Keeping the Process Legitimate

I have not been read­ing Kevin Drum for long, but I enjoy his blog. His post on the Cal­i­for­nia Supreme Court’s rul­ing on Prop 8 is an excel­lent exam­ple. Yes, Prop 8, which bans same sex mar­riage, is loath­some, but it needs to be thrown out on the basis of being uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, not on a technicality.

I appre­ci­ate Kev­in’s will­ing­ness to cheer a prop­er result that is good for a ter­ri­ble law, at least (hope­ful­ly!) in the short term.

Carl Kasell

Deb­by and I attend­ed a talk by Carl Kasell at IPFW last night. Kasell was the news announc­er for NPR’s Morn­ing Edi­tion for 30 years. He has been the offi­cial judge and score­keep­er for Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! since 1998. Being a late sleep­er* and hard­ly ever hear­ing Morn­ing Edi­tion, I most­ly know him from Wait Wait. It was clear that this was true for most of the audience.

Kasell spent a peri­od of time talk­ing before tak­ing ques­tions. Much of his talk was based on a few notes or just giv­en off the top of his head. Now and then he would return to a pre­pared speech from which he’d read a para­graph or two and then find a hook off of which to ad lib. The pre­pared speech was long ver­sion of the virtues of pub­lic radio and the impor­tance of the pub­lic’s sup­port. His read­ing of this was not all that good for a man who has been read­ing for a liv­ing for over thir­ty years. So that was strange.

I’m guess­ing he talked for thir­ty min­utes or more and answered ques­tions for awhile, but he real­ly did not have all that much to say. A few anec­dotes and talk about how this or that hap­pened, but only in the most super­fi­cial aspects.

When dis­cussing 9/​11, he said that he said that the first plane hit the north tow­er at 8:46 and a few moments lat­er he saw the replay of hit on the tele­vi­sion. This can not pos­si­bly be right, video of the first hit did not come to light for sev­er­al hours (maybe even a day or two). The man is 77 years old, so I guess I can for­give a mis­tak­en memory.

Lat­er in the talk he start­ed to tell us who would be on the pan­el of the up com­ing Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! He men­tioned Roy Blount, Jr. and Faith See­ley (sp?) but then he could not remem­ber the third name. I thought he was mock­ing Gov­er­nor Per­ry and start­ed to laugh (I believe you can hear me in the audio just after the 25 minute mark, but only for a moment). I imme­di­ate­ly per­ceived that he was not inten­tion­al­ly being fun­ny and that I seemed to be the only mem­ber of the audi­ence who was amused, so I sti­fled myself.

He answered all ques­tions before he wrapped things up.

*At one point, Kasell relat­ed how he once told some­one he awoke at 1:05 in the morn­ing. When asked why 1:05 as opposed to 1:00 he answered “I like to sleep in.”

And It Always Will

Over at the Mata­dor Net­work, there is a post­ing on 23 incred­i­ble new tech­nolo­gies you’ll see by 2021. Includ­ed in the out­look for 2013 is the “Eye of Gaia, a bil­lion-pix­el tele­scope.” Eye of Gaia

will look far beyond our own galaxy, even as far as the end of the (observ­able) universe.

I believe that as long as there has been sight on the plan­et earth, the pos­ses­sor of the best sight has been able to see as far as the end of the (observ­able) uni­verse. Once tele­scopes came into exis­tence, the best tele­scope was able to “see” as far as the end of the (observ­able) universe.

And it will always be so.

Hat tip to my son who liked the post­ing on Face­book (if my mem­o­ry serves).

About as Much Substance as You’d Expect

…from a ghost.

Con­tin­u­ing the “time to fit the books into the book­cas­es” project, I read Arthur C. Clarke’s The Ghost From the Grand Banks. I believe I picked this up a few years ago at a library book sale where one walked out with a gro­cery sack of books for a dol­lar or two. I own many books by Clarke and he was cer­tain­ly a favorite when I was young and that is why I bought this.

It turns out that I have read this pre­vi­ous­ly, but it is so for­get­table that I forgot.

Briefly, the book cov­ers the race between two enter­pris­es to raise the Titan­ic in 2012, the 100 year anniver­sary of the sink­ing. Clarke comes up with two com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent con­cepts on how the ship might be raised. I’ll refrain from giv­ing away how and whether they work. There is lit­tle char­ac­ter devel­op­ment and the slight­est bit of suspense.

A few weeks ago, I caught some parts of an old movie on TCM, the title of which I do not remem­ber. I do remem­ber a scene where the lit­er­ary crit­ic ren­ders his ver­dict on the pro­tag­o­nist’s just pub­lished nov­el. The crit­ic spent some time on how the book was filled out with wide mar­gins and oth­er tricks to at least look like a real nov­el even though it was bare­ly more than a short story.

The Ghost From the Grand Banks runs 253 pages with ten pages of title, copy­right, con­tents, etc.; sev­en plus pages of Sources and Acknowl­edg­ments and a twelve page appen­dix that is adapt­ed from a lec­ture Clarke gave on Man­del­brot num­bers. Man­del­brot num­bers do appear in the book, but not in any way that is nec­es­sary to the plot.

So the book runs 284 pages. There are four parts, each of which is begun with a full page for the title of the part. There are 44 chap­ters with each chap­ter title tak­ing up half a page. There are 28 com­plete­ly blank pages found between the chap­ters, insert­ed wher­ev­er nec­es­sary to push the new chap­ter to the odd num­bered page. That totals 54 of the 284 pages that are blank. The mar­gins are wide. Many chap­ters end with just a few lines on the last page.

Final­ly, the paper is thick. The Com­plete Poet­i­cal Works of Eliz­a­beth Bar­rett Brown­ing is a bit less than one eighth of an inch thick­er and it runs 566 pages (dou­ble). The Plutarch vol­ume of the Great Books of the West­ern World series is the same thick­ness and it runs 905 pages (triple).

I would say that it is too bad The Ghost of the Grand Banks did not go to the same length as the pub­lish­er went to to hide it’s brevi­ty, but more of this book would not be better.

Isn’t That Enough?

As the scan­dal swirls around Her­man Cain,Vic­tor Davis Han­son comes to Cain’s defense in The Nation­al Review. Yes, in terms of what we know (or what I know at this writ­ing), Cain seems guilty only of being a bor­ish lout.* And yes, Clin­ton got away with work place sex­u­al harass­ment (prob­a­bly because Mon­i­ca did­n’t complain).

It is not like­ly that the Democ­rats are behind the scan­dal. I do not know how Glo­ria Allred and Sharon Bialek got togeth­er, but it is cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble (like­ly in my book) that Ms. Bialek sought her ought and pol­i­tics is not at issue. Beyond that, most Democ­rats would be glee­ful to see Cain get the Repub­li­can nomination.

Mr Han­son writes:

Cain also wins greater scruti­ny, not exemp­tion, because he is black — or at least a cer­tain sort of black. In addi­tion to his con­ser­vatism, his voice, bear­ing, gram­mar, and dic­tion, even his showy black cow­boy hat, both­er lib­er­als in much the same way that Joe Fra­zier was not Muham­mad Ali and Clarence Thomas was not Ani­ta Hill.

Mr. Han­son, Cain’s con­ser­vatism, his mar­ket­ing approach to pol­i­cy (9,9,9), and his dis­dain for for­eign pol­i­cy ( Ube­ki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan) are more than enough for us to not like Her­man Cain. His col­or has noth­ing to do with it.

Hat tip: Kevin Drum

Update: ABL at Angry Black Lady Chron­i­cles does the work to take down Mr. Han­son’s defense of Cain much more thor­ough­ly than my lazi­ness allowed above.

*Though we do not have any details of the com­plaints about him when he was head of the Restau­rant Association.


So, last night Newt Gin­grich and Her­man Cain had a debate. At one point Gin­grich asked Cain “what about the cam­paign has most sur­prised him”.

The nit-pick­ing­ness of the media,” Cain said, explain­ing that he had known “I would have to work hard, I knew I would have to study hard,” but that he was not ful­ly pre­pared for the media onslaught — espe­cial­ly as it occurs when a can­di­date ris­es in the polls.

Good grief! Mr. Cain, you are not qual­i­fied to be Pres­i­dent if you are not able to even antic­i­pate that run­ning for pres­i­dent would cause you to be sub­ject to the medi­a’s scrutiny.

Just Because It Is in the Wall Street Journal…

does­n’t mean it makes sense.

The link is to an arti­cle titled Four Rea­sons Key­ne­sians Keep Get­ting It Wrong.

Well, some­one is wrong four times.

1) big increas­es in spend­ing and gov­ern­ment deficits raise the prospect of future tax increases.

Actu­al­ly, anoth­er good dose of stim­u­lus would prob­a­bly push the econ­o­my into real growth. The most pow­er­ful way to dimin­ish the deficit (and lessen the need for tax increas­es) is to grow the economy.

2) most of the gov­ern­ment spend­ing pro­grams redis­trib­ute income from work­ers to the unemployed.

In the first place, I seri­ous­ly doubt this is true. Or rather, I am cer­tain that the per­cent­age of the fed­er­al bud­get that goes to the unem­ployed is actu­al­ly rather small.* It may be pos­si­ble to define “spend­ing pro­grams” in such a way that “most” of them redis­trib­ute income from work­ers to the unem­ployed, but there is some game play­ing going on there.

In the sec­ond place, mon­ey to the unem­ployed is mon­ey that gets spent, and fast. Tax cuts for the wealthy do not get spent. They get saved.

3) Key­ne­sian mod­els total­ly ignore the neg­a­tive effects of the stream of cost­ly new reg­u­la­tions that pour out of the Oba­ma bureaucracy.

Assum­ing it is true that the stream of cost­ly new reg­u­la­tions are hav­ing sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive effects on the econ­o­my (and I’m not con­vinced it is true**), this does not in any way mean that Kenye­sian poli­cies do not work.

4) U.S. fis­cal and mon­e­tary poli­cies are main­ly direct­ed at get­ting a near-term result.

Well, yes and no. They should be aimed as much as pos­si­ble at a near term result. But it is not true that the pos­i­tive effects (the jobs) dis­ap­pear as soon as the stim­u­lus ends. One only has to look at the last stim­u­lus. Over two mil­lion jobs were cre­at­ed while those stim­u­lus dol­lars were being spent. Now that those dol­lars have run out (or are down to a trick­le), the jobs have not disappeared.

I think there was a time when the Wall Street Jour­nal was not just a pro­pa­gan­da organ for the con­ser­v­a­tive right. But today it is owned by Rupert Murdoch.


Safe­ty net pro­grams: About 14 per­cent of the fed­er­al bud­get in 2010, or $496 bil­lion, went to sup­port pro­grams that pro­vide aid (oth­er than health insur­ance or Social Secu­ri­ty ben­e­fits) to indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies fac­ing hardship.

These pro­grams include: the refund­able por­tion of the earned-income and child tax cred­its, which assist low- and mod­er­ate-income work­ing fam­i­lies through the tax code; pro­grams that pro­vide cash pay­ments to eli­gi­ble indi­vid­u­als or house­holds, includ­ing Sup­ple­men­tal Secu­ri­ty Income for the elder­ly or dis­abled poor and unem­ploy­ment insur­ance; var­i­ous forms of in-kind assis­tance for low-income fam­i­lies and indi­vid­u­als, includ­ing food stamps, school meals, low-income hous­ing assis­tance, child-care assis­tance, and assis­tance in meet­ing home ener­gy bills; and var­i­ous oth­er pro­grams such as those that aid abused and neglect­ed children.

Note that much of that 14% is not going to the unemployed.

** If reg­u­la­tions are caus­ing so many dif­fi­cul­ties, why are equip­ment and soft­ware invest­ments out­pac­ing pre­vi­ous recov­er­ies. Why do only 13% of small busi­ness own­ers say that reg­u­la­tions are the biggest prob­lem they face. Also, remem­ber that when a study says that a giv­en reg­u­la­tion is going to cost a giv­en sum of mon­ey, that mon­ey is still cir­cu­lat­ing in the econ­o­my and it like­ly results in jobs. Final­ly, to not have the reg­u­la­tions is to accept that eco­nom­ic growth is more impor­tant than a clean envi­ron­ment and work­er and pub­lic pro­tec­tions. Note that lack of envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion is like­ly to lead to tax increas­es at a lat­er date to pay for the clean up.

Hat tip: Alt­house

Up the Walls of the World

I am con­tin­u­ing my way through old sci­ence fic­tion as I look to low­er the num­ber of books I own to what fits on exist­ing shelves (this will take for­ev­er). Up the Walls of the World is by James Tip­tree, Jr. which is a pseu­do­nym for Alice Bradley Shel­don. Accord­ing to Wikipedia, Tip­tree’s true iden­ti­ty (and sex) was revealed in 1977. Up the Walls of the World, by James Tip­tree, Jr. was pub­lished in 1978 and the author’s pho­to is on the back of the dust jack­et. Pre­sum­ably the pen name was retained to attract exist­ing fans.

The most inter­est­ing thing about this book is how much a cen­tral con­cept has in com­mon with the pri­ma­ry plot of Star Trek the Motion Pic­ture. An extreme­ly large space far­ing enti­ty absorbs a Voy­ager space­craft and pos­es a threat to life. The female lead merges with the enti­ty as part of the solution.

Anoth­er sim­i­lar­i­ty is the book seems to go on and on in an effort to describe the enti­ty with the same effect as the end­less trip through V’ger in the movie. That effect being the read­er’s (view­er’s) thought “Can we get on with this?”.

The movie is just one year after the book so clear­ly the movie did not steal the plot direct­ly. Over at IMDB, the triv­ia on the movie includes:

Writ­ers who con­tributed ideas or draft scripts in 1975 – 77 includ­ed Gene Rod­den­ber­ry, Jon Povill, Robert Sil­ver­berg, John D.F. Black, Har­lan Elli­son, Theodore Stur­geon, and Ray Brad­bury.

One might posit that one or more of these authors knew Tip­tree and was made aware of the out­line of her cur­rent work. But Tip­tree’s iden­ti­ty was unknown and Sil­ver­berg and Elli­son were both on the record with their belief that Tip­tree was a man. Per­haps Up the Walls of the World was an expan­sion of an ear­li­er short work by Tiptree.

Oth­er than the Star Trek “con­nec­tion”, Up the Wall of the World is not all that interesting.

The Catholic Church and the Weakening of Kinship

This is a cou­ple of weeks old, but I found it inter­est­ing. This is Kevin Drum at Moth­er Jones dis­cussing Fran­cis Fukuya­ma’s The Ori­gins of Polit­i­cal Order:

But how do strong cen­tral author­i­ties evolve in the first place? Fukuya­ma spends a great deal of time talk­ing about kin­ship struc­tures and the way they inter­fere with state build­ing (thus the brief for­ay into pri­mate psy­chol­o­gy at the begin­ning of the book). Loy­al­ty to fam­i­ly and tribe is nat­u­ral­ly strong, he argues, and tear­ing down that loy­al­ty is cru­cial to build­ing an effec­tive state with ade­quate­ly strong cen­tral author­i­ty. This, again, isn’t an espe­cial­ly nov­el obser­va­tion, but his appli­ca­tion of this obser­va­tion to ear­ly Chris­t­ian his­to­ry was new to me. “The Catholic church,” he writes, “took a strong stand against four prac­tices: mar­riages between close kin, mar­riages to the wid­ows of dead rel­a­tives (the so-called levi­rate), the adop­tion of chil­dren, and divorce.” All of these are things that help kin­ship groups keep prop­er­ty with­in the group, and by sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly cut­ting them off, and then pro­mot­ing the vol­un­tary dona­tion of land and prop­er­ty to the church itself, the Catholic church enhanced its own pow­er. Lat­er on, rules like priest­ly celiba­cy were designed to pre­vent kin­ship groupswith­in the church from inter­fer­ing with the cen­tral pow­er in Rome. All of this strength­ened the pow­er of the church at the expense of kin­ship ties, and while under­min­ing the fam­i­ly may or may not have been a delib­er­ate strat­e­gy, that was the end result. Trib­al and fam­i­ly con­nec­tions in West­ern Europe became (and remain) much weak­er than in much of the rest of the world.

Of course, there are oth­er good rea­sons to take a stand against mar­riage between close kin and I am not clear on how divorce helps kin­ship groups keep prop­er­ty with­in the group (and I’m a bit hazy on how the adop­tion of chil­dren accom­plish­es same). Maybe some­day I’ll read the book.…

The Trilateral Commission

The Tri­lat­er­al Com­mis­sion was cre­at­ed in 1973. I was eigh­teen. It could not have tak­en long for some peo­ple to be talk­ing about how the elites con­trolled the world and we, the peo­ple, were just giv­en enough to keep us com­pla­cent, and that the Tri­lat­er­al Com­mis­sion exist­ed for that pur­pose. Or some such line of thought. I feel like I have been hear­ing such talk my entire life.

In my mem­o­ry this the­o­ry was usu­al­ly put forth by a clean cut, wire rim wear­ing, pot smok­ing socialist…but maybe I’m just mak­ing that up. I don’t even know.

At any rate, I was not too inclined to accept the idea that the world was con­trolled by elites (though now I sus­pect it is…though I have no idea if the Tri­lat­er­al Com­mis­sion has any­thing to do with it) and even if it was, I looked around and thought to myself “This isn’t such a bad deal.”

Sure, there were eco­nom­ic dif­fi­cul­ties and there was no end of injus­tices going on, but life in the US for the vast major­i­ty of peo­ple was pret­ty damn good. If the elites want­ed to con­trol the world and this is how they allowed the mass­es to live so they could do that, well, I was fine with it. Maybe the alter­na­tive was how the mass­es have lived through­out his­to­ry and I was sure nobody want­ed that.

Assum­ing that those clean cut, wire rim wear­ing, pot smok­ing social­ists were cor­rect, you have to give cred­it to those elites. Run­ning the world can’t be all that easy and, on bal­ance, they did a fair job of it for quite awhile.

I’m guess­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of elites has not been up to the task. Things have gone rot­ten here in the US. Even though the reces­sion has end­ed and cor­po­ra­tions are mak­ing lots of mon­ey, noth­ing has trick­led down. Peo­ple are out of work or afraid of becom­ing out of work after ten or twen­ty years of income stagfla­tion and the val­ue of homes plum­met­ing. Which brings us to the Occu­py protests.

The most inter­est­ing thing about the Occu­py protests is watch­ing every­body try to deter­mine who is actu­al­ly protest­ing and what do they want, and what does it mean. Prob­a­bly no one answer to any of those questions.

Well, maybe to the “what does it mean” question.

It means that the nation­al econ­o­my no longer func­tions as it once did. The mass­es, who once had it pret­ty good, are now strug­gling. To lis­ten to some of what is said in Wash­ing­ton, the elites still have no idea what the prob­lem is.

It is sim­ple, return us to the good old days when the elites con­trolled the world and allowed the mass­es to live in rel­a­tive and increas­ing pros­per­i­ty. Is it too much to ask?