Saturday, May 31, 2008

New Jersey wildflowers

We went on a wildflower hike in Norvin Green State Forest in Ringwood, NJ. Here's a lady's slipper orchid. (Photo credits: My wife.)

And here's a tulip poplar:

And we found a tiger swallowtail butterfly:

UPDATE: I should mention that our knowledgeable guide, George Petty, does other hikes through the Weis Ecology Center, and has a book Hiking the Jersey Highlands: Wilderness in Your Back Yard.

UPDATE 2: More here and here.

UPDATE: Scientific American has chosen to delete its "community" section, so some links above will not work.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday energy links

How to harvest solar power? Beam it down from space! This piece is a bit too breathless, but the prospect merits more attention than it gets.

Will algae be our energy savior? and Sapphire Energy turns algae into 'green crude' for fuel. There's hype in this area too, but again the possible benefits are very high.

Do we need an energy "Manhattan Project"? Dubious, says James Pethokoukis, reasonably suggesting that government take other measures, such as giving energy prizes, instead.

Rationally obliged to accept anarchism? Nah...

Crispin Sartwell writes:

do me a favor?: cut and paste this everywhere. it's ploy. but it's sincere.

A Philosophical Challenge

My irritating yet astounding new book Against the State (SUNY Press) argues that all the arguments of the great philosophers (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Hegel, Rawls, Nozick, and Habermas, among others), are, putting it kindly, unsound.

The state rests on violence: not the consent of the governed, not utility, not rational decision-making, not justice. Not only are the existing arguments for the legitimacy of state power unsound; they are shockingly fallacious, a scandal, an embarrassment to the Western intellectual tradition.

So I issue a challenge: Give a decent argument for the moral legitimacy of state power, or reconstruct one of the traditional arguments in the face of the refutations in Against the State.

If you can't, you are rationally obliged to accept anarchism.

I'd offer a huge cash prize, but I'm broke.Henceforward, if you continue to support or observe the authority of government, you are an evil, irrational cultist.

You're an anarchist now, baby, until further notice.

Will Wilkinson argues “If the state is not legitimate, then it is not morally defensible” is a false premise. Maybe. But for my part, I'd like to suggest the following thought-experiment:

You live on a property completely surrounded by one or more neighbors who happen to either hate you or want you (or your estate) to sell the property to them at a distress price. There is no government nor public roads, and private property rights are enforced by private police agencies. Are these neighbors operating within their rights when they prevent you from leaving your property and thus starve you to death?

This scenario is indicative of a deep problem with anarchocapitalism: It would allow gross violations of liberty by private actors, without even a theoretical recourse to equality before the law. And if it turns out that the neighbors don't have the right to keep you on your property, then that assumes that there's a legitimate role for someone to circumscribe the neighbors' property rights in order to protect your well-being. And from there, it seems we are on a slippery slope to that dangerous but thoroughly necessary thing called government.

(Wilkinson point found via The Corner.)

UPDATE 5/31: Sartwell has video here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cylon gift idea

TV Guide:
This is officially the coolest frackin' sci-fi collectible ever — and it'll only set you back $7,900! Fans of Battlestar Galactica can now purchase their very own 7-foot-tall, museum-quality Cylon Centurion complete with stereo sound and a menacing red LED-scanning eye.
More here and here.

UPDATE: Some more material of interest to Battlestar aficionados. IO9 asks "When Did Battlestar Galactica Jump the Shark?" (they don't give "not yet" as an option). And if you like the picture of Katee Sackhoff, see "The Girls of Battlestar Galactica in Interview Magazine." And finally, here's a political ticket that might interest conservatives: Roslin-Airlock '08.

Career sacrifices

Jim Manzi and Michael Goldfarb react unfavorably to Barack Obama's commencement address at Wesleyan, citing the smugness of passages such as:
My mother and grandparents wanted me to go to law school. My friends were applying to jobs on Wall Street. Meanwhile, this [community service] organization offered me $12,000 a year plus $2,000 for an old, beat-up car.

And I said yes.
To Obama's credit, though, at least he's no longer talking about how he turned his back on the wealth and power of editing newsletters at Business International.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Skunk works

Since we live next to a nature reserve, it's not entirely surprising that we have an unwanted member of the Mephitidae family hanging around our property. Initial countermeasures are a motion-activated ultrasonic repellent device, which doesn't seem like it's doing much, and a scattering of granular repellent. I'm not one of those gun-loving right-wing bloggers who would solve this problem with a .22 between the skunk's eyes. But we'll see what works.

Phoenix patriotism

Wearing a flag lapel pin on Mars.

More Phoenix images here.

No-spin zone

Jacob Weisberg describes a meeting last year with then-struggling candidate John McCain that was notably lacking in subterfuge. Excerpt:
Off, off message, McCain merrily went. What, I asked, did he think about his new best friend George W. Bush as a leader? Why wasn't he in the book? "I think that the very significant failing was to not question the course of the war in Iraq for too long," he said. "I'm told that the president would say to the generals on the teleconference, 'Do you have everything you need?' 'Yes sir!' End of conversation! I think General Eisenhower would have said, 'Well, what about the casualties in Anbar Province? What about the suicide bombers?' He'd go down the list of challenges we were facing. 'How's it going with the de-Ba'athificaiton? What's happening with the oil revenues?' "
(Via David Frum.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Peace psychologists

I hope a President Obama won't be basing his negotiation strategy with Ahmadinejad on this kind of thing:

For the sake of argument, imagine a world without conflict. That's the full-time job for members of a relatively new field called peace psychology who focus on problems like the genocide in Darfur, hatred in the Middle East, gang warfare in our cities, and rape everywhere.

Wondering what lessons they've learned in the trenches that we could use in our daily lives, "O" asked five top peace psychologists for their best advice on waging harmony.

•"We often figure that other people see the world in the same way we do and overestimate the degree to which they understand our approach and actions. Rather than making assumptions, ask for clarification; even ask about their intention to harm you ('Did you realize when you did that, it affected me in this way?' They might not be aware of it).

It goes on this way.

Political insiderdom

There are times I worry that I may be becoming a political junkie. But then I read a question like this:
If David Axelrod had run Hillary's campaign, and Mark Penn had run Obama's, a) would the outcome have been different and b) would we have had a very different understanding about the role gender and race play in this country? I think the answer to b) is definitely yes and to a) is perhaps yes.
And my lack of interest, or even of certainty as to what's being talked about, becomes reassuring.

Monday, May 26, 2008

June 4 debate

Todd Seavey announces the upcoming Debate at Lolita Bar:

Should Conservatives and Libertarians Vote for Barr Instead of McCain?

Next week, Wed., June 4 (8pm), Avery Knapp (who ran the Ron Paul Meet-Up group, remains active in the movement, and is a radiologist by day) will argue yes to that question and writer Ken Silber (whose writing has appeared in Reason, TCSDaily, the Freeman, and several prominent right-leaning publications) will argue no — while interested Democrats look on to see what happens when the right develops a Nader of its own — on the basement level of 266 Broome St. at Allen St. (one block south and three west of the Delancey St. subway stop), with Michel Evanchik moderating and Todd Seavey hosting.

Today, though, Memorial Day is observed — and some might find themselves thinking of war heroes like John McCain or soldiers in Iraq and planning to vote for the Republican in November’s presidential election.

And today is also the final day of the Libertarian Party convention, and former Republican Rep. Bob Barr has emerged as their presidential nominee, with fairly mainstream libertarian sportcaster Wayne Allyn Root as his running mate — the six hundred or so delegates at the convention narrowly picking Barr over Mary Ruwart, who has suggested legalizing child pornography and investigating whether explosives were used to fake the World Trade Center collapse. (Let us never speak of her again.)

Whether you favor McCain, Barr, or just seeing conservatives experience electoral pain in some small way comparable to that which Gore experienced in 2000 and Hillary is experiencing now, please join us.

NJ Transit Customer Service Part Deux

My email to NJ Transit, with names of a few individuals deleted:

Dear NJ Transit:

My wife and I ride NJ Transit daily, and were nonplussed by the company's performance at the Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Junction Station this afternoon. We were waiting on Track G, the listed platform for the 5:31 train, and next thing we knew both we and several other people had missed the train, which had passed through elsewhere without any apparent announcement or information on the screen.

We and several others in the same predicament went to Customer Service, where we spoke to your Mr. [deleted] and Ms. [deleted]. Ms. [deleted] informed us, politely but unhelpfully, that "All you had to do was turn around" to Platform H to get the train. But we had not been made aware of any rerouting, nor in fact did it even appear to us that the train on Track H had actually stopped.

Thus, we and others ended up waiting another hour for the 6:30 train. This follows a previous incident in which we missed a train because of the slowness of other personnel at the Secaucus Junction Station to do a timely gate transfer.

I do not know if the problem today was one of your personnel or your public information systems, or both, but in any event it was unsatisfactory. It would be unfortunate if Sen. Lautenberg's name became associated with such lassitude, laziness, listlessness and lethargy.


Ken Silber

My earlier frustration at Secaucus Transfer was noted here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Carbon comparison

I have a piece on "The Carbon Market," and the relative merits of cap-and-trade and carbon taxes, in this Research supplement here (PDF; it's on p.11).

Friday Battlestar link (gambling edition)

Wired: "Betting Site Lays Odds on Battlestar's Final Cylon."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Taxes, and Chelsea Clinton, in 2038

The financial magazine Research celebrated its 30th anniversary by running an issue filled with articles about what finance and the world will be like 30 years forward. Here's something from my piece "What Will Taxes Be Like?":

It was not until 2018 that the “Consumption Plus” tax was enacted. This system was reminiscent of the 20-20 plan [Lawrence] Lindsey had proposed, except its rates were higher, combining a 23 percent VAT with a 28 percent flat tax on income above an inflation-adjusted threshold. In addition, the legislative package increased the carbon tax that had been in place since 2015, while providing credits for vehicles fueled with carbon-negative algae biodiesel.

Now, in 2038, this basic system is still in place, although the VAT has been increased to 24.997 percent. (A constitutional amendment limits it to “below 25 percent.”) The flat tax on “premium income” and the carbon tax have also been hiked. However, some of the wealthy have become adept at using tax derivatives that let them exchange their tax exposure portfolios with those of foreign speculators. There are concerns that nobody really understands the systemic risks involved in this new market.

In any event, taxation will be a major issue in the upcoming 2040 presidential election. The octogenarian Republican incumbent, Bruce Willis, vows to hold the line against proposals for new taxes on space development, seabed mining, algae farming and cosmetic surgery. However, the likely Democratic nominee, Chelsea Clinton, has said “It’s time to balance the budget, and the lunar colonists should pay their fair share.”

Super-investor Ken Fisher also contributed an article, his being on "What Will World Markets Look Like?" and it so happens that Fisher, quite independently, had a vision of Chelsea Clinton as presidential contender:

Senator Chelsea Clinton (D-NJ) lost the 2036 presidential race to the incumbent, former Texas governor Barbara Bush. Clinton is deciding whether to mount another campaign to unseat the likely 2040 Republican nominee, current Vice President Jenna Bush. The Bushes ran in 2036 under the motto, “Get a Two-fer.”

Could Ken Fisher and I both be wrong?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Some science-minded skeptics, including Michael Shermer (whose Scientific American column I've been known to fact check, making me a "skeptic's skeptic") and Kirsten Sanford, are pitching to television executives a show called The Skeptologists. If you want some skepticism with your TV, you can ask for it here.

Panspermia watch

Do the Battlestar Galactica scriptwriters know about this?

"The Case Strengthens That Humans Actually Are from a Distant Planet."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Then again...

In the post below, I wondered whether conservatism is as sclerotic as George Packer says it is. Then I went to yesterday's "Best of the Web Today," which I hadn't read in some time, and found that James Taranto is still appending this long-stale footnote to mentions of John Kerry: "The haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam."

Self-critical conservatives

There's a paradox in George Packer's New Yorker article on "The Fall of Conservatism": It's about how sclerotic and un-self-critical the conservative movement has become, but it's filled with quotes from conservatives like David Frum and David Brooks who've changed their minds and criticized themselves about all sorts of things. Packer should've talked with Ann Coulter.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Moon ownership

It's too bad that many articles on extraterrestrial property focus on people who, in contravention of legal tradition and common sense, think they already own some. My decade-old but not yet outdated discussion of how to set up a plausible system of space property rights is here.

UPDATE 5/20: More on this subject here and here.

Hanson's very simple message

Victor Davis Hanson has a "simple conservative message." Simple-minded actually. One of his nostrums is "a balanced budget, no exceptions." But if he can't be bothered to explain which entitlements need to be cut to achieve that, how we can expect any politicians to achieve this? The closest he comes is "Just say no—or better yet 'Please pay for it' — the next time a new entitlement is introduced," which is a cop-out. There's also "Close the border" (how exactly?) and "free and supervised trade" (not sure what that means either, especially the "supervised").

He writes the "Problem [capital P in original] is not conservatism, but conservatives who aren't conservative." Maybe the Problem is conservatives who prefer posturing over practicality.

(Via Instapundit.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Libertarian decision

Todd Seavey has some thoughts on the upcoming Libertarian Party convention and the related (and just possibly more important) debate in which I'll participate on June 4.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Meanwhile near Mars

Phoenix will be landing soon, to do some digging in the Martian icecap. The mission controllers will be blogging the May 25 arrival. Here's some JPL video about what to expect (via InfoAddict):

Where writing goes to die

I quote the following Andrew Sullivan post in full simply as an example of bad writing:
Totten on Yon. I've been struck by a few recent movements in Iraq, especially Maliki's resilience. It seems to me that the core conservative position on Iraq needs to be skeptical and empirical. That means constantly reviewing our judgments in the wake of new facts and a basic truth: just because George W. Bush supports something doesn't mean it's inevitably bullshit. Just likely bullshit. But in Iraq, things appear to be getting more complex and less obviously doomed. It helps no one not to see this, least of all the troops. The long-term consequences of staying there indefinitely remain awful. But the possibility of a less traumatic departure needs to be grasped if we can.
Note the choppiness of sentence flow, needless use of expletives, placement of italics on uninspired wording, juxtaposition of adverb inevitably with adjective likely, and awkward phrasing such as "a less traumatic departure needs to be grasped" (or is it just the "possibility" of such a departure we should grasp, and is that only "if we can"?).

Friday Battlestar link (genetics edition)

Patrick Di Justo at The Science of Battlestar Galactica blog on "Is a human population of ~39,000 genetically viable?" Excerpt:
There are approximately 3500 military people in the fleet, and about 35,000 civilians (roughly 10 times as many civilians as soldiers). If the average age of menopause is 51, let's say that around 2/3 of the women on the civilian fleet can have at least one more child without becoming Cylon baby factories. That would work out to 2/3 of 52% of 35,000, or about 12,133 fertile women.
Which is apparently enough, if I understand him correctly.

'70s radio redux

My recent radio interview on the economic and financial travails of the 1970s is now available here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mars lander search

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter team is asking the public to help it find the Mars Polar Lander that presumably crashed in 1999. This involves looking through hi-res images, not traveling there, but it's a cool idea nonetheless. I was in's startup newsroom when the polar lander was lost, and that was one of various bad signs for the company's future (we'd assumed we'd be running lots of Mars images).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sorry Google

Google is repeatedly giving me:

We're sorry...

... but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now.

And then asking me to type in some characters to prove I'm not a robot. I think it's the beginning of the end of Google.

UPDATE: "I Am A Woman NOT A Virus."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Non-Barr Paulism

Bob Barr may have trouble winning over radical libertarians. But could attacks like this actually be a brilliant ploy aimed at giving him some semblance of mainstream credibility?

Many-worlds libertarianism

Via Marginal Revolution, here's a question from Scott Aaronson:
what do libertarianism and the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics have in common?
His answer is that they both appeal to what he calls "bullet swallowers," who are willing to follow theoretical principles to seemingly outlandish conclusions, whereas they are rejected by "bullet dodgers," who think the conclusions suggest some rethinking is needed in the theorizing.

Mark me down as a bullet-dodger on both points, though I'd put a qualifier such as "purist" before "libertarian" as used here. I want to see substantial empirical data before I believe that, say, the FDA (let alone the Defense Department) should be abolished, or that there are innumerable copies of ourselves being created every moment as the universe splits into more universes.

Not that sore

Of course, Matthew Yglesias, David Weigel and others are correct that Barack Obama meant that conflict involving Israel, not Israel itself, is a "constant sore." But wasn't this the kind of poorly worded, poorly considered statement we can expect from a candidate with miniscule experience in international relations? And isn't it worrisome that he says things even inadvertently that, as Jennifer Rubin puts it, are "likely to make Islamic militants swoon"?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Not Huckabee

I doubt that it's true that Huckabee tops McCain's VP list. If it is true, though, it would mean both Republican electoral disaster and ... a rather unpredictable debate in June. But I don't think it's plausible that McCain would choose someone who's not just inexperienced in foreign policy but downright naive about it.

UPDATE: Even weirder is the idea that Obama should win as some kind of "biblical plague" so Huckabee can save America in 2012.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Barr vs McCain

Here's the preliminary announcement for next month's debate at Lolita Bar:

“Should Conservatives and Libertarians Vote for Barr Instead of McCain?” (title may be tweaked depending on LP convention results in late May) — with Ron Paul campaign veteran Avery Knapp (yes) vs. science and economics writer (Scientific American Mind, elsewhere) Ken Silber (no). Michel Evanchik moderates, and Todd Seavey hosts. Wed., June 4, at 8pm.

Free admission, cash bar. The debates, usually pitting two opponents against each other (in a civil and often humorous fashion), take place on the basement level of Lolita Bar at 266 Broome St. at the corner of Allen St. on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, one block south and three west of the Delancey St. F, J, M, Z subway stop.

Obama's liquid coal

Barack Obama is touting to West Virginia his support for coal-to-liquid fuel. Maybe somebody should point out that it's environmentally worse than gasoline. It's not particularly relevant, however, that the technology was developed by the Nazis.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lamar's energy plan

Via Instapundit, here's Lamar Alexander's 7-point plan for energy independence. It's not clear exactly what the senator's suggesting by such points as "Make carbon capture and storage a reality for coal-burning power plants." Does the government subsidize it, mandate it, what? I suggest a vastly simpler 1-point plan: Institute a carbon tax, and let the market decide which of Lamar's seven goals are doable and when.


Planting continues as we create a new garden. Today's addition: purple and white alyssum, from Secor Farms.

Advice for the next president

Lawrence Lindsey, whose book What A President Should Know: An Insider's View on How to Succeed in the Oval OfficeI gave a positive albeit brief review, has a Weekly Standard article giving more advice to the next president. Sample:
Saying what you're going to do in specific fashion is not only good government, it is also good politics. A solid record of legislative accomplishment gained Republicans seats in 2002 and 2004 and gave Bush a reelection victory despite the Iraq war and a recovering but hardly robust economy. The lack of an agenda in 2005 and 2006 helped cost the Republicans the Congress in the midterms and send the president's popularity to new depths.
I'll have some more on Lindsey's book in an upcoming article for Research.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Magic gap

Code Pink is using witchcraft against a Marine Corps recruiting station in Berkeley.

Sadly, the military may be unable to respond in kind, having been pressured to unilaterally disarm in such matters by ... Bob Barr.

Friday Battlestar links

'Battlestar' actors are as in the dark as the series itself. (One hopes the writers are not.)

The frakking genius of 'Battlestar'. (That word probably will go farther than Farscape's "frell.")

Five possibilities for the final Cylon. (I always thought Billy was an underrated character.)

The Letchworth horror

It's too bad that plans to convert this reputedly haunted former asylum in Rockland County into a housing development have been cancelled. This had all the makings of a great made-for-TV movie.

Moon-Mercury pic

On a brighter note, here's the moon meeting Mercury.

Brooks vs Levin

David Brooks writes about David Cameron's Conservatives in Britain:

They want voters to think of the Tories as the party of society while Labor is the party of the state. They want the country to see the Tories as the party of decentralized organic networks and the Laborites as the party of top-down mechanistic control.

As such, the Conservative Party has spent a lot of time thinking about how government should connect with citizens. Basically, everything should be smaller, decentralized and interactive.

Somehow, Mark R. Levin interprets that as the opposite of what Brooks said, and responds thus:
What is the government-centered society Brooks, et al, seek to establish in place of the civilized society? Why does he not learn from history, i.e., that centralized government breeds tyranny in various forms?
For Levin, it seems, conservatism is not about reading comprehension.

Now here's Brooks again:
Some of his [Cameron's] ideas would not sit well with American conservatives. He wants to create 4,200 more health visitors, who would come into the homes of new parents and help them manage day-to-day stress. But he also talks about rewriting the tax code to make it more family friendly, making child care more accessible, and making the streets safer.
I gather that Brooks is not endorsing the "health visitors" idea. Now here's Levin, as if on cue:
Conservatism isn't only about individualism, although it is rightly a critical element of ordered liberty. But it isn't about "creating 4,200 more health visitors," either.
Levin headlines his post "This Can't Be Right." Well, it isn't.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Regarding a dent

An open letter to the person who (probably while driving an SUV, based on the height of the impact) dented the trunk of our parked Saturn Aura hybrid in the lot at the Allendale, NJ train station and left no note: Your driving skills are weak, but it's your character that's truly inferior.

Catwoman fetish

Virginia Postrel has more on the superhero fashion exhibit I noted earlier, including a slide show.

Bush-like, in a good way

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers writes:
Hillary's hanging on to the contest dramatically proves to me that she is unfit to be our president. It is so Bush-like, is it not? It's her Iraq. She has obviously failed, yet she keeps on just to prove she's not a quitter.
Bush's refusal to give up in Iraq, despite enormous pressure to do so, is one of the bright spots of his presidency. (Taking as long as he did to change the strategy there is another matter.) Would the U.S. or Iraq really be better off had there been a U.S. pull-out before Gen. Petraeus made headway against the chaos? Criticism such as the quote above is significantly better than praise.

Debating news

Congestion pricing did better in last night's debate than it did in New York City politics. Kudos to Charles Komanoff for a lucid presentation. Looking forward to next month, when yours truly will be defending McCain against Bob Barr or anyone else the Libertarian Party may belch up.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


You can win a signed copy of Carl Zimmer's Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life by asking a question about E. coli here. I asked about its potential as a bioweapon.

Superheroine costumes

This looks like a promising exhibit. More info here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Speech reaction

Interesting. I just watched Barack Obama's primary night speech on CNN. He was on a roll, getting applause and cheers every few seconds. But when he said he wants to "rebuild our military and go after al Qaeda's leaders," the crowd was silent. Did they not like that part?

Intelligence Squared

Speaking of debates, a lot of interesting topics are being considered for fall 2008 at Intelligence Squared, including "We need to get serious about reducing oil consumption" and "Christian fundamentalism is a force for good."

Jinn from Hyperspace

This has just arrived: The Jinn from Hyperspace: And Other Scribblings--Both Serious and Whimsicalby Martin Gardner. And it's something to look forward to; it looks like I've read very few of the pieces in this anthology. Gardner is one of my favorite writers.

"Bitterness will eat a hole in your soul"

In The Weekly Standard, Ken Ringle writes about an encounter with his former classmate at Episcopal High School, John McCain. The article overall is an absorbing discussion of William Ravenel, a teacher who was highly influential upon McCain. The following passage is noteworthy amid claims that McCain is unsuited to improve America's external relations:

Decades later, in the 1970s, after he'd recovered from his imprisonment, McCain was appointed the Navy's liaison with the Senate. One day I ran into him and asked him how he liked the work. He found it rewarding, he said, but he'd run into an infuriating obstacle. Though the Vietnam war was scarcely over, Congress was already planning to dispatch a mission to Hanoi to discuss the possibility of normalizing relations with Vietnam. The Navy wanted McCain to go along. He was shocked by that, and angry, and bitter beyond telling.

"Can you believe they are asking me to do that?" he said. "It took me six years to get out of Hanoi. I sure as hell don't want to go back. I'll never forgive those [North Vietnamese] bastards."

I don't remember what happened to the mission, but McCain didn't go and I heard no more about it. Until two decades later when President Clinton sought to normalize relations with Vietnam. Who was his major partner in the ultimately successful effort? Senator John Sidney McCain, R-Ariz.

I was stunned. Much of the Republican party was against the effort, as were McCain's conservative constituents in Arizona. Some accused him of treachery. Though our paths rarely crossed anymore, I called to congratulate him on what I considered a truly selfless act in the national interest, one of rare political courage. He thanked me and said that he remembered our conversation years before: "But you have to put stuff like that behind you or bitterness will eat a hole in your soul,'' he said. "We all have to put Vietnam behind us. All of us in this country have to become part of something larger than our own self-interest."

Some warmonger.

Upcoming debate

Another program note. Here's Todd Seavey:

I think Ken Silber will be defending the McCain option in our June 4 Debate at Lolita Bar, incidentally.

Todd thinks correctly. More details as the time approaches.

Seventies radio

I'm slated to be on the Gabe Wisdom show tonight (5/6/08 at 7pm eastern) talking about "The Sideways Seventies," featuring such topics as the gold window, WIN buttons and, of course, malaise.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Canada goslings

Watched by adult, goslings take a swim in pond in our backyard, 5-5-08.
A little more here.

Guilt by association

At Reason, Steve Chapman has a piece castigating John McCain for associating with G. Gordon Liddy. So is Al Franken also going to renounce his Liddy ties? And how about ... Bob Barr?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sullivan: Hillary not so bad after all

Andrew Sullivan expects "push-back" on his column suggesting an Obama-Clinton ticket. And well he should. He's spent months telling his readers about Clinton's utter depravity, her lack of any worthwhile claim to the presidency, her representation of the worst and vilest in our politics. I won't bother to link to any of his past posts that are along these lines; they're easily enough found. But now it's O.K. for her to be vice-president? The real question is, which should not be taken seriously--Sullivan's past screeds, his current stance, or both? I suggest "both."

Friday, May 2, 2008

Cylon tax policy

(And weekend Battlestar link.)

James Pethokoukis:
As they say on my favorite TV show, Battlestar Galactica, "All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again." We tried a windfall profits tax in 1980, with lousy results.

Racehorses and genetic hurdles

There's a fascinating article in today's WSJ about "Racing's Royal Bloodline." It turns out that most racehorses in the U.S. today are related to one horse, Native Dancer, who died in 1967. And along with genes for great speed have come problems:

Like hemophilia in the Russian royal family, Native Dancer's line has a tragic flaw. Thanks in part to heavily muscled legs and a violent, herky-jerky running style, Native Dancer and his descendants have had trouble with their feet. Injuries have cut short the careers of several of his most famous kin, most notably Barbaro, a great-great-great-grandson who was injured during the Preakness Stakes and was later put to death.

Overbreeding has exacerbated the problem. "There's a lack of durability right now," says Ric Waldman, the former head of operations for Windfields Farm in Canada, which has bred and raced Native Dancer's descendants. "How much can we keep breeding into these same bloodlines? We're dealing with the law of diminishing returns."

Another very interesting point:
Times in Triple Crown events are no faster than they were 30 years ago, despite advances in training and veterinary medicine.
This story is a reminder, as we move into the era of genetic engineering of plants, animals and, potentially, humans, that unintended consequences and unexpected pitfalls are par for the course of any advanced technology.

Obama's O.J.

A raging battle over Obama drinking orange juice is here. My contribution is here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Not so upbeat

Here's Michael Moynihan in Reason:
In his recently released book Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again, Frum concedes Heilbrunn’s point that a conservative regeneration is needed after the Bush administration’s big spending and disastrous foreign policy. While Frum is upbeat about conservatism’s prospects, Heilbrunn ends They Knew They Were Right on an ominous note: “These reckless minds…aren’t going away. Quite the contrary.”
The above isn't obviously wrong as was another recent Reason take on Frum. But it is a bit odd to see Frum described as "upbeat about conservatism's prospects." He scrapped the original title of his book, "The Next Republican President," because he doubted there would be one anytime soon. And he did tell the New York Times he wasn't necessarily keeping his New Years resolution, which was "not to be pessimistic."

Congestion pricing debate

This looks like it will be an interesting Debate at Lolita's:

Should Manhattan Streets Have Congestion Pricing?

YES: Charles Komanoff, economist who has prominently weighed in on transportation, energy, and environment issues throughout the City’s long congestion pricing battle (see his writing at

NO: Doug Dechert, controversial journalist devoted to “puncturing the pretensions of the plutocrats” who’s irked New York Post with his reporting in New York Press on the Page Six corruption scandals (see the archives of

Moderator: Michel Evanchik
Host: Todd Seavey
Wed., May 7 (8pm) at Lolita Bar, basement level, 266 Broome St. at Allen St. (one block south and three west of the Delancey St. subway stop). Free admission, cash bar.

Politically, congestion pricing looks pretty moribund in New York right now, but it's still on the move elsewhere. Moreover, the topic may lend itself to a broader discussion of Pigovian taxes; Komanoff cofounded the Carbon Tax Center.

Some energy links

Rand Simberg is underwhelmed by Raji Patel's call for space solar power.

Robert Rapier is unenthused by Robert Zubrin's defense of ethanol.

Philip Klein is unforgetful of Barack Obama's ethanol pander.

Gaseous tax holiday

Greg Mankiw, recently targeted with a wild accusation of being Krugmanesque, and incidentally known to not be above practical jokes himself, agrees with Paul Krugman that a gas tax holiday is a bad idea. Well, at least McCain knows how to bring people together.