Looking Glass

Google, which owns Blogger as well as Picasa, apparently decided to automatically edit my last photo to show off Picasa's tricks.  They uploaded the "effects version" to my photo album, for my consideration I suppose.

Not bad, really.


An excellent piece by a theoretical physicist on the proper structure of scientific thought (and philosophy).
This takes me to another point, which is, Should a scientist think about philosophy or not? It’s the fashion today to discard philosophy, to say now that we have science, we don’t need philosophy. I find this attitude naïve, for two reasons. One is historical. Just look back. Heisenberg would have never done quantum mechanics without being full of philosophy. Einstein would have never done relativity without having read all the philosophers and having a head full of philosophy. Galileo would never have done what he did without having a head full of Plato. Newton thought of himself as a philosopher and started by discussing this with Descartes and had strong philosophical ideas.

Even Maxwell, Boltzmann—all the major steps of science in the past were done by people who were very aware of methodological, fundamental, even metaphysical questions being posed. When Heisenberg does quantum mechanics, he is in a completely philosophical frame of mind. He says that in classical mechanics there’s something philosophically wrong, there’s not enough emphasis on empiricism. It is exactly this philosophical reading that allows him to construct that fantastically new physical theory, quantum mechanics.


Tyler Cowan proposes an interesting take on global income inequality.  Is it more important that members of a particular nation resemble each other in wealth, or that poverty is decreasing globally at the same time that differences in average wealth among nations are shrinking?  It's possible that the process of raising a country's standard of living (the average standard as well as the standard for its poorest citizens) also results in a large new group of extraordinary winners in that same country.  The gap in wealth between close neighbors increases, but the poorest neighbors are less threatened with poverty and untreatable disease, while whole areas of the globe previously left out of the explosion in material prosperity over the last few centuries begin to catch up.

How much harm are we willing to do globally in order to eliminate the gap between rich and poor in a series of individual countries?  It gets back to the old question:  is this about compassion or outraged envy?

A Glimpse of the Wild

Approach from the South

Smoking guns

At least they had the grace to be appalled at what they'd done.  Sort of.

The future of air travel

Israel equips its domestic aircraft with anti-missile defenses, the only country to do so.

Two meanings of "private"

Megan McArdle ably expresses something we were arguing about recently at Cassandra's place: the recent trend to consider everything people do together as some aspect of "government":
In the 19th century, the line between the individual and the government was just as firm as it is now, but there was a large public space in between that was nonetheless seen as private in the sense of being mostly outside of government control -- which is why we still refer to “public" companies as being part of the “private" sector. Again, in the context of largely negative rights, this makes sense. You have individuals on one end and a small state on the other, and in the middle you have a large variety of private voluntary institutions that exert various forms of social and financial coercion, but not governmental coercion -- which, unlike other forms of coercion, is ultimately enforced by the government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.
McArdle's context (like Bookworm's) is the Hobby Lobby decision, and the progressives' conviction that not forcing an employer to buy an employee's abortifacient is the same thing as allowing a religious fanatic employer to impose its crazed right-wing views on helpless employees.

H/t Bookworm Worm.

Burn it!

William Deresiewicz takes on Lawrence Buell's "The Dream of the Great American Novel," a turgid new contribution to the school of subjecting literary classics to a political-correctness auto-da-fé.  The purpose of this approach is not to explore the intellectual or aesthetic achievements of a novel but to determine how closely it hews to this year's most exacting standards of virtue. "I feel as if we’re back in Salem," Deresiewicz laments. "Maybe he should have just thrown the book in the water to see if it would float."

As so often is the case, the most devastating criticism of Buell's book consists simply of quoting a passage:
Admittedly any such dyadic comparison risks oversimplifying the menu of eligible strategies, but the risk is lessened when one bears in mind that to envisage novels as potential GANs is necessarily to conceive them as belonging to more extensive domains of narrative practice that draw on repertoires of tropes and recipes for encapsulating nationness of the kinds sketched briefly in the Introduction—such that you can’t fully grasp what’s at stake in any one possible GAN without imagining the individual work in multiple conversations with many others, and not just U.S. literature either.
Calling the Great American Novel a "GAN" should be enough to tip us off.

Alive inside

What if Romney had won?

Sadly, I have to agree with this assessment from a commenter at ChicagoBoyz:
I think Romney would have:
1) Failed to repeal Obamacare, instead agreeing to various false compromises to “fix” it, leaving the parts most important to the left intact, because otherwise they wouldn’t agree to any “fix.” The base of the GOP would, of course, feel outraged and betrayed. Result- disaster.
2) Agreed to impose a carbon tax upon the US economy, because he believed in global warming. Conceding that, he would have no real cover when the left resumed shrieking that we need to force Americans to stop using exothermic chemicals reactions, because Gaia. And he’d “compromise,” because that’s just what GOP establishment politicians do, regardless of the consequences. Result--yet more disaster.
3) Fought for another amnesty bill, with no real border security, because that’s what the big money donors want. Of course once again we’d hear all about phony border security provisions, carefully written to mean nothing at all, wrapped up in a giant “guest worker” program, more H1B visas, more immigration, MOAR. And working class Americans, US citizens, would have been thrown into the street by foreigners, including those who have absolutely no interest in the United States other than to send money home. Result- even more disaster, blamed on the Republican president.
4) Continued expensively subsidizing the military requirements of our competitors, such as the EU, Japan, and Israel, while allowing their enemies and ours to pilfer American defense secrets with impunity. As Spengler notes, Israel is doing pretty well. Perhaps we don’t need to give them any more spendy military assistance.
5) Done nothing at all to combat the slow-motion destruction of the Republic by the left, or its relentless subversion of American culture, or the vile hate-America propaganda force-fed to almost every American college student. Nope. I expect he’d come up with another student loan program, to make hate-America propaganda easier to afford.
6) Destroyed the Republican party forever and all time, because the base voters of the GOP have become terribly unwilling to tolerate the endless, mindless, backstabbing failure of the GOP establishment.

"I spend less than I earn"

Shrinking your consumption to match your income?  That's crazy talk.

Greenest administration evah

More recycling, this time of hard drives in the FEC belonging to a former Lois Lerner crony who was under investigation for violations of Hatch Act.  I wonder if they get special grants for that?

Power vacuum

The President argues that it's ridiculous to imagine the border can be controlled. That's just primitive "moats and alligators" thinking.  But if the U.S. doesn't control the border, does that mean it's uncontrolled?  Not at all, reports an Oklahoma congressman.  Cartels have stepped into the breach and locked up the border as tight as a drum:
“There are a lot of children there that have suffered on the trek to the United States of America. We’re talking about cases where people were abused … when you pay criminal organizations to transport children, you’re putting your children in harm’s way,” Bridenstine said. “If you don’t pay [criminal organizations] enough money your children could be subject to forced labor, forced prostitution, sold in the slave trade, and in many cases many cases death. There are mass graves in northern Mexico because somebody didn’t pay the right criminal organization.”

Harder choices

OK, it's the Daily Caller, and maybe they made it up out of whole cloth.  Hillary Clinton is reported to be working on a new book that will repair the damage to her pocketbook and her brand dealt by the disastrous rollout of "Hard Choices."  This time her advisors, including her soi-disant husband and co-executive of Clinton, Inc., are urging a fresh strategy:  tell a little truth.  Seem a little human.  She can call it "Hard Truths" or "True Choices" or even "What Difference, At This Point, Does It Make?"

It's about collaboration

An interesting theory about whether the coordination between the White House and the IRS took place via the IRS employee's union.

H/t Bookworm Room.

A weak recovery

This AEI article includes seven charts comparing the shape of the recent recession to the average of all post-WWII recessions. Each graph shows conditions as they existed a certain number of years before and after the official end of the recession, with a cone of uncertainty around the post-WWII average expressed as a single standard deviation above and below. In almost every case, the current recovery hovers around the full-standard-deviation-below line.

Lazy composting

This guy is exactly of our way of thinking. If you're patient, there's never any reason to work hard on a compost pile, or to overthink what you're willing to throw into it.

Two wings, one bird

Jim Geraghty:
Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal told Al-Jazeera last month, “Hamas is comprised of a political wing and a military wing.”
Really? Because from over here, it looks like a public-relations wing and a convenient-scapegoat wing. “Oh, it wasn’t us that fired those rockets! It was our militant wing!” Militant wings are the evil twins of geopolitics. If your organization has a military wing — as opposed to an actual, declared, uniforms-and-everything-military — you’re probably a troublemaker. You notice the good guys in life rarely have a militant wing. “I’m with a hardline faction of the Red Cross.” “I’m with Mother Theresa’s paramilitary branch.”
These groups really seem to think that the political wing can’t be blamed for what the militant wing does. Guys, you’re two halves of the same chicken. Colonel Sanders just sees one bird.

My man Rick

I don't care if Rick Perry did forget the third of the three most useless federal agencies that should be jettisoned instantly, I still like him for president.  This HotAir roundup includes a 15-minute video at the end that's well worth watching.  The Republican 2016 "frontrunners" don't compare favorably, to say nothing of Hillary Clinton.  Perry is a solid executive with a grasp of how policy affects the facts on the ground, not just the media spin-dazzle.

Whatever happens, I'm tremendously grateful to have had him for governor these past years.  It's a shame Texas taxpayers have had to spend half a billion dollars to address the border issues the national government can't grasp.  It's beyond exasperating to hear the President dismiss them as fantasies about moats and alligators, as if it were not he who is living in fantasyland.

An unofficial union

I expected to be outraged by an article entitled "UAW decides to skip election and form union at VW plant anyway," but I found instead that the union is proceeding in just the way I'd like to see.  They're asking workers to join a union, not purporting to force dues on anyone by operation of law, and not expecting management to acknowledge them as the exclusive negotiators for the entire workforce.  If they get big and popular enough, their bargaining position may change.

Not that they should ever have the right to enforce 100% membership or dues payment no matter how popular they get.  If they offer an attractive enough package of benefits, such as automatic legal representation in management-labor disputes, they should be able to attract workers voluntarily.  Our neighbors across the road used to be involved in a sheetmetal workers union that provided job training and certification services that were good for everyone in both management and labor.  It doesn't have to become a boondoggle.  (But with the UAW involved, what are the odds?)