Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Supreme Showdown

Randy Barnett has an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal this morning that confirms my first impression yesterday. Unfortunately they put it behind the pay wall, so rather than simply linking to it and suggesting that you go read it, I will try to extract the marrow of it here.
Only a plurality of the Court relied on the Due Process Clause. The deciding vote was cast by Justice Clarence Thomas, whose concurring opinion rested solely on the Privileges or Immunities Clause. While agreeing "with the Court that the Second Amendment is fully applicable to the States," he did so "because the right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment as a privilege of American citizenship."

Furthermore, nothing in the plurality opinion by Justice Samuel Alito cast any doubt on Justice Thomas's analysis. Instead, in three terse sentences, Justice Alito simply "decline[d]" to revisit Slaughter-House or even address the original meaning of the Privileges or Immunities Clause....

...the fact that there was only a plurality for using the Due Process Clause means that the original meaning of the Privileges or Immunities Clause is now a part of constitutional law. Justice Thomas's uncontradicted analysis will enter into the casebooks from which all law students and future justices study the 14th Amendment....

...Justice Thomas presented an extensive and detailed analysis of the original meaning of the Clause in the belief that "this case presents an opportunity to reexamine, and begin the process of restoring, the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment agreed upon by those who ratified it." While conceding that "interpreting the Privileges or Immunities Clause may produce hard questions," Justice Thomas countered that "they will have the advantage of being questions the Constitution asks us to answer."

By declining to take issue with Justice Thomas's impressive 56-page originalist analysis, the other justices in effect conceded what legal scholars have for some time maintained—that the court's cramped reading of the clause in 1873 was inconsistent with its original meaning. Yesterday the lost Privileges or Immunities Clause was suddenly found.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gold Hill Market

gold_hill_market_thumb.jpgNine o'clock Saturday night—just before we roll up the sidewalks. 18-55mm at 20, f/22 for 0.8 seconds. Click for wallpaper.

Monday, June 28, 2010

McDonald v Chicago

Justice Alito states the obvious.
In Heller, we held that the Second Amendment protectsthe right to possess a handgun in the home for the purpose of self-defense. Unless considerations of stare decisis counsel otherwise, a provision of the Bill of Rights thatprotects a right that is fundamental from an American perspective applies equally to the Federal Governmentand the States.... We therefore hold that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded forfurther proceedings.
We'll have to read the rest of the opinion to see how he reached that conclusion. But I have a hunch that Thomas's concurence will be the most intersting.
I agree with that description of the right. But I cannot agree that it is enforceable against the States through a clause that speaks only to "process." Instead, the right to keep and bear arms is a privilege of American citizenship that applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment's Privileges or Immunities Clause.
A copy of the opinion is here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Happy Happy

My first child turned twenty this weekend. She's got her own car, her own apartment, and now, her own netbook. What's more, she bought them all with her own money.

I'm so proud.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Moonrise and Ambulance

moonrise_ambulance_1_thumb.jpgmoonrise_ambulance_1_thumb.jpgmoonrise_ambulance_1_thumb.jpgWith the camera on a tripod I was taking two-second exposures of the moon rising through the girders of the railroad bridge.

Parallel to the railroad bridge, but barely visible behind it, is the 2nd Avenue bridge over the Rogue River. As I clicked the shutter an ambulance crossed the bridge, lights flashing.

If you right-click on these images, and open them in three tabs, you can use the Ctrl-Tab keys to quickly switch between them.

Watch the moon. It's moving too.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Adventures in Diet

what_you_feed_cat_food.gifWhen I first wrote about the all-meat diet back in 2008 I wasn't being entirely original. In fact, I've almost never had an original thought; since the age of six I've read thousands of words a day — let's see, fifty years, that's somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty million words. How could I possibly have an original thought after all that?

Anyway, the all-meat diet is definitely not my idea. The arctic explorer and anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson wrote a series of articles on the topic which were first published in Harper's in 1935. I'm reading them now and they're really quite fascinating.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Table Rock at Sunrise

table_rock_at_sunrise.jpgAt 4:45 this morning I awoke fully. It was already light outside and I knew I wouldn't get back to sleep. So I slipped into my clothes, grabbed my boots, a pair of socks, my camera and tripod, and headed out.

Traffic was already vicious on Kirtland Road, but I pulled off into a trucking company's gravel lot. I snuck across the road, down over a ditch, an old bob wire fence complicated by blackberry canes, and set up just short of a new, electric fence. In thirty minutes I took 79 exposures. One of them turned out not too bad.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day Hike

lookout_at_soda_mountain.jpgWe went for a short hike to the top of Soda Mountain. The lookout was unlocked so we let ourselves in and signed the guest registry. Then we ate our lunch on the sunny leeward side. The wind was cold enough to see your breath.

returning_from_the_lookout.jpgThere weren't many people about, for such a beautiful day. It's still a little early for wild flowers. Maybe we'll see more next weekend, when we hike Mount Ashland Meadows.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The World in 1824

sachs_the_ninth.jpgNorman Lebrecht reviews The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824 by Harvey Sachs.
Of all Beethoven's works, the Ninth Symphony is the least explicable. What on Earth was he doing decorating its finale with a chorus and soloists singing an ode of Schiller's, ostensibly about joy but in reality about brotherhood and liberation? What is the Ninth about? Is it a charter for social reform or for individual rights? A religious ecstasy? Does the symphony mean to us what it meant to Beethoven? Does it mean anything useful at all?
Oh, I think so. $17 at Amazon. It's in my cart.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Old Soft Shoe

old_soft_shoe.jpgWomen's size 6½, soft cow hide, very stylish.
The shoe was worn and shaped to the wearer's right foot, particularly around the heel... 24.5 cm long... 7.6 to 10 cm wide, and was made from a single piece of hide leather that wrapped around the foot. A leather thong was used to stitch the back and top of the shoe through four and 15 sets of eyelets respectively... The tension of the frontal thong created interlocking of the left and right eyelets and transverse wrinkles on the vamp.
Really old. 4700 B.C., actually. Details here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Interesting, if true.

My wife Rachel, who monitors Arab language broadcasts for Israel Radio, picked up a revealing statement on the "Round Table Show" on Egypt's Nile TV. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said he had a one-on-one meeting with Obama, who told him that he was a Muslim, the son of a Muslim father and stepson of Muslim stepfather, that his half-brothers in Kenya were Muslims, and that he was sympathetic to the Muslim agenda. He asked the Arabs to show patience. Obama promised that once he overcame some domestic American issues (like healthcare reform), he would show the Muslim world how he would deal with Israel.
Those are the words of Victor Mordecai, also known as Avi Lipkin, an Israeli journalist, writing in Israel Today.

Pamela Geller spotted it, and IBD has picked up on it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Reading List

Welcome back to the fifth annual Zeta Woof Summer Reading List, now well on its way to becoming an institution, at least in the mind of its author. As always, these are not the books on my to read list, but those at the top of my have read list, the ones that were good enough to read twice, and so to recommend to you.

If there's a theme this year it's crankiness.

rancho_costa_nada.jpgRancho Costa Nada: The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead by Phil Garlington

"I became a desert homesteader after I got fired from my last job."

And by "last" he means last. It is every man's dream to quit the rat race; this is the story of what happens when you actually do it.
After breakfast, I usually stroll for a few hours in the cool of the morn. I'm an ambler and a rambler, not a hiker.... When I return from the morning's exploration, I lie on a cot in the shade of the courtyard ramada and read novels for a while. After lunch, a siesta. In the afternoon, I take care of any chores, putter around aimlessly, read some more, or go visiting... After dinner, a cocktail while the lurid, gaudy sunset flames in the Western sky....
Sounds boring, doesn’t it? Wonderfully, deliciously boring.

possum_living_dolly_freed.jpgPossum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money by Dolly Freed

Twenty-five years before Phil Garlington, Dolly Freed and her father dropped out and lived in a house on a half-acre lot 40 miles north of Philadelphia with no jobs and very little money. Their secrets were two: Do it yourself or do without (most times doing without is the easiest), and the house must be free and clear. Once that's accomplished the rest is easy. You have chickens for eggs, bunnies for meat, a garden for greens, and a still in the kitchen for the "necessities of life."

And what happens to grade school dropout who grows up with an alcoholic father? She became a NASA aerospace engineer.

fire_on_the_mountain.gifFire on the Mountain by Edward Abbey

John Vogelin owned his land free and clear but the government wanted it for a missile testing range. Their offer was generous, much more in fact than the land was worth. Everyone — his sister, his friends, the whole town, everyone — thought he should sell. But he refused. It was his land.

This novel, often cited as the prequel to The Brave Cowboy (a selection from last year's reading list), is a testament to the single most powerful word in the entire lexicon of freedom:


last_stand_tin_can_sailors.jpgThe Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour by James D. Hornfischer

Not only no, but hell no.

Outnumbered, overwhelmed, faced with six heavy cruisers and four battleships, each one of them almost ten times her size, the destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts turned... and attacked.

This is the very best kind of history, sticking close to the facts but telling a story more dramatic than any novel. Anyone who has never experienced a major naval battle (and who has, since this was the last?) will appreciate the stark, gruesome detail and the heart-rending heroism of this book.

the_barbarians.jpgThe Barbarians: A Soldier's New Guinea Diary by Peter Pinney

I've mentioned Pinney and his book a few times before and the only reason I keep bringing it up is you must read this book.

It compares favorably to the much better known With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge, and has traces of the irony of Catch-22, all in a slim volume of 174 pages. You can knock it off in an evening, although, if you're like me, you'll repeat that evening over and over again.

animals_make_us_human.jpgAnimals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals by Temple Grandin & Catherine Johnson

We stumbled across Temple Grandin in a TED talk and her assertion that autism gave her insight into the thinking of animals intrigued us. Seeing the world from a cow's point of view led her to re-design stockyards, corrals, shutes, and loading ramps. That, and and the latest scientific research, led her to better understand the animals we keep as pets.

The first chapter lays out her framework and terminology. From there on, pick your animal and see the world through its eyes: dogs, cats, cows, pigs, chickens. It's a point of view you've never seen before.

haunting_of_hill_house.jpgThe Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

In 1959 she wrote the original on which all the others are based. Hill house, hell house, tortured spirits, tormented souls, twisted childhood, blood smeared walls, the madness that comes with darkness and disappears in morning light. It's all here, in classic form.

Read this well before Halloween. It takes time to digest.

the_loser_letters.jpgThe Loser Letters: A Comic Tale of Life, Death, and Atheism by Mary Eberstadt

If you're not a devout Catholic, or a lapsed one, or a hell-fire Atheist, or if you've never read The Screwtape Letters, or you don't subscribe to the helena handbasket theory of popular culture, or you've never wondered where all this is leading us, and why, you might not find this interesting.

But I did.

lamb_gospel_according_to_biff.jpgLamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
The first time I saw the man who would save the world he was sitting near the central well in Nazareth with a lizard hanging out of his mouth. Just the tail end and the hind legs were visible on the outside; the head and forelegs were halfway down the hatch. He was six, like me, and his beard had not come in fully, so he didn't look much like the pictures you've seen of him. His eyes were like dark honey, and they smiled at me out of a mop of blue-black curls that framed his face. There was a light older than Moses in those eyes.

"Unclean! Unclean!" I screamed, pointing at the boy, so my mother would see that I knew the law, but she ignored me, as did all the other mothers who were filling their jars at the well.

The boy took the lizard from his mouth and handed it to his younger brother, who sat beside him in the sand. The younger boy played with the lizard for a while, teasing it until it reared its little head as if to bite, then he picked up a rock and mashed the creature's head. Bewildered, he pushed the dead lizard around in the sand, and once assured that it wasn't going anywhere on its own, he picked it up and handed it back to his older brother.

Into his mouth went the lizard, and before I could accuse, out it came again, squirming and alive and ready to bite once again. He handed it back to his younger brother, who smote it mightily with the rock, starting or ending the whole process again.

I watched the lizard die three more times before I said,
"I want to do that too."

The Savior removed the lizard from his mouth and said, "Which part?"
Read it and die laughing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Light, Sweet, Crude, Delicious

Yeah, yeah. The spill is a catastrophe, a disaster, an ecological nightmare. Sure. You know what bacteria call it? Lunch.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Thoughts Exactly

By way of My Back Pages, a little video for ya.

Whitney Tilson Explains Why BP Is
Just Too Cheap Not To Invest In
I saw it today;   Jesse posted it yesterday;   I bought BP the day before. Fifty shares at $35 — it seemed like a bargain.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Two Little Bucks

two_little_bucks.jpgTwice this week three little bucks have wandered into our side yard, which we have kind of let go. Today these two let me get about ten feet from them before they decided they'd better move on. The forked horn stayed farther up the hill today, but I've invited him to come back in October.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Internet Delights Not Me

Nor the blogosphere neither, though by your smirk you seem to say so.

Have patience and in a day or two I'll post the fifth annual Summer Reading List. Until then, you might as well just turn off the darned computer, for all the amusement you'll find here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

On Grape and Grain

By way of Insty, an except from Hitchens' auto-bio.
I work at home, where there is indeed a bar-room, and can suit myself. But I don't. At about half past midday, a decent slug of Mr. Walker's amber restorative, cut with Perrier water (an ideal delivery system) and no ice. At luncheon, perhaps half a bottle of red wine: not always more but never less. Then back to the desk, and ready to repeat the treatment at the evening meal...

Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing. The only worthwhile miracle in the New Testament—the transmutation of water into wine during the wedding at Cana—is a tribute to the persistence of Hellenism in an otherwise austere Judaea....
Hitch-22: A Memoir. It's in my shopping cart.

Monday, June 7, 2010

W'out Comment

An' a bullet come an' drilled the beggar clean.
'E put me safe inside,
An' just before 'e died:
"I 'ope you liked your drink," sez Gunga Din.
So I'll meet 'im later on
In the place where 'e is gone—
Where it's always double drill and no canteen;
'E'll be squattin' on the coals
Givin' drink to pore damned souls,
An' I'll get a swig in Hell from Gunga Din!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Old Desk and Phone

grandmas_writing_desk_and_phone.jpgI spent a lot of time — a ridiculous amount of time really — cleaning and polishing Grandma's old writing desk. It seemed appropriate to clean up the old desk lamp and the Western Electric Model 500 as well. (It still works perfectly, of course.)

phonetically_correct_dial_card.jpgI even — and this is the line beyond which OCD blooms — printed up a phonetically correct dial card.

Friday, June 4, 2010

My Inner Fish

your_inner_fish.gifA little over a month ago Tam made a passing reference to this little book. So I clicked through, bought it, and left it sitting on my shelf for three or four weeks. Last night I picked it up. What fun!

It reminds me a lot of Double Helix. Thanks, Tam.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

No Upper Bound

An article in the WSJ this morning irritated me.
Investors worry that the escalating costs could force BP to cut its dividend—an event that hasn't happened since August 1992. The company spent $10 billion on dividends last year and the payout is a key source of revenue for U.K. pension funds. BP will seek to reassure shareholders in the coming days that the dividend is safe, even as BP's potential liability continues to rise, according to a person familiar with the matter.

However, two U.S. senators, Democrats Charles Schumer of New York and Ron Wyden of Oregon, wrote to Mr. Hayward on Wednesday saying it was "unfathomable" that BP would pay out a dividend to shareholders before the total cost of the clean-up was estimated.
So Ron Wyden, who has never run anything more complicated than a political campaign, thinks he knows better than Tony Hayward how to run British Petroleum. The arrogance of this guy has no upper bound.