Actual Headlines, Part 2

Toy train used to calibrate fusion reactor


Yack. Kaos.

I am being hunted. I am hunting. I have partners. I have enemies. One of them is probably going to come to get me in 3 hours, exactly.


Nate Silver makes a good point

What's Strategic for the Politician is Not So Good for the Party
One thing I learned in econ class in 11th grade was that government policy should be counter-cyclical (spending more in recessions and cutting back in boom times), but that there’s a lot of pressure to be pro-cyclical, which will tend to exacerbate business cycles. (Except I suppose they didn’t say “exacerbate” in 11th grade.) At a personal level, too, it’s natural to spend more when we have more and cut back when we aren’t doing so well. Every now and then you hear about a “rainy day fund” but my general impression is that these are never big enough to counter the business cycle.

Political parties seem to apply a similar pro-cyclical behavior in their congressional election campaigns....
I'm stunned I never realized this so explicitly, but it's absolutely true. Read the rest.

In which I disagree with Sullivan

Huh? How is something a show-trial because it is televised?

The trial, in fact, would be an excellent occasion for the anti-gay right to demonstrate the cogency of its arguments with respect to the second class status of gay couples under the law.

There is definitely something to be said, though, for the willingness of people to compromise/be rational when they know their words aren't be recorded for posterity. It goes both ways.

Deficits do matter now, apparently. Because they can be used to attack Obama. Why is the WSJ printing this dishonest crap that simply ignores Rove's long support for massive structural deficits throughout the eight years he was in power?

Because I think the WSJ doesn't like deficits. They were just too scared of Rove to criticize the President at the time. That doesn't mean they shouldn't print things about the defect now.
Dick Cheney is the former vice-president whose national security expertise was central to his appeal in 2000 as Bush's running mate. Yet within nine months, Cheney presided over the worst attack on American soil in US history, [...] For good measure, Cheney also lost the war in Afghanistan and his closest confidant Don Rumsfeld lost the war in Iraq (the success of the subsequent "surge" will be tested this year as troops withdraw). Under Cheney, for good measure, both Iran and North Korea made huge strides toward getting nukes.

Not only did Cheney allow bin Laden to escape in Tora Bora, he also helped radicalize many actually innocent prisoners (three quarters of those thrown into the torture camp at Gitmo were innocent of any charges), and then set many of these radicalized new Jihadists free to wreak further terror on the US and the world.

Holding leaders responsible for things they often couldn't control is irresponsible. Show me how Cheney chose to let Bin Laden escape, then you can jump on him for it. Not before.

Regarding this, I'm not sure that the activities described were torture. What do you think?

One Smart Note on the Bomber

With all the talk about the failure of airport security to detect the PETN that the Christmas bomber sewed into his underwear -- and to think I've been using the phrase "underwear bomber" as a joke all these years -- people forget that airport security played an important role in foiling the plot.

In order to get through airport security, Abdulmutallab -- or, more precisely, whoever built the bomb -- had to construct a far less reliable bomb than he would have otherwise; he had to resort to a much more ineffective detonation mechanism. And, as we've learned, detonating PETN is actually very hard....
Read the rest for some very good quotes on plastic explosives.


From the Dish:
“Military necessity does not admit of cruelty–that is, the infliction of suffering for the sake of suffering or for revenge, nor of maiming or wounding except in fight, nor of torture to extort confessions.” - Abraham Lincoln's General Orders, 100 Instructions for the government of the armies of the United States in the field.

"Being the first sucks," Amanda Simpson, the first openly transgender presidential appointee.
From Ben Smith:
"A year ago, if we had read in the paper that employers were hiring again, that health care legislation was proceeding without a bump, that Afghanistan suddenly became a nice place to take your kids, we would've known we were being lied to. Back then, we recognized that the problems Obama inherited as president wouldn't go away overnight.


But today, the president is being attacked as if he were a salesman who promised us that our problems would wash off in the morning. He never made such a promise. It's time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president can't just wave a magic wand and fix everything." - Ellie Light
Scientific American:
"The Obama administration has not put forward one coherent plan as a detailed policy proposal. Every major piece of public policy has been turned over to the backrooms of Congress, emerging through the lobby-infested bargaining process among vested and regional interests. There was no overarching plan for the economic stimulus; no clear plan for health care reform; no defined strategy for climate change control; and so forth. If there were plans behind the scenes, they were never presented to the public as such.

This approach, it is often said, reflects the “learning” from the failures of the Clinton administration’s attempt to reform health care and control climate change. This time, the logic goes, the administration will leave no easy targets in the form of detailed policy proposals that can be shot down. It will let the negotiations among interest groups take place first and deftly guide a compromise piece of legislation to adoption. This is the logic of politics as the art of the possible.

By refusing to put forward clear plans, the administration is creating gaping and unnecessary weaknesses in public policy...."
And last, some wrap-up links on the underpants bomber incident (thankfully not "tragedy")


Most Original Blog Award

This has to take the cake.

It's a blog of utterances from some English guy's sleep, as compiled by his wife. Examples:
  • "I haven't put on weight. Your eyes are fat."
  • "My vision of hell is a lentil casserole."
  • "Badger tickling: proceed with caution"
  • "Vampire penguins? Zombie guinea pigs? We're done for.... done for." 
  • "I've got a really terrible terrible feeling about this custard tart. Terrible."
  • [suddenly, upon waking] "Stop the panther!"
These are only a small sampling; I almost doubt that it's possible to have such good comedic timing while dreaming. And how does the wife stay up to record these, anyhow?

Not Calvinball

Our national government and almost all of the establishment media have decided to play a similar game, which could be called Terrorball. The first two rules of Terrorball are:

(1) The game lasts until there are no longer any terrorists, and;
(2) If terrorists manage to ever kill or injure or seriously frighten any Americans, they win.
The rest of the post is also powerful:
Meanwhile, in the week that began with a terrorist incident in which no one other than the pathetically incompetent aspiring terrorist was hurt, approximately 47,000 Americans died. Around 13,000 of these people never reached old age, including nearly one thousand children.

Indeed over the past seven days approximately 350 Americans were murdered. About twenty of these murder victims were women killed by their husbands and boyfriends, while something like 35 were children who died as a result of abuse. Several hundred Americans committed suicide between Christmas and New Year’s Day and several hundred others died as a direct consequence of not having any medical insurance.
Risk is a part of daily life; this stupid fear actually scares me more than the idiot bomber. FDR was right!

Beck vs. Birthers

I think Glenn Beck wins this round:
However, what neither talk host realizes is that newspaper birth announcements are not placed by parents phoning their local paper with the good news that they had a child. Rather, as WND has reported based on interviews with the two Hawaii papers involved, the Obama newspaper birth announcements stemmed from information automatically sent to the papers by Hawaii's Department of Health upon the state's issuance of a "Certification of Live Birth," which, as WND has also reported, is considered insufficient on its own to positively document the president's birthplace.

Many people remain unaware that a child does not even have to be born in Hawaii to receive a "Certification of Live Birth – that's the "short form" that provides no hospital name, delivering physician or any of the other information that traditionally appears on a legitimate birth certificate. And yet the "short form" COLB is the one and only piece of evidence the White House has cited in defending its assertion Obama was born in Hawaii.
The thing about conspiracy theories is that they actually seem to make sense to people on the inside.

Julian Sanchez on "The Spectre of Pacifism"

Continuing my torture fixation:
There’s a running conversation over at the Corner about the parallels between opposition to torture and pacifism, which is really just a thinly-veiled version of one of those tendentious hypotheticals about the nuclear bomb in Manhattan whose location (you know with apodictic certainty) can only be uncovered through the judicious application of thumbscrews. As such, the analogy suffers from the same two defects: One empirical, one conceptual.
Good logic here.

For the next time you're stuck in an airport lockdown

Winter Study should not be this busy

Just another day?
I hope not.

(I'm glad I did all of this stuff, but I hope the load lightens.)

Actual Headlines, Part 1

Joan Rivers deemed a danger to national security, bumped off Costa Rica flight back to U.S.

2009 - the best time-lapse video I've ever seen

Proud of my childhood friend Max Calder!

He's made it into IMDB!

Take Heart, America

We still have many redeeming qualities. In fact, I think we're the best country in the world. So there.
For example. I pay a considerable sum of money to play indoors at Islington Tennis Centre. Eighty percent of the time, the next people to play indicate that your time is up by unzipping their racket covers and strolling on court, without saying a word, without a smile, without acknowledging your existence except as an impediment. In America that would be not just unacceptable but inconceivable.

Williams College Honors Nine Students as Gaudino Fellows

This press release is near and dear to my heart:

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - Nine Williams College students have been named Gaudino Fellows and will spend January Term abroad pursuing projects in honor of Robert Gaudino, professor of political science at Williams from 1955 to 1974, who promoted the idea that to truly learn students must confront uncomfortable ideas and situations and take the intellectual and emotional risks inherent in a search for truth.
Read about the projects - each one is an amazing opportunity, and I can't wait to hear about them.

From the Reddit comments

I get a lot of links from web aggregaters, which let people vote on submitted links, such that the best rise to the top. Here are some of the best comments:

Dept. of Stupid Ideas - Stripsearches for young Muslim men

I mean, really?

Couple things. A - it's racist. B - it won't work. C - it will make people more upset, give our enemies more legitimacy. D - it WILL NOT MAKE US SAFER.

Links on Obama's Terrorism Policy

  • The NYT Story on the guy who came out against Cheney.
  • Yglesias finds a fairly darning quote 
  • Another take on attachment issues
  • I'd take Douthat's argument and say that this issues seems to be ripe for a new group of moderates to split from Cheney's nonchalance about torture.
And side note: our former President is still being classy and not taking the spotlight from Obama/spreading the nonsense that Cheney seems to traffic in. Props.

Things I wish I'd said in my campus Truman interview

  1. I think athletes at Williams get short shifted. Many don't realize how much time is required to be a varsity athlete, and I doubt that all of the time I spend dealing with school governance equals the practice time for a second-string player.
  2. I think I am capable of A+ level work, but that grades are not so much a priority as learning the material.
  3. I love being of service.
  4. I got one of my lowest grades at Williams by being so interested in an issue raised by the prompt that I forgot to answer the question.
  5. Polarization is harmful, and the stakes are too great to sit by while it festers.

On Moore

In response to this post. I will be quoting then replying.
This is the first official confirmation we have had that Moore’s second appointment was for three years. And that is the scandal! The College knew, or should have known, by that point that Moore was a shoddy scholar and horrible teacher.
What credible information I have suggests that the college was not aware of the depth of Professor Moore's ineptitude at the time he was offered a reappointment. It was aware that he had low scores on the feedback forms, but the scores were not as bad as his methods. I strongly doubt that Moore would have been reappointed if a quarter of what students have said was known then. It should also be noted that Prof. Moore very much wanted to be tenure-tracked, and the college didn't go anywhere near that direction.
It is one thing to take a one-year flier on some visitor because you think he has important Washington connection.
Moore wasn't hired for his connections; he was hired as a run-of-the-mill visitor, with the added component of a policy position in DC. Williams was pleasantly surprised by the event he put together.
It is another thing altogether to offer someone with zero scholarly credentials/ability and a demonstrated record of sub-standard teaching a three year position.
At that point, Moore had credentials and had demonstrated ability. Many students loved him (leading to the feelings of betrayal), and while the school knew he wasn't strong as a teacher, the three-year Schumann position (and I'm assuming that the Schumann role requires as such) only required on class/semester, which Williams felt satisfied cost/benefit needs, espeically with teaching improvement. Knowing what they knew, I can't say it's a decision I disagree with, but I think the school is guilty of not practicing proper diligence. I've also heard rumors that Moore leveraged people into writing scholarly work for him, so Williams might have been judging Moore on fake writing samples.
But there is no good excuse for the College’s current policy of stonewalling.
There is an ongoing lawsuit/legal complaint. There is every reason to stonewall.
Still unknown is the precise date when the college offered Moore the three year position. (I assume that it was well before July 1, 2009.) Does anyone have further information on that? The time line, as best I understand it, was that Moore first applied for a tenure track position, in the fall of 2008, and was turned down. Kudos to the Political Science Department. After that, he applied for (or was offered?) the visiting position. But we don’t, yet, know when that offer was made or who made it. Any ideas?
I thought he applied in the spring of '09, but might be wrong. I'd love to hear a good reason why we should publicly humiliate the person who accidentally hired a con artist and got the college into legal trouble, besides being cruel.

Going forward, the central policy question for Williams is: What should the standards/procedures be for visiting appointments? The system clearly failed in Moore’s case. Is anything being done to fix it?
I think David can rest assured that the college is not very interested in hiring more ex-cons who bring lawsuits.

Feel Good Story

Sometimes life is like the movies:
Angel leapt a full 1.5 metres above the ground, sailed over a lawn mower and intercepted a cougar mid-air, just as it was about to pounce on 11-year-old Austin Forman.
The cougar got Angel, a golden retriever, around the neck and the two animals fell to the ground, the cougar’s jaws clamped tight around the dog’s neck.
Austin ran inside, frantic and screaming.
“I was terrified,” said Austin. “My dog saved my life, but now the cougar had him.”
h/t: Dish (I think)

Brooks on the American People

From his NYT column:
But there was a realistic sense that human institutions are necessarily flawed. History is not knowable or controllable. People should be grateful for whatever assistance that government can provide and had better do what they can to be responsible for their own fates.

That mature attitude seems to have largely vanished. Now we seem to expect perfection from government and then throw temper tantrums when it is not achieved. We seem to be in the position of young adolescents — who believe mommy and daddy can take care of everything, and then grow angry and cynical when it becomes clear they can’t.
I really hope he's not right about the American people, but the statistics on torture and willingness to be scanned as if naked seem to backup his point. Sad.

Lou Gehrig's Disease - a Reflection from Tony Judt

I found this very moving:
By now, however, I have learned to forgo this most nights, finding solace and recourse in my own thoughts.

The latter, though I say it myself, is no small undertaking. Ask yourself how often you move in the night. I don't mean change location altogether (e.g., to go to the bathroom, though that too): merely how often you shift a hand, a foot; how frequently you scratch assorted body parts before dropping off; how unselfconsciously you alter position very slightly to find the most comfortable one. Imagine for a moment that you had been obliged instead to lie absolutely motionless on your back—by no means the best sleeping position, but the only one I can tolerate—for seven unbroken hours and constrained to come up with ways to render this Calvary tolerable not just for one night but for the rest of your life.

The Decade in Jobs

Here's the link:

I don't know how to quote without stealing content, so you'll just have to click through.

How Low We Sunk

Sullivan's e-mail of the year:
That said, I am surprised you did not highlight what me and my colleagues agreed was the single most horrifying passage from the Court’s decision.  It was the Court’s quotation of something an interrogator said to al-Rabiah during his interrogation.  The interrogator told al-Rabiah:

“There is nothing against you. But there is no innocent person here. So, you should confess to something so you can be charged and sentenced and serve your sentence and then go back to your family and country, because you will not leave this place innocent.”

Court Memorandum and Order, p. 41 (emphasis mine).

This was an agent of the United States saying this.

Sorry to have posts on such a downer topic, but the discomfort is marginal compared to the danger of legitimate torture.


Dear Students:

Some of you who planned on driving back to campus today have let us know that you’re worried about driving conditions, but that you’re also worried about not being able to attend the first meeting of your Winter Study class. You should certainly exercise caution in deciding whether to drive this afternoon or evening, based on the current weather and the forecast. We’ll let faculty and WSP instructors know that some of you may have to postpone your return to campus and should not be penalized for missing the first class meeting; you, in turn, should e-mail or call your instructors and let them know if you will not be in class tomorrow.

Best wishes for the new year,

Dean Merrill

Sullivan on Torture

I find that my beliefs have much in common with Andrew Sullivan, at least in this area. Some quotes:
Those of us who warned that torture, once admitted into the mainstream, will metastasize beyond anyone's control now have the example of Charles Krauthammer's arguments to back us up. Stephen Hayes, Cheney's stenographer along with Mike Allen, even argued on Fox News that Cheney's assault on the president as an alien threat to the American people was too soft and wanted to "squeeze" the pantie-bomber for more info. These are neo-fascist sentiments, empowering lawless violence by the government, justified solely by fear of terror incidents. Whatever else junking the entire history of Western jurisprudence and the laws of war is, it is not in any way conservative. It is a radical assault on one of the central pillars of our civilization.

The truly naive are the Krauthammers and Thiessens and McCarthys who seem to believe - against all history and human nature - that torture can be controlled, that it can be sealed within a very tight box, used only by good people, never abused, never allowed to spread. But this has never happened. We know very well from brutal historical experience that the power to torture even one person always metastasizes. And we have seen it with our naked eyes in America. What was Abu Ghraib if it wasn't proof that orders to torture from the very top instantly spread through the system so that a handful of torture victims becomes hundreds in a matter of weeks; when torture is allowed the CIA and the military, it instantly spreads, as we have seen, to every theater of war, to every branch of the armed services, from Navy SEALS to special ops guys openly torturing mere suspects under the watch of Stanley McChrystal.
Why do I worry? Because of posts like this one:
A Bipartisan Proposal [Cliff May]

Step (1): Return all Gitmo detainees to Yemen.

Step (2): Use Predator missiles to strike the baggage-claim area 20 minutes after they arrive.

Just an idea.

Iran, Iran, Iran

Also a worrying article lede:
Iran warned on Saturday the West has until the end of the month to accept Teheran's counterproposal to a UN-drafted plan on a nuclear exchange, or the country will start producing nuclear fuel on its own.
This regime has so much legitimate egg on its face that there's nothing left but fear and power, which the country is now seeking at full speed. Why can't the Arab League step in and do something without US involvement?

Fireballs from the Faucet

Winning this week's prize for alarming news article lede:
Candor, NY -- Fred Mayer holds a lighter to his faucet, lets the water run, and — pow — the flow ignites into a small fireball. “I can wash my dishes and poach an egg at the same time,” he joked.
While this story is worrying, it's also important to know that tap water is some of the safest stuff you can drink - it's tested more than daily. I've never understood people who buy bottled water, but some companies have discovered that you can bottle tap water, and that people will still buy it. Amazing.

Winter Study

Today is the beginning of Winter Study, that grand month of Williams festivities and oddball learning. My theory for Winter Study is that you either stay on campus and do something interesting/easy or go off campus and do something immersive/useful. I'm attempting both by going to Vermont for a study trip and politically blogging, which is technically a double load. I figure it will be a good chance to learn something about how to write better blog posts with a prof's help, and I will enjoy the freezing cold SO MUCH that I will probably never have to venture out again.

Last year, I was in DC for the month, living truly alone and working on Capitol Hill. While I'm glad to have had that experience, it's not one I want to repeat, though I hope to intern at a think-tank this summer.

Also hoping to go to the gym more, but that might not be in the cards. :D