The new hockey stick

H/t Zombie.


This Emeril recipe is one of the best things I've tasted in a while.  It's called "Oysters, Scallops, and Crawfish Bordelaise in Puff Pastry," but an internet search suggests that it's not really a bordelaise sauce, which classically refers to a sauce based on Bordeaux wine and a meat demi-glace.  Also, it seems to me you could use any seafood, as long as you have some dry white wine and some seafood stock.  Whatever, this Emeril take on the traditional sauce is amazing, either in store-bought frozen puff pastry or (if those aren't handy), just on pasta.  We make fish stock from our fish frames or shrimp heads and/or shells, then freeze it for later use.

First you soften garlic and shallots in a pan, then briefly add the seafood, removing and reserving it in a bowl as soon as it's cooked.  Add wine and a little cognac and cook it down to half its volume.  Add fish stock, salt, and pepper and reduce again to half its volume. Stir in some chopped tomato, then butter, then the final herbs, including tarragon. Finally, add the cooked seafood back in.  The concentrated flavors from those two reductions make it unbelievably good.

Evening up the playing field

Here's one way to ensure that the Second Amendment's purpose of equalizing the power between the government and citizens is not undermined:  Olympic Arms is refusing to do any further business with New York government officials.  If you're a private citizen of New York who tried to order a gun from Olympic Arms, they'll refund your purchase price, ship the guns immediately to an out-of-state location for your pickup, or hold them for six months while you make arrangements to move to a saner state.

Fauxcahontas Makes A Good Point

She may lack personal ethics, but that doesn't mean she can't make it uncomfortable for those who lack professional ethics!

Safety first

From Jim Geraghty:  "Finally. A 14-day waiting period for all assault cabinet nominees."

The sky is falling

A meteor blew up yesterday about 25 miles in the air above a small Russian city about 1,000 miles east of Moscow.  The AP article said it was traveling at supersonic speeds.  I'll say!  About 50 times the speed of sound, from the estimates.  It may have been a few meters wide and weighed in the neighborhood of 11 tons.

I always forget how the terms work:  It's a meteoroid if it's a fairly small piece of junk in orbit, a meteor when it's in Earth's atmosphere burning up, and a meteorite if part of it makes it to the surface.  This one may have produced a few fragments on the surface, but mostly the impact took the form of a shock wave that collapsed part of a factory roof.  Five hundred people were injured, 34 of them seriously enough to go to the hospital.  That's a lot for a meteor.

The fear from within

People with damage to the amygdala are strangely unable to feel fear of external threats.  It turns out that they can feel fear generated in another part of brain, in response to internal threats like air hunger.  What's more, they are more prone to panic attacks in that context than people who routinely experience amygdala-mediated fear of external threats.  I wonder if they have less practice mastering fear?

Maybe Matt Ridley was right?

In "The Rational Optimist," Matt Ridley argued that evolutionary pressure operates not only on genes but on cultural innovations; that "ideas have sex."  This article in Nature compares the transmissibility of genes and folktales:
If folk tales simply spread by diffusion, like ink blots in paper, one would expect to see smooth gradients in these variations as a function of distance. Instead, researchers found that language differences between cultures create significant barriers to that diffusion 
These barriers are stronger than those for the exchange of genes — a message that might be crudely expressed as: “I’ll sleep with you, but I prefer my stories to yours.”

Happy Birthday, Georgia

My beloved homeland came into practical reality 240 years ago today, when Sir James Edward Oglethorpe landed on a high bluff and founded the Province of Georgia and its capital city of Savannah. The charter gave him all the land to the Pacific Ocean, but in practical terms at first it was just Yamacraw Bluff and what he could hold with his comrades. Georgia has since existed as a British province, a free and independent state, a state under the Articles of Confederation, a member of the United States of America, a member of the Confederate States of America, and was again brought back under the union. Nations come and go, but Georgia remains.

Oglethorpe founded the colony in part to defend British possessions from the Spanish in Florida, and so once he had established his city and militia, he sought out Scottish Highlanders to hold his southern frontier. These settled at the Altamaha river, under James MacIntosh Mohr (that is, "James MacIntosh the Great"). They fought the Spanish, and they fought the Indians, and they usually won -- especially at the Battle of Bloody Marsh. During one of Oglethorpe's expeditions home to recruit more Rangers, the '45 rising came up, and he had to turn to the business of fighting the Highlanders instead of recruiting them.

He had the same fate with the Americans, whom he had helped to found. After the Revolution, he was at home in Britain and went to visit John Adams, our first ambassador to the British. It's sad to think that our founder, a man of talent, insight and character, did not finally make his home here. We remember him with honor.

Reading list

Jamie Weinstein of The Daily Caller interviewed Elliott Abrams, former deputy National Security adviser to President George. W. Bush, and asked him what three books most shaped his understanding of the Middle East:
I would note four. Bernard Lewis’s “What Went Wrong,” Michael Oren’s “Power, Faith, and Fantasy,” Natan Sharansky’s “The Case for Democracy,” and a somewhat older one: the Hebrew Bible.
The whole interview is interesting.  He asserts, for instance, that Israel's unilateral strike on the Syrian nuclear plant in 2007 avoided war and spurred negotiations.  Because both the U.S. and Israel declined to crow about (or even acknowledge responsibility for) the strike, Assad was able to save face without responding to it.  Because the strike made Syria fear the U.S. and Israel, it inspired Assad to come to the bargaining table.  Yes, sometimes that happens for reasons other than that we made someone love us.

Abrams believes it's possible a strike on Iran would have the same result.  I wonder, though, if we aren't dealing with an entirely different class of crazy there.  Though when I think about it -- Syria?  Iran?  Maybe I can't make a principled distinction between them.

Be fruitful and multiply

I've always wondered why God found it necessary to tell us this.  Or, if you're not a believer, why did a culture find it necessary to exhort its own members to reproduce?  Don't we have a biological imperative?  How did we get here otherwise; why did our ancestors survive?  It's strange to observe that one of the most basic human drives is so vulnerable to collapse, especially once birth control comes into the picture.

David Goldman argues that cultural death causes and is revealed by a collapse in reproduction.  His thesis, focusing on Islamic societies, is that some religions cannot survive the transition from traditional society to modernity.  The hallmark of their failure is that their fertility rate collapses as soon as their women acquire an education. In 1979, before the Iranian revolution, the fertility rate was 7 children per female.  That rate abruptly dropped to 1.6 children per female, just above the disastrous European rate, and an unprecedented "snapping shut of the national womb."  This giant vote of no confidence in the future of the culture induces a frightening social dynamic:
[A] society that suddenly stops having children suffers from cultural despair.  The same cultural despair that curtains off the future for families afflicts policymakers.  Cultural pessimism is a great motivation for strategic adventures.  A nation that fears that it may have no future may be willing to risk everything on the roll of a dice.  Iran has one last big generation of military age men, the ones who were born in the early 1980s before the great weapons.  Nothing but the use of force would stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, with dreadful consequences.  With Iran on the verge of building a nuclear bomb, we have hit crunch-time.  Will the foreign policy establishment connect the dots in time?
This is a sore subject for me, as you can imagine.  I wonder if we've managed the transition well in our own country to a culture in which no one need be fertile unless he or she chooses.  How are the incentives for childbearing different now?  When the choice whether to reproduce or not becomes unconstrained, what makes fathers willing to support their children and their children's mothers?  What makes mothers willing to raise the children?   You'd think it would be obvious, but the demographics tell us it's anything but.  When people acquire choices for the first time, there can be a scary period in which we find out what new motives will operate, and what we have to offer each other to make it all keep working.

Gloria Steinem famously remarked that she had no children because she didn't mate in captivity.  If educating women causes a large fraction of them to adopt this view, what's wrong with the world they've become educated about?  Why should it be necessary to withhold education in order to get them to buy into continuing the race?  We've lost most of our traditional culture and religion.  What is there to replace them with, as a motive for looking to the future in a spirit of sacrifice?

The thinking man's Snopes

I'm enjoying browsing a site called "Skeptics/Stack Exchange," not only because its members try to get a collective handle on interesting disputes of the day, but because they have a filtering system I've never seen used before.  Although newcomers may register freely to use the site, they have to earn "reputation" points before they're allowed to take certain actions.  Apparently anyone may take a stab at posting a question or answering a posted question, and may earn reputation points if the question or answer is admired.  Anyone may also vote on whether a post was helpful, but only people who have accumulated minimum reputation points may vote to approve an answer, or to leave comments addressing whether the question is appropriately stated or the answer is convincing.  (That's a distinction between "helpful" and "substantively appropriate" that I've never seen before.)  There's an elaborate hierarchy of privileges.  It takes a very large number of reputation points to gain the right to close questions.

The effect of linking a good reputation to the right to speak or to control the discussion is to eliminate most flame-throwing and many logical fallacies.  The discussion on climate change managed to include both believers and skeptics in roughly even numbers, with the two sides actually attending somewhat to each others' arguments.  That's a new one for me.

Utah Sheriffs Self-Identify

Their sacrifice will make them easy to round up when the revolution comes, but it does force the Feds to step back and rethink how much they can rely on state and local support if they push too far. The real question, of course, is whether the Feds have any intention of pushing that far.

Pretty strong language in the letter.

Police State (part 43)

Instapundit takes note of this item, from the National Review Online, which encapsulates nicely just what a police state the US is turning into.

There is a Japanese Anime series called "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex" that takes place in the usual dystopian future--although the fictional Japan depicted isn't quite as bad as the Lost Angeles of "Blade Runner". But a plot point in the series involves conflict between intergovernmental agencies and their armed SWAT teams. Literally, one group is the "Health Ministry Commandos".

I chuckled at that when I first watched it, but I'm not laughing anymore, because that's pretty much what we got here now, when some farmer gets raided by armed agents for selling unpasteurized milk.

Health Ministry Commandos.

The Pope Resigns

Apparently this is the day that everyone decided to run their pre-written obituaries, rather than wait for the man to die. They read a little strangely, given that his ministry doesn't actually end until the end of the month.

I won't presume to judge a man of such accomplishments, but it is clear that he is doing what he thinks is right. We can only hope the College of Cardinals will choose as well again.

Hugo Chavezitis

Walter Russell Mead pokes some gentle fun at David Rothkopf, who fears that the shale boom will distract the country from its real work, like a shot of morphine that "hides the pain" and "clouds the vision":
America, once doomed because it had no more oil, is now even more doomed because it has too much:
It looks like the United States is showing the early symptoms of a particularly nasty case of the Resource Curse.  The dreaded syndrome, also known as Hugo Chávezitis, tends to strike countries when they tap into large finds of oil, gas, or other valuable natural resources.  Although such bonanzas clearly have their advantages, the influx of new wealth often leads countries to neglect real underlying problems or the requirements of long-term growth simply because they can spend their newfound riches to paper over their troubles.
And what are the "real underlying problems" the country needs to be solving?  The usual: "building human capital and promoting sustainable economic growth." The "other drivers of long-term prosperity, such as education and infrastructure."  (Ah, infrastructure:  code for "turn over all your money for boondoggles and pork.")  What's more, although it will be wonderful to convert oil- and coal-burning plants to clean shale gas, that will only make people lose interest in climate change without eliminating enough CO2 to save the world.

The dire warning about Chavez should make the reader stop and consider how our two countries might approach a resource boom differently.  Chavez, no doubt, would love to blather about"building human capital" and promoting "sustainable economic growth," while driving long-term prosperity with "education" and "infrastructure," if only he could commandeer the proceeds of the boom and administer it all through a tight clique of central planners who know best.  Here in the benighted old U.S.A., we haven't quite reached the point where our wise leaders will have the sole power to direct the use of the new resources.   It is to be hoped, therefore, that the private sector will put a lot of them to use driving long-term prosperity with old-fashioned things like widely dispersed business and jobs.

We've got some Hugo Chavezitis going on here, that's for sure, but it doesn't take the form of a shale boom.  It's personified in President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, and its primary symptom is the belief that confiscation is a substitute for production, as long as you have progressive ideas for how to spend the loot.

"Because we can, OK?"

Love this very short video, from House of Eratosthenes.  Our curious monkey brain.

Part Time DMV

We knew that corporations would do this -- probably almost all of them, and to the greatest degree they possibly can -- but apparently state governments can also stop employing people full-time to avoid Obamacare.

I remember when the French started cutting to a 35 hour workweek in the hope of creating more jobs. At the time we mocked them, but we've apparently found a way to create a 29 hour limit.