Sunday, April 29, 2012

Our House In 1917

our_house_in_1917_thumb.jpgThe youngest person in this picture must be a hundred years old by now, if she still lives.

Who is she? I don't know. Or rather, I don't remember. When we had the Gold Hill Historical Society copy this photo, they also photocopied the back, on which were handwritten notes naming most of the people.

Logically, I would have inserted those notes into the frame behind the photo, but when I took the photo out of the frame the notes were not there, so I must have put the notes in a drawer, and from the drawer into a box, the box to the basement, and there in the basement are thirty boxes filled with scraps of paper, and none of it in any sense organized. My filing system has always been this way — a file is a pile, except oriented vertically.

The names of the people, in other words, have been misplaced. The people themselves, on the other hand, are gone forever.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Anti Social

i_will_not_be_assimulated.pngThere are three problems with this screen already.

In the first place, nouns have gender; people have sex. Mine is none of your business. Secondly, I know nothing about Picasa and have no plans to learn, so what's to understand? Thirdly, Google will do as they please with my information, whether I like it or not.

Sorry, Dave. No cookie.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tab Clearing

If the big time bloggers like Tam can do it, so can I.
  • The Mrs. McQueen stance. Cute. Not accurate, but cute.
    (Of course, it depends what your aim is.)

  • Eating meat speeds reproduction. (Also very cute.)
    If early humans had been vegans we might all still be living in caves...
    Some, I think, would prefer that still.

  • Which classical character are you?

    Odysseus, of course. I knew that before I took the quiz.

    Odysseus is the middle-aged hero. In the final scene he stands flanked by Telemachus on one side and Laertes on the other. He and his son banter about who is the braver. "What a day for me, dear gods! What joy—" says old Laertes, "my son and my grandson vying over courage!"

    Then the old man lets fly and saves the day. Thanks, Dad.

    And finally...

  • High-Diving in the Kiddie Pool. He just don't know it yet. Let's not tell him.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fairie Shrimps

table_rock_4_22_12_thumb.jpgThey say that branchinecta lynchi are endangered. but I doubt it very much. We ate as many as we could, and they were delicious.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Judge Brown's Rant

We rarely read the courts' opinions because they seem so dry and technical, and when we do, we find ourselves constantly stumbling over the citations. Why can't they just write in English?
Last week, a federal judge in Washington issued a truly extraordinary opinion. Judge Janice Rogers Brown, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, went out of her way to challenge one of bedrock achievements of the 20th Century liberal legal establishment: the de-emphasis of economic rights, relative to other "fundamental rights," as a matter of constitutional law. Judge Brown's opinion already has sparked controversy, and it deserves closer scrutiny.
Read the whole article; it's worth it.

And if you're inclined to read Judge Brown — straight up without the tedious citations — here it is:
BROWN, Circuit Judge, with whom Chief Judge SENTELLE joins, concurring:

I agree fully with the court's opinion. Given the long-standing precedents in this area no other result is possible. Our precedents forced the Hettingas to make a difficult legal argument. No doubt they would have preferred a simpler one—that the operation and production of their enterprises had been impermissibly collectivized—but a long line of constitutional adjudication precluded that claim.

The Hettingas' sense of ill-usage is understandable. So is their consternation at being confronted with the gap between the rhetoric of free markets and the reality of ubiquitous regulation. The Hettingas' collision with the MREA—the latest iteration of the venerable AMAA—reveals an ugly truth: America's cowboy capitalism was long ago disarmed by a democratic process increasingly dominated by powerful groups with economic interests antithetical to competitors and consumers. And the courts, from which the victims of burdensome regulation sought protection, have been negotiating the terms of surrender since the 1930s.

First the Supreme Court allowed state and local jurisdictions to regulate property, pursuant to their police powers, in the public interest, and to "adopt whatever economic policy may reasonably be deemed to promote public welfare." Then the Court relegated economic liberty to a lower echelon of constitutional protection than personal or political liberty, according restrictions on property rights only minimal review. Finally, the Court abdicated its constitutional duty to protect economic rights completely, acknowledging that the only recourse for aggrieved property owners lies in the "democratic process." "The Constitution," the Court said, "presumes that, absent some reason to infer antipathy, even improvident decisions will eventually be rectified by the democratic process and that judicial intervention is generally unwarranted no matter how unwisely we may think a political branch has acted."

As the dissent predicted in Nebbia, the judiciary's refusal to consider the wisdom of legislative acts—at least to inquire whether its purpose and the means proposed are "within legislative power"—would lead to only one result: "Rights guaranteed by the Constitution would exist only so long as supposed public interest does not require their extinction." In short order that baleful prophecy received the court's imprimatur. In Carolene Products (yet another case involving protectionist legislation), the court ratified minimalist review of economic regulations, holding that a rational basis for economic legislation would be presumed and more searching inquiry would be reserved for intrusions on political rights.

Thus the Supreme Court decided economic liberty was not a fundamental constitutional right, and decreed economic legislation must be upheld against an equal protection challenge "if there is any reasonably conceivable state of facts that could provide a rational basis" for it.

This standard is particularly troubling in light of the pessimistic view of human nature that animated the Framing of the Constitution—a worldview that the American polity and its political handmaidens have, unfortunately, shown to be largely justified. Moreover, what the Framers theorized about the destructive potential of factions (now known as special or group interests), experience has also shown to be true. The judiciary has worried incessantly about the "countermajoritarian difficulty" when interpreting the Constitution. But the better view may be that the Constitution created the countermajoritarian difficulty in order to thwart more potent threats to the Republic: the political temptation to exploit the public appetite for other people's money—either by buying consent with broad-based entitlements or selling subsidies, licensing restrictions, tariffs, or price fixing regimes to benefit narrow special interests.

The Hettingas believe they are the victims of just such shenanigans. And press accounts during the height of the controversy support the claim. The Washington Post described Hein Hettinga as an American success story. He emigrated to the U.S. after World War II and started as a hired hand. By 1990, Hettinga owned half a dozen dairies and decided to build his own bottling business. A Costco vice president showed reporters copies of an e-mail he sent to Senator Reid during the legislative debate, explaining that Southern California purchasers of milk were the victims of "a brazen case of price gouging and profiteering by the strongest, largest market suppliers," who turned a deaf ear to the company's call for lower prices. Hein Hettinga changed all that. His arrangement with Costco "lowered the average price of milk by 20 cents a gallon overnight" until two senators, one from each party, pushed through the milk legislation at issue in this case.

Very little seems to have changed since the Supreme Court's initial confrontation with the regulation of milk pricing in Nebbia. The state of New York, responding to falling prices caused by the Great Depression, created a Milk Control Board, which proposed to remedy weak demand by establishing a minimum price for milk, and making sale of milk at any lower price a crime. Leo Nebbia sold two quarts of milk and a five-cent loaf of bread for eighteen cents, and was convicted of violating the board's order.

Even Justice McReynolds saw the irony. The law, he said, "imposed direct and arbitrary burdens upon those already seriously impoverished" to give special benefits to others. "To him with less than 9 cents it says: You cannot procure a quart of milk from the grocer although he is anxious to accept what you can pay and the demands of your household are urgent! A superabundance; but no child can purchase from a willing storekeeper below the figure appointed by three men at headquarters!"

To be sure, the economic climate in which the New York legislature enacted the law at issue in Nebbia was truly dire, but 78 years later, the same tired trope about "disorderly market conduct" is still extant. The Hettingas built their business on an exemption—one that was profitable for them and beneficial for consumers. The government acknowledged that the decision to eliminate the exemption was based on evidence that large producer-handlers were obtaining a "decisive competitive advantage" over fully-regulated handlers, and were causing a measurable and "significant" decrease in the blend prices being paid to regulated handlers. As another court has noted, federal regulation of milk pricing "is premised on dissatisfaction with the results of competition." "Milk price discrimination is intended to redistribute wealth from consumers to producers of milk." Once again, the government has thwarted the free market, and ultimately hurt consumers, to protect the economic interests of a powerful faction. Neither the legislators nor the lobbyists broke any positive laws to accomplish this result. It just seems like a crime.

The judiciary justifies its reluctance to intervene by claiming incompetence—apparently, judges lack the acumen to recognize corruption, self-interest, or arbitrariness in the economic realm—or deferring to the majoritarian imperative. The practical effect of rational basis review of economic regulation is the absence of any check on the group interests that all too often control the democratic process. It allows the legislature free rein to subjugate the common good and individual liberty to the electoral calculus of politicians, the whim of majorities, or the self-interest of factions.

The hope of correction at the ballot box is purely illusory. In an earlier century, H. L. Mencken offered a blunt assessment of that option: "Government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." And, as the Hettingas can attest, it's no good hoping the process will heal itself. Civil society, "once it grows addicted to redistribution, changes its character and comes to require the state to 'feed its habit.'" The difficulty of assessing net benefits and burdens makes the idea of public choice oxymoronic. Rational basis review means property is at the mercy of the pillagers. The constitutional guarantee of liberty deserves more respect—a lot more.
judge-janice-rogers-brown-libertarian.jpgJudge Janice Rogers Brown.

Elections have consequences. She's one of them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dog Dog. Bam Eat Dog.

Of all the enlightened commentary on the news events of the past 36 hours, this was my favorite.

Update: 2nd place, Inno.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Obamanomics

ramirez_obamanomics_thumb.jpgNo one can draw a train wreck like Michael Ramirez.

Did you see what Jay Leno said?
President Obama released his tax returns. It turns out he made $900,000 less in 2011 than he did in 2010. You know what that means? Even Obama is doing worse under President Obama.

Friday, April 13, 2012

SCOTUS for Law Students

And for the general public.

Stephen Wermiel over at SCOTUSblog has a nice write-up of what happens next in the health care cases.
Only the nine Justices are present in the room; there are no staff present. When the Justices discuss argued cases, the Chief Justice begins by summarizing the case and then casts his vote. They then proceed from the most senior Justice — the Chief Justice, then Justice Scalia — to the most junior — currently Elena Kagan — with each stating his or her view and vote.
That's not the end of it. Not even the beginning of the end.

Worth reading in its entirety.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Serendipitous Prescience

block_the_outrage_channels.gifThis ran a month ago.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Take Back All the Bad Things I Said About Shostakovich

Concerto for Violin & Orchestra No. 1 is the perfect sound track for the Year of Our Lord 2012.

volume-to-11.jpgI have come to the conclusion that the only problem with classical music that I didn't like the first time round is that I wasn't playing it loud enough.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Just Heard

Next year's Miss Universe pageant will include dwarfs, siamese twins, sword swallowers, and fire eaters.

Jeepers! It's going to be a great show!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Derb on Derb

From an interview with Maureen O'Connor at Gawker:
The big question is whether these problems, as they manifest themselves in the U.S.A., are solvable. Current orthodoxy is that they are, and offers a laundry list of solution methods. Fix the schools! End poverty! Stamp out racism! Affirmative action! Fifty years ago a thoughtful person could sign on to those prescriptions. I know: I was around: I did. Yes (we said) once unjust laws had been struck down, and some social massaging of that sort been done for a few years, the races would merge in happy harmony, and the word "race" and its derivatives would drop out of the language. We all believed that. I believed it.

Plainly this hasn't happened, except of course in the upper classes, which go by their own rules. For a thoughtful person today to believe that these social-engineering nostrums will (for example) bring black crime rates to a level indistinguishable from white crime rates, involves a strenuous act of what Orwell called "doublethink" — massive self-deception. Does anyone, after all those decades, all those trillions of dollars, all those failed social-engineering experiments, does anyone really, honestly still believe in the nostrums? I don't.

My own sense of the thing is that underneath the happy talk, underneath the dogged adherence to failed ideas and dead theories, underneath the shrieking and anathematizing at people like me, there is a deep and cold despair. In our innermost hearts,we don't believe racial harmony can be attained. Hence the trend to separation. We just want to get on with our lives away from each other. Yet for a moralistic, optimistic people like Americans, this despair is unbearable. It's pushed away somewhere we don't have to think about it. When someone forces us to think about it, we react with fury.
By way of Roger Kimball, who has his own thoughts.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Steyn on Derb

The net result of Derb's summary execution by NR will be further to shrivel the parameters, and confine debate in this area to ever more unreal fatuities. He knew that mentioning the Great Unmentionables would sooner or later do him in, and, in an age when shrieking "That's totally racist!" is totally gay, he at least has the rare satisfaction of having earned his colors....

NR shouldn't be rewarding those who want to play this game. The more sacrifices you offer up, the more ravenously the volcano belches.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Talk

Nonblack Version, by John Derbyshire.

You might have to wait awhile to read it. It seems to be quite popular this morning, and Taki's servers are overloaded.

Be patient. It's worth reading.

Eric Raymond also has some commentary, and a little test for you.

Addendum: Kathy Shaidle translates Rich Lowry:
"John Derbyshire wrote stuff like this for years, and we got to brag about having a genius on staff. But then one day Other People noticed and gave us 24 hours of virtual grief, so we dumped him."

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Musical Roots

Way back when I was in high school cigarettes were 35¢ a pack and gas was 35¢ a gallon. On the other hand vinyl LPs were about $10 each — when you could find them. So you could give a damn what you smoked or where you went but you thought long and hard about what you listened to.

Believe it or not I paid retail for this one:

beethovens_greatest_hits_on_vinyl.jpgSome time during my senior year a vivacious young redhead in my circle introduced me to her dour and forbidding father, saying "He's into classical music too — show him your album!"

Which I did, expecting him to sneer at it, which he did, but as gently as possible:

"Well. Those are certainly good selections."

He chose his words carefully.

"There's a lot more. You should listen to it..."

How to put this ...

"All."

In time, I did. Or, rather, am doing.