnel vision of the NAS seems designed to create hype. Yes, we need to be conscious of design flaws in our power lines and work those out, but the "Millions dead!" scenario just isn't going to happen.

The Europeanization of America

Cliff May has an article on Charles Murray's AEI speech on the Europeanization of America, up at NRO. I haven't read it yet, but I read several Corner posts about Murray's speech, and it's gotten me thinking again about something I've had in the back of my head for several years. I've got a copy of I'll Take My Stand, the literary and cultural manifesto of the early 20th century Southern movements known as the Agrarians and Fugitives. It's a great book in general, but there's one essay in particular that's puzzled me for years. Now, without going and looking it up (lazy), I don't remember who wrote it. But the author notes a cultural kinship between Southerners and Europeans, simultaneously contrasting us culturally with the Yankees.

The latter part is obvious and uncontroversial to me. But the former? I've never quite gotten it. Partly, I think, it's that I'm thinking of the mid-late 20th century Western Europe, which had by my time fallen into decay, destroyed any history of individualism, religiosity, or self-reliance, and developed an infantile dependence on the State. All of which are antithetical to Southern culture. So I've had trouble getting into the mind of the author and seeing European life as it might have been in the late 19th century, the immediate background to his experience.

I'll write more on this later, if I think about it. In the meantime, I'm finishing up a research paper and an observing proposal this week.

New gold rush in California

It's estimated that 80% of the gold from the 1849 rush was never found, so with the price 'way up, people are panning for it again. Neat!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Transnational Progressives are heading to the State Dept

"...Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh to be the Legal Advisor to the U.S. State Department."

Koh chastises the US for failing to “obey global norms.”America, Koh tells us, “promotes double standards” by refusing to ratify the International Criminal Court treaty; “claiming a Second Amendment exclusion from a proposed global ban on the illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons”; and “declining to implement the orders of the International Court of Justice with regard to the death penalty.”

Oh, joy.


U.S. Seeks Expanded Power to Seize Firms

This is sounding very early-20th-century to me. I know these guys think they're doing what's necessary, but...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Obama's push for regulation of executive pay

From the IHT.

One thing I haven't had explained clearly to me about these limits on executive pay written into the "stimulus" bill: are they permanent? I mean, it's generally described in the news reports that banks that took stimulus money are limited to such-and-such on executive pay. Well, for how long? Until (if?) they pay the money back? (Do they have to pay this back at all?) Or is it forever and ever? In which case, that's a brilliantly evil scheme to regulate anything and everything a politician wants to do: offer somebody money, and if they take it, they have to submit to all of your plans on how to remake society, forever. You could make them stand on their heads and whistle the Star Spangled Banner every Tuesday at 3:00, if you wanted to. If paying it back doesn't get them out from under your thumb, you've just vastly increased the power of the Federal Government forever, for practically nothing.

Forgive me for asking such a dumb question, but where does it say in the Constitution that you can regulate executive pay? Is that an interstate transaction? Does the executive work in a different state from his company? (Even then, I'm not sure that would be "commerce," in the way the authors of the Constitution used the word.) Sigh.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I'm not one hitting the panic button...

...but this column on the Fed's monetizing the debt has me worried. Maybe Glenn Beck has been right, and I'm going to hide out in a fallout shelter with bags of gold coins, waiting for the apocalypse.

Blow-back against a 90% from both sides of the Atlantic

The Financial Times has a bunch of choice quotations to support the story. I hope Congress starts to get the message and kills this bill entirely.

Mona Charen on the AIG bonuses

Amen, Mona. I have a recurring fantasy that one of these guys who's called to testify before Congress and getting berated by a Congressman will stop the gentlemanly self-abasement and tell those Congressmen exactly what he thinks of their self-important grandstanding. I've got a particular script I'd like AIG's Liddy to read out to Barney Frank. It includes phrases like "corrupt little satrap" and "I'll be d***ed if I give you these names." For Frank to demand a list of names that he can publicize is outrageous, especially in light of the death threats against these officials and their children. And for Frank to say that he wouldn't be bound by any confidentiality agreement if Liddy did turn them over, death threats or not!

Schumer is my least-favorite senator, and I reckon Frank is fast becoming my least favorite congressman.

Evidence that Congress is run by would-be Soviet commissars

This is socialist, and I don't see how that can be explained away. Shame on the half of Republicans who voted for it. I actually wish they'd made it a 100% tax, just to have the lines even more clearly drawn.

A question: would a 100% tax violate any part of the Constitution? What about a 101% tax? I'm not saying it does; I'm just curious if there'd be anything legal to stop them. The more I think about it, the more I'm intrigued by the concept of a >100% tax on income...well, "intrigued" in the same sense that a biologist can be intrigued by ebola. Fascinatingly horrible.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Great line from Lileks

In the Bleat today:

...sometimes I suspect many people in the news business are temperamentally predisposed to miserabilism, because the idea of an unjust world run by monied smileys explains why the cheerleader turned them down for a date in high school.

I was just going to quote his word "miserabilism," which I think is fantastic, but the rest of the sentence turned out to be too good to pass up.

Is getting the state out of marriage a good idea?

Nope, says Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse in The Public Discourse. (Link via Maggie Gallagher at The Corner) I've been reading about this idea on some libertarian blogs; they're naturally more amenable to the idea. But Dr. Morse points out how, even on libertarian standards, it would likely make things worse.

From a conservative standpoint, there's the obvious objection that it would overturn what is certainly hundreds (longer?) of years' worth of custom in a very short time. That's a radical change for causes that may themselves change in a few decades.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jeff Goldstein on language and politics

Jeff Goldstein posts a good essay at Hot Air about the use of language and authorial intent in the context of politics. It's about the Rush Limbaugh "controversy" (I cringe even writing the word--there shouldn't be any controversy at all), but it's widely applicable. Although he doesn't use the phrase, he is arguing against a component of post-modernism. The idea that the author's intent is irrelevant in interpreting a "text" is a hallmark of this movement against logic and reason. It's also self-refuting, of course: where did those post-modernists learn the idea that a text can mean whatever you want it to? Wasn't it written down somewhere, or otherwise communicated to them? He correctly identifies it as a plague of literary criticism today, but it's metastasized and spread into other areas of life, like political discussions.

Read the article--it's very useful.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A little progress on quantum reality

I haven't read this yet but just saw John Derbyshire's discussion in The Corner today. I'm intrigued, especially since I've been getting into the philosophical issues of quantum mechanics (QM) and of general relativity lately.

I did particle physics for a couple of years in grad school, so I've had to work out the mathematics of this subject. The math--and the physical results--are straightforward enough. The debate comes in how we put them into a larger sense of reality. What is our metaphysical context for these? The Copenhagen interpretation--the pretty-much standard philosophy of QM--says that all possible outcomes of a QM experiment exist until the system is measured. That "collapses the wavefunction," forcing a single outcome to become physically real. But the Copenhagen interpretation leaves open the problem of what, exactly, constitutes a "measurement," what is the role, if any, of the observer, and so on. So some serious physicists I know personally have expressed dissatisfaction with it, and they hope that a new philosophical interpretation will come out.

Read the article for yourself. Nature gets weird down at that level. But as my wife just said, "Isn't that why physics is so fun?"

New book by a friend

A friend of mine has had a new book published. She's edited a collection of non-fiction essays on mother-daughter relationships, and it has a good review in the new Publisher's Weekly. Scroll down to Because I Love Her.

Best of luck on the book!

The progress on Loop Quantum Gravity

An article explaining how one theory of quantum gravity is making some progress. I don't understand all the details, but we've had a lecture from Fotini Markopoulou Kalamara of Canada's Perimeter Institute on the subject (in 2003), and she did a nice job explaining it, even to a lay audience.

I had one of my undergrad students try out a research project to look for the effects of quantized spacetime--the speed of light would vary by wavelength. He sorted through gamma ray burst data from the Swift observatory and looked for delays of short wavelengths relative to long ones, as a function of redshift. Of course, he didn't find any (as we expected), but it was a fun proof-of-concept project.

Friday, March 06, 2009

NYT map of unemployment rates

This is really interesting. Especially when I find out that West Virginia, of all places, has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Defies the stereotypes, doesn't it? The county we live in is comparable in that way to the wealthy D.C. suburbs, except that unemployment here is not on the rise, the way it is there. Great!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A good line on Chas Freeman

Following up from my previous post:

Politico's James Kirchick makes a good point about Chas Freeman. Freeman brags about having published Walt & Mearsheimer's "The Israel Lobby" in Saudi Arabia. Recall that the book is big into the conspiracy-theory field of Jewish influence on US policy. An attitude that Israel's supporters are probably disloyal to the US, etc.

Freeman has been in an institution funded by the Saudis and fawns over them. Now we find out about this connection to a Chinese government company, and he complains the Chinese weren't tough enough on democracy activists.

In that context:
A man who for a decade presided over a front group for a theocratic kleptocracy and who believes the title of “king” isn’t sufficient for the fat oil baron who rules that benighted land should pause before endorsing a work that questions the loyalty of others.

Good point.

Obama's NIC chairman nominee finally gets checked out...

Commentary's Jennifer Rubin reports that Chas Freeman is getting a serious look by the Inspector General. I wouldn't have known that he'd been suspected of not filing some disclosure forms, but what I did know about him was bad enough. For all the anti-Israel talk, it's sadly just what I expect out of these people, and I was prepared for it. What really shocked me were his comments about the Chinese communist government--that they didn't crack down early enough and hard enough on the democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

What is an apologist for totalitarianism--and someone explicitly against a democracy movement--doing in our government?!

Well, now it turns out he's "tied to" the China National Offshore Oil Corporation--owned by the Chinese government. We already knew he was involved in a Saudi-funded organization. So what does Obama do now?

Oh, come on! (part 2)

West Virginia Democrat wants to outlaw Barbie dolls. Sends the wrong message to young girls and such. Yes, it will get laughed out of our legislature, but why do these people even need to suggest these things? (Via Lileks)

Why did Obama get more Catholic support than Kerry?

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting analysis.

Next vacation, why not rent out a castle?

OK, now this is cool: The Landmark Trust rents out historic homes and castles in Great Britain and Italy (and a few in the US) (Homes, that is. Not castles.)

Just read an article in the WSJ about staying in one of Palladio's villas in Italy through the Landmark Trust. Since I've been reading up on Thomas Jefferson's architecture, that caught my eye. Jefferson was largely inspired by Palladio.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Charles Krauthammer on Obama and diplomacy

Wow. Krathammer doesn't spare Obama the blunt terms:

On President Obama’s secret letter to Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev proposing a deal on missile defense:

This is smart diplomacy? This is a debacle. The Russians dismissed it contemptuously.

Look, if we could get the Iranian nuclear program stopped with Russian's helping us in return for selling out the Poles and the Czechs on missile defense, I'm enough of a cynic and a realist to say we would do it the same way that Kissinger agreed to delegitimize and de-recognize Taiwan in return for a large strategic opening with China.

But Kissinger had it done. He had it wired. What happened here is it was leaked. The Russians have dismissed it. We end up being humiliated. We look weak in front of the Iranians, and we have left the Poles and Czechs out to dry in return for nothing.

The Czechs and the Poles went out on a limb, exposed themselves to Russian pressure, and we have shown that Eastern Europe is not as sovereign as it appears if the Russian influence is there, and we will acquiesce in what they consider their own sphere of influence.

This administration has prided itself, flattered itself on deploying smart diplomacy. "Smart diplomacy" is a meaningless idea, but if it has any meaning at all, it is not ever doing something as humiliating, amateurish, and stupid as this.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Obama's higher-ed plan

The Weekly Standard's Andrew Ferguson takes a skeptical look. Ferguson discusses the division between seeing higher-education as mere job training (a view that grates on me) and education as creating a well-rounded person (that's closer to mine). I like the liberal arts ideal, and I think education is a good in itself (or nearly so). It creates a citizenry with the broad background that lets them see the relationships between different aspects of life, the universe, and everything. Rather than an existence narrowly focused on our chosen jobs.

Hmm...I don't think I've expressed that too clearly, but my point is that I like people to be well rounded.

Anyway, Ferguson notes that the apparently low college graduation rates are largely a result of immigration, and that it ignores the increasingly common return of older adults to college.

One thing that does stand out is the President's remark that high school or college drop-outs are giving up on their country. That line got some applause in Congress. I don't know that it's clearly questioning the patriotism of the drop-outs, as Ferguson and some of the guys at National Review have suggested. But it does fall into the category of treating a person's education as a national resource. In some sense, it is--it contributes to the health of the country. But there's a related tendency to regard it primarily as the possession of the country.

With that comes the attitude that the government can and should direct your path through higher education for its ends. If you don't go to college, you're seen as harming the country. Perhaps you'll be required to do what's best for the country, rather than what you see as best for yourself. The states already do that with regards to schooling up through the age of 16 (at least that's the legal drop-out age in Tennessee, last time I checked). That's been so long established that we don't really question the underlying principle. I don't have any desire to eliminate that, but I disagree with extending the guiding attitude to college. I doubt they'd be able to pass an education requirement for anyone past the age of majority, anyway.

OK, I'm back...

Sorry for the long silence. Oddly, there was so much going on in politics that I felt like I had little commentary to contribute!

New posts coming today.