Monday, October 31, 2011

Post-storm backyard, NJ

The old Japanese Maple endures.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Romney getting cooler

The standard position of my party, the Republicans, on global warming at the present time is a self-contradictory cocktail with the following ingredients:

1. It's not (known to be) happening.
2. If it's happening, humans aren't (known to be) causing it.
3. It's nothing to worry about anyway.
4. There's nothing much to be done about it.

Points 1 and 2 are flatly wrong. Point 3 is weak. Point 4 becomes increasingly true, as time passes and nothing much is done, which is a tragedy.

There's little point discussing Points 3 and 4 with people who wrongly persist in Points 1 and 2. In the current presidential race, there have been two presidential candidates, Romney and Huntsman, who have acknowledged that it's happening and humans are causing it; Romney had said humans are causing the warming, but later that he didn't know how much of it is caused by humans. Now he's converted to this:
“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.”
The good news is, his opinion is clearly not frozen.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Madison book

Current reading: James Madison, by Richard Brookhiser. I can recommend it even without having read the whole thing. I've focused mostly on the second half, with a particular eye toward the flexibility that even strict constructionists showed in putting the Constitution into practice. Madison, for instance, acceded to a Bank of the United States after it had existed for a couple of decades, partly on the grounds that this duration established it as valid. Incidentally, I'm working on some 18th-century-related writing of my own.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Yippies on Wall Street

One more Occupy Wall Street-related link, this time to my Research magazine article of April 2008 on "The Go-Go Sixties." Here is a sidebar "Yippies on Wall Street":
On August 24, 1967, a group of about a dozen young men and women arrived at the New York Stock Exchange. They were Yippies, or members of the Youth International Party. They had called ahead and asked for a tour, but their real purpose was to perform some "political theater," their style of creatively obnoxious protest and confrontation.
The group included Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, radical activists who would become increasingly well-known as the decade wore on. The guards were wary of the scruffy visitors, but allowed them into the visitors' gallery with a warning that no demonstrations would be allowed.
But the Yippies, once they were overlooking the trading floor, launched into loud speechifying against capitalism and the Vietnam War. There was some applause from down below, by floor traders who were sympathetic or just amused. Then the Yippies, announcing the "death of greed," floated some dollar bills down to the floor. How much money was involved is uncertain, but there was a brief commotion until trading resumed.
According to Vincent J. Cannato in his 2001 book The Ungovernable City, the administration of liberal Republican Mayor John Lindsay was quietly providing subsidies to the Yippies around this time. So it's possible those were taxpayer dollars being dropped to the floor.
The Yippies progressed to other stunts, including "levitating the Pentagon" and rioting at the 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago. As it happened, though, they did not maintain their uniformly hostile approach to capitalism. By the 1980s, Rubin had become a businessman and entrepreneur, and he even worked for a while at the brokerage firm of John Muir & Company.
 Whole article here.

Some OWS links

Besides the Alec Baldwin-related material below, I recommend:

"Why Occupy Wall Street Will Fail." (With interesting tie-in to Nicholas Carr.)

"New Yorkers Rage Over Occupy Wall Street Protestors."

"The Organizers vs. the Organized in Zuccotti Park."

Alec Baldwin is right

Recommended viewing: Alec Baldwin defending capital markets, and declining to endorse "End the Fed."

Found via David Frum's "Alec Baldwin Is Not Worthless."

I would add two things:

1. The protestors' claim that the Fed is "a private bank" is phony baloney, albeit of a type that appeals to the appetites of both Occupy Wall Street and Ron Paul's followers (the latter seem to be dominant among the cluster of people talking to Baldwin).

2. How did we get to a point where Alec Baldwin makes a more convincing defense of capitalism than GOP leaders typically do?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ron Paul vs weather satellites

Over at FrumForum, I analyze "Ron Paul's Spaced Out Plan," particularly with regard to his proposal to eliminate the Commerce Dept. Excerpt:

Ron Paul has unveiled a fiscal plan that would eliminate the Commerce Department, among other departments. The Commerce Department includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and one of NOAA’s functions is operating the nation’s weather satellites.

Paul’s plan would zero out Commerce immediately, which means NOAA would also go away. (Interestingly, though, Paul’s line-item presentation of his plan is not detailed enough to include any mention of NOAA.) That raises some questions...
Whole thing here.

UPDATE 10/20: The Bourbon Democrat: "I am sure a man as educated as Silber knows that Dr Paul would not just shut down the satellites and let them fall out of orbit!"

One interesting aspect of the comments and replies to my post is that critics are about evenly divided between two schools of thought: (1) of course we should privatize weather satellites; and (2) of course no one is talking about privatizing weather satellites; NOAA would just be transferred to a new department.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shallows thoughts

Just finished The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr. This makes a very good case for cutting down on one's Web surfing. Now, given the lackadaisical pace of updating here at QuickSilber, one might suspect that any Web compulsiveness I'd developed has been solved, but I think there is considerable room for improvement in how much, and to what ends, I use the Internet. As we head deeper into election season, I could imagine more blogging here (no promises, though) and less Twitter or other social media. In any event, contrary to recent practice, tonight I will not be live-chatting the GOP debate (though some of my FrumForum colleagues will be) and have already slotted a different purpose to the time.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Anti-Wall Street watch

Walter Olson notices something missing in a Time magazine poll.

The poll's apparently being read by the Obama administration, though.

Reminder: as Greg Farrell pointed out in my video interview with him months ago, terrible business decisions aren't ipso facto illegal.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hamilton Grange update

Something I missed when it ran a few weeks ago: "Hamilton's Shining House on a Hill," by my onetime City Journal editor Myron Magnet. I am curious, also, as to what Myron's next book, mentioned in his bio blurb as "The Founders at Home," will be like (and am presuming it will be literally about their homes).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Monkey Shakespeare

Back in 1999, in my Reason article "Is God in the Details?" criticizing claims by conservatives and others that science had uncovered a cosmic design, I wrote this (emphasis added):
Nor is there any reason to doubt the sincerity of Bork, Will, or other conservatives who have discovered evidence of design in the laws of physics. In many cases, however, there is plenty of reason to doubt their knowledge. Bork and Will make sweeping statements about the universe based on a cursory reading of popular accounts. The Wall Street Journal's and The Washington Times' reviewers of [Patrick] Glynn's book accept at face value his misleading definition of the anthropic principle. Glynn devotes four pages to a puerile analogy about monkeys with typewriters. (Yes, if the monkeys are assumed to be unchanging beings with limited capacities, they would never type Shakespeare. It does not follow that the universe is subject to similar constraints.)
Now, the monkey/Shakespeare issue is back, based on a software exploration of it, and it seems that monkeys not only wouldn't type Shakespeare but aren't a good example of anything other than monkeys.
A 2002 experiment ran into a different problem: Real monkeys aren't random-number generators. Arts students and faculty from Plymouth University in Devon, England, set six monkeys loose on an iMac in the nearby Paignton Zoo. They learned that the primates had favorite keys, with thousands of instances of the letter 'S' but none of 'E,' 'I,' 'O' or 'T' in a selection of the monkeys' musings the research group published.

So even if chained to a computer, the monkeys might never generate words, let alone classic passages. The rules of probability don't apply in the same way they do to the theoretical or software monkeys, because these primates had their own preferences. "It questions the whole idea of animals as random generators," says Mike Phillips, professor of interdisciplinary arts at Plymouth, who led the research. "I think Shakespeare might be species-specific."
So now we can move on to other topics.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Clinton Road traffic

Undoubtedly because of this Yahoo piece, "Clinton Road, New Jersey: The Most Terrifying Road in the U.S.," my blog is getting lots of Clinton Road-related traffic. My main posts on that subject are here and here, and sorry to say, folks, an actual drive on that road can be extremely uneventful.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Neutrinos vs global warming

Robert Bryce's piece "Five Truths About Climate Change" states, among other things:
The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein's theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth's atmosphere. 
I respond to that and more in my piece "Why We Should Still Be Sweating Global Warming":
This attempt to stuff climate science into a black hole is a non sequitur. That’s not just because the neutrino finding, even if confirmed, has nothing to do with the data or theories of climate science. It’s also because the analogy Bryce is making — if relativity could be wrong, so could global warming — presents a misleading picture of the respective scientific theories and how science works.
Whole thing here.

UPDATE: The New York Times has more, including a mention of yours truly.

UPDATE 10/7: A comic version.

UPDATE 10/10: Reihan Salam: "The Silber post is far better" (than the Times'); thanks. Also, for some further delving into the physics, I recommend Joe Romm's post.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Anti-corporate animus

My latest FrumForum piece: "'Occupy Wall Street' Is Obsessed with Corporations." Excerpt:
Then there is the complaint about the doctrine of a corporation as “legal person.” That complaint is motivated partly by desire to slap restrictions on corporate political ads and donations (regardless of legal persons’ free speech rights) and more broadly by a dislike of the idea that “corporations are people,” as Mitt Romney said in a supposed gaffe recently. In fact, corporations are of course organizations of people, but the deeper point is that legal personhood enables a degree of accountability that would not be possible otherwise.
Let’s say a company dumped some toxic waste a few decades ago. The executives of that company may no longer be the same people, the shareholders may have entirely turned over; the people working there or holding stock may have had nothing to do with the waste dumping back then. It doesn’t matter — the corporation can still be held responsible, forced to do cleanup, pay damages and so on.
 Whole thing here.