Sunday, February 28, 2010
Via my Facebook scroll, the memorandum submitted by the Institute of Physics (an organization reputed to have 36,000 members) to the Parliament of the United Kingdom addressing the "ClimateGate" email scandal. It is a breath of fresh air, and incorporates a broad demand that scientific data supporting any peer-reviewed publication be available in electronic form on the internet "to coincide with publication." Here's the heart of the indictment:
The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law. The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital. The lack of compliance has been confirmed by the findings of the Information Commissioner. This extends well beyond the CRU itself - most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other international institutions who are also involved in the formulation of the IPCC's conclusions on climate change.
Read the whole thing, which is a scientific punch in the nose.
In the words of a Facebook friend, "Physicists rarely get riled. But when they do it's like the Ents." Indeed, and Isengard is coming down.
Righties correctly point out that Barack Obama's "car insurance" analogy makes it look like he does not understand how car insurance works. On its face, it is pretty difficult to understand how a law professor -- even a law professor? -- would not understand the difference between liability insurance, which is always required, and collision insurance, which is always optional. But of course he understands the difference. He is just making an intellectually dishonest argument and hoping nobody calls him on it, because that is what politicians do. Even Barack Obama. The difference is that he makes it all sound so reasonable, except when it is so silly that you snap awake from your usual stupor in shock and awe, shock at the transparency of the silliness and awe that he has the brass to try it.
And, yes, we can all imagine what the press would have done to George Bush or Sarah Palin -- or pretty much anybody who does not get the benefit of every doubt -- for saying something so silly.
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.
At the suggestion of a reader, "Land of Hope and Dreams." I've always loved this song and have it on my iPod. Perhaps Springsteen's most underplayed tune.
And you can learn a little Portuguese, too!
Inspired by the cemetery post below, Kurt Gödel. I love this bit:
Albert Einstein was also living at Princeton during this time. Gödel and Einstein subsequently developed a strong friendship, and were known to take long walks together to and from the Institute for Advanced Study. The nature of their conversations was a mystery to the other Institute members. Economist Oskar Morgenstern recounts that toward the end of his life Einstein confided that his "own work no longer meant much, that he came to the Institute merely…to have the privilege of walking home with Gödel".
The Politico headline of the day:
Edwards epilogue: Does the press really vet presidential candidates?Of course, the answer to that rhetorical question is that it depends on the party affiliation of the candidate. Whatever your attitude toward Sarah Palin and her qualifications might be, there is no question that she was scrutinized much more intensively by the press, than, say, John Edwards was in 2004 when he ran for vice president with John Kerry at the top of the ticket. Palin should have been subject to due diligence by the press, as should all candidates for national office. If Mitt Romney, for example, runs again in 2012, the press should have at it with him, and also with his running mate, if Romney gets that far. The same should go for the other party -- both parties treated equally by the press, in an ideal world. But it is far from an ideal world when the National Enquirer has to do the hard work to shed light on a major candidate, and it makes it difficult for the casual reader to sort through the alien abduction stories and get to the real truth.
The conclusion of the Politico piece summarizes nicely a dilemma that appeared semi-fictionally in Joe Klein's Primary Colors (in the movie version, you might remember the talented Kathy Bates portraying Libby Holden, who commits suicide because she cannot solve this conundrum):
Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, who ran the Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004, doesn’t believe senior staffers should be held accountable for what they knew about their candidate’s behavior. “I would cast no harsh judgment on most of these folks, many of whom I know,” he said.Human failings occur in every political stripe, and whether the candidate is progressive, moderate or conservative, it should not matter to the press, to the extent those failings reflect upon the candidate's judgment. I suppose it is a separate question whether it is incumbent upon staffers to blow the whistle, short of clearly illegal acts.
“I would assume that with the exception of a couple of people who did seem aware of the problem, and actually tried to do something about it, most people were either not aware or didn’t want to be aware,” Shrum said.
One former staffer thinks most people would agree with Shrum.
“I think, for the most, part people understand that we worked on the campaign for the right reasons, that we were trying to make a positive contribution to our country and to progressive causes,” the staffer said, “and that we weren't responsible for the bad personal (and public) judgment of the candidate.”
I saw "Avatar" again on Friday night, more than two months after I had seen it the first time, but this go round on IMAX 3D. Visually, it made a huge difference; I finally "get it" from that point of view. Unfortunately, the script, direction, and costuming remained the same.
I did verify a point I made in the early review: That for some reason the natives in this fantastically original and diverse ecosystem use feathers to true arrows and decorate their hair, yet there are no feathered fauna anywhere in the movie (and we see a lot of fauna). Where do these feathers come from, and why did Cameron not insist that the ecosystem design team put some in somewhere so that we in the audience would not think "Oh, I get it, the Na'vi are a cross between Africans and Native Americans, right down to the cornrows, the arrows, and the head gear"? In other words, "when will white people stop making movies like Avatar?" I suppose when a certain subspecies -- homo sapiens Hollywoodus -- no longer feels that there is money to be made expiating racial guilt.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
The Princeton Cemetery, which is really its main cemetery, was established in 1757 by Nassau Presbyterian Church, which is still in existence even if now tediously left wing. I took my camera on a stroll there this afternoon, and got some pictures of tombstones that might interest even you guys. Look closely.
Paul Tulane, early and main benefactor of Tulane University.
A Vice President of the United States. Look closely.
And now a POTUS:
Let me know when you are burning out on my new camera.
Another classic from the early years of MTV...
Personally, I'm offended on behalf of teachers everywhere.
The Delaware and Raritan Canal, near Harrison Street, in the early afternoon.
The bird below, tolerantly posing on the Millstone River and visible earlier this afternoon from the bridge over the Delaware and Raritan Canal lock, looks a lot like the last bird in this post, which you readers helpfully identified as a great blue heron. But I could be wrong. What say our more expert readers?
By request, another classic from "my law school years"...
Love the hair.
If this isn't the Axis of Dirtbags, I don't know what would be.
The head of the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has made a rare public appearance in the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Sheikh Nasrallah attended a dinner with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...
After bilateral talks on Thursday, President Assad said Syria and Iran were working together to confront "Israeli terrorism".
Both leaders dismissed US calls for Syria to distance itself from Iran, emphasising their "deep and brotherly" ties.
The meeting came a week after the US signalled an attempt to improve ties with Syria, sending a senior official to Damascus for talks and nominating a new ambassador after the withdrawal of his predecessor five years ago.
I respectfully suggest that this very public breaking of the bread is an intentional signal that the Obama administration's risible "strategy" (for which liberal editorialists have fallen hook, line, and sinker) of prising Syria from Iran is, indeed, a waste of time (the link is worth your time). Unfortunately, when Hope is a strategy, nobody notices little inconvenient truths. Our administration seemingly fears "violence" or, Allah forfend, war -- even somebody else's war -- more than any other consequence, so it falls back on wishful thinking. If there is an inviolate core of Carterism, that is it.
Separately, this meeting captures Hezbollah's status as both a proxy and a client of the Islamic Republic, neither beyond influence nor entirely under control. The most instructive anecdote occurred shortly after September 11, when then-president Mohammad Khatami (the once and future "reformer") summoned the leaders of Hezbollah to Tehran to quiz them about possible involvement in the attack.
If this remarkable anecdote is true -- and Ansari is a very credible scholar, so the odds are in favor of it being true -- we have learned three fairly obvious things about Hezbollah and Iran. First, if the president of Iran -- even a lame duck "moderate" president such as Mohammad Khatami -- "summons" Hezbollah leaders to Tehran, they come when called. In this sense, at least, Iran controls Hezbollah. Second, five years ago the president of Iran believed that Hezbollah might have had both the will and the means to pull off the attacks of September 11. If the president of Iran had to satisfy himself that Hezbollah might have attacked the United States directly, then it is safe to say that Iran believes Hezbollah is capable of a lot of violence. Third, Khatami believed that they might have launched those attacks without consulting Tehran in advance. That belief implies that the relationship is hardly master-servant.
Syria is, of course, an essential component in that relationship because of geography and its own ambitions within Lebanon. That explains why the Obama administration would like to break apart the triple alliance, and why it will not be able to do so short of war.
A classic from my law school days, "Dancing in the Dark."
You know who the girl is, right?
Friday, February 26, 2010
Drudge is linking, in italics, to the story of Al Gore at the Apple Computer annual meeting of stockholders.
The presence of one of the world's pre-eminent environmentalists at Apple's shareholder meeting Thursday was the subject of much of the morning's pointed discussion.
As expected, Apple's attitude on environmental and sustainability issues was one of the main concerns of the stockholders present Thursday, followed closely by the company's immense pile of cash. But early harsh comments about former Vice President Al Gore's record set the tone.
And so on.
There is a lesson in here, but it has nothing to do with my longstanding dislike of Al Gore. Rather, it is that it is almost always a self-indulgent mistake for public companies to nominate and elect politicians and other celebrities to their boards. It is a mistake because politicians and celebrities are almost never actually qualified to sit on corporate boards, an increasingly difficult and technical job that requires not only good judgment in general, but experience in running a business. One is forced to wonder how Al Gore could add meaningful value to the Apple board, at least compared to anybody who has actually been the CEO or CFO of a complex international consumer business. And it is self-indulgent because the main reason CEOs and boards nominate celebrity directors is so that the management and incumbent directors can hang with them. Celebrity directors are a perquisite for the dudes on the inside who go to board meetings, and often a costly one at that. Run from any company that has one.
Whales store carbon within their huge bodies and when they are killed, much of this carbon can be released.
US scientists revealed their estimate of carbon released by whaling at the Ocean Sciences meeting in Portland, US.
Dr Andrew Pershing from the University of Maine described whales as the "forests of the ocean".
Dr Pershing and his colleagues from " the Gulf of Maine Research Institute calculated the annual carbon-storing capacity of whales as they grew.
"Whales, like any animal or plant on the planet, are made out of a lot of carbon," he said.
"And when you kill and remove a whale from the ocean, that's removing carbon from this storage system and possibly sending it into the atmosphere."
Now, I'm the first person to use the phrase "deeper than whale shit" to describe something really deep, like the subordinated debentures of a holding company, so I understand the point about old whale carbon sinking to the bottom of the ocean. As a propaganda device, though, the story is damned close to an admission that the greenies and the media think the rest of us are fools. Not that we didn't already know that.
There are six customers in the "It's a Grind" coffee shop in Plainsboro this morning, and five of them are cops. It is a safe environment whence to dump tabs.
The rules of "naked parties" explained to a mom.
Given the world economy's recent experience with financial "computer models," this seems like an atrociously bad idea:
Vice President Joe Biden plans to unveil proposed new regulations Friday aimed at helping protect workers' retirement savings, an initiative spearheaded by the White House's Middle Class Task Force.
A White House official said the proposed new rules will shield workers from potential conflicts of interest related to financial advisers. Under the plan, retirement investment advisers and money managers may give investment advice only if they don't get a commission for steering workers into funds with which they are affiliated, or if their advice is based on an objective computer model certified to be unbiased by independent experts, the official said.
It speaks volumes that the VPOTUS thinks there is such a thing as "an objective computer model" that can be certified as "unbiased." Of course, that is a common affliction among liberals, who apparently ascribe the same objectivity to climate models, but that does not mean it isn't asinine.
On the small chance you came here first, Glenn Reynolds has a nice round-up of righty(ish) reactions to the health care "summit" yesterday. Add this dose of cold water from Ezra Klein, and you've pretty much covered the landing zone.
Fourth quarter GDP growth was revised up, to 5.9%. Don't get too excited. Not only does employment continue to suck, but even with that putatively strong fourth quarter GDP shrank more in 2009 than in any year since 1946. For those of you good at math, that was 64 years ago. And remember, we have to average 5% growth for the next four years in order to get unemployment back down to pre-bust levels.
The ratio of per capital income in Detroit vs. San Francisco graphed over 45 years. It is as if they exist in two different countries.
Amusing factoids and aphorisms about sleep.
Ten Wall Street blogs. I read several of them.
When Barack Obama pledged to "restore" America's relationship with its "traditional allies," he apparently did not mean the United Kingdom. Could somebody please explain why we care more about Argentina -- a nice country with excellent steaks and red wines, to be sure, but geopolitically inconsequential -- than England?
How Google's algorithm rules the web.
Maggie's Friday morning links, which may be better than mine.
Is oil the world's new "reserve currency"?
Turns out that new "Islamic" logo for the missile defense agency was developed (for another purpose) under George W. Bush. Well, then, never mind.
The ultimate proof that there is, in fact, a politico-celebrity conspiracy.
And so it goes.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Sad news for the alumni, at least those of a certain stripe: Princeton University just hired Van Jones, most recently of the undercarriage of Barack Obama's bus.
Van Jones, former adviser at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, has been appointed distinguished visiting fellow in the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
An environmental activist and social entrepreneur, Jones will hold a one-year appointment for the 2010-11 academic year and teach a course in the spring semester focusing on environmental politics, with a special emphasis on policies that create green economic opportunity for the disadvantaged. Fellows in the Center for African American Studies engage in scholarly work for one semester and teach for the other semester.
So I have two questions, one small and one big.
First, the small one. What, pray tell, is a social entrepreneur? I mean, in a respectable academic context. Obviously, Ashley Alexandra Dupre is a social entrepreneur, but I'm pretty sure that is not how Van Jones or the University flacks use the term.
Second, the big one: Why is Princeton hiring a 9/11 Truther, even for African-American Studies?
Mr. Jones signed a statement for 911Truth.org in 2004 demanding an investigation into what the Bush Administration may have done that “deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.”
His name is listed with 99 other prominent signatories supporting such an investigation on the 911Truth.org website, including Code Pink co-founders Medea Benjamin and Jodi Evans, comedienne Janeane Garofalo, Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and others. He's identified as the executive director for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights on the statement, which he founded before going to the White House.
Here is the original petition; Jones was #46, until he asked that his name be removed when it came under scrutiny and thereby posed a threat -- ultimately realized -- to his job in the Obama administration.
More here, here, and here.
Shirley, you fracked this one up big time.
MORE: A nice summary of the righty bill of indictment, which is not short.
I thought this was quite creative, and the lyrics and video make the song very epic.
If there were some reasonable critical mass of business people in the Democratic Party -- and, no, I'm not talking about big company corporate tools who live in Manhattan and talk left to keep the invitations coming, but real business people -- ideas this stupid would not make it past the Congressional staff, much less a Senate committee. Alas, they do.
CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
...why don't we ever read stories like this about the CIA?
You get the sense that we aren't doing it right.
If you are on your way to the lunch room at any company other than mine, here are some topics to get the conversation moving along. (If you work at my company, talk about something innocuous like the weather or how high taxes are or the imminence of spring training or your personal dedication to our company's mission.)
Item: It's not our fault. We are slaves to biology.
Item: What do Castro and Bill Clinton have in common?
Item: What do cigarettes and fashion photography have in common?
Item: Contrary to popular believe, it is not always harmless to mix metaphors.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
It has been weeks since we linked -- may Bill O'Reilly forgive us. Take the new O'Quiz, pwn my 7, and post your scores, huge as they may be, in the comments.
This is definitely not going to boost my stock with the liberals, but with all the linking to Ezra lately I need to prop up my bona fides on the right. Ann at CPAC, courtesy of Freedom's Lighthouse, more a stand-up routine than punditry. As I have long argued, she is controversial more because she blurs lines between categories than for the things she says.
The first half and the Q&A are the best bits.
I'm sitting in Eno Terra, an excellent restaurant in Kingston, New Jersey, just over the border from Princeton on Route 27. Magically, it has free wireless, so I am unsettling the wa of the place by blogging my righty thoughts from its wine bar. Next to a woman who looks disturbingly like Glenn Close. Who is waiting for her blind date. Just saying.
Anyway, to the tabs!
Raise taxes, but crush revenues. Freaking brilliant.
When were stocks last undervalued? Seems like Ritholtz is blaming Greenspan -- easy pickings -- but nobody loves a party pooper and there is no party pooper worse than a central banker who kills the bull.
The Mariana Trench, to scale. Deep, dat. The only thing that deep are state tax collections.
Because I'm nothing if not fair, "debunking" Bjorn Lomborg. Scare quotes because I'm not a judger, and because smart people are mocking the mocker. Lomborg's response, so you be the judge.
The worst possible argument in favor of "universal health care." Scare quotes because I'm a judger.
Ezra Klein says that this article makes him more interested in Mitt Romney. Me too, actually.
Five reasons (not) to worry about health care reform.
The Met Office, which generates the "HadCRUT" data for many of the climate models that drive policy, is proposing a "do over", starting with the raw data and adjusting with a transparent process. Good idea. They must have been reading TigerHawk!
Senators Wyden and Gregg introduce a "bi-partisan" tax reform proposal. At the headline level, I like it. I wonder if I will after I study it.
A "paralyzing blizzard" heading for, er, me. Fortunately, I love huge piles of snow.
I'm not going to lie. It never crossed my mind that Jimmy Carter would have a problem with this comparison. Carter's letter to the editor pretty much proves he has the thinnest skin of any postwar president with the possible exception of Richard Nixon. Like, he actually denies being "weak" and "incoherent." Weak. Incoherent. (Carter's depiction of his handling of the Iranian crisis belies the history, which is sadly inconsistent with his status as a Nobel laureate.) Weak. Incoherent. Weak. Incoherent.
And so it goes.
Amazon has a special sale on cordless drills. This blog has at least one long-standing reader who is known for his passion for such devices, but I am sure that many of you could benefit from clicking through the link.
The Justice Department has now admitted that nine of President Obama's appointments previously represented or advocated for Gitmo detainees before United States courts. This has provoked the usual fake controversy about "conflicts" and the usual denials that any actual laws or ethical rules have been broken.
As if that were the issue.
Here are my questions: How is it that Barack Obama's inner circle even knew nine lawyers who represented Gitmo detainees? How lefty do you have to be to know all those guys? And then, why did he decide it was a good idea -- either politically or substantively -- to appoint a bunch of defense lawyers -- never mind terrorist defense lawyers -- to the Justice Department?
The fact of the Gitmo Nine is a lot more troubling than anything they might do.
GREECE HAS missed a deadline to provide EU investigators with full information about currency hedges it made with Goldman Sachs, deals under scrutiny because they may have improperly flattered the country’s public finances.Why would a country under so much scrutiny miss such a critical deadline, one is forced to ask.
As Goldman Sachs said the transactions were consistent with the “principles” set out by the EU’s statistical division Eurostat, the European Commission said Greece failed to provide all relevant data before the expiry of a deadline last Friday.
The development comes amid pressure on Athens to prove that it can within 28 days prove its austerity plan is working.
“Athens told us that the reason for the delay was partly to do with the four-day strike which affected the ministry of finance,” said a spokesman for EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn.It's nice to know that even a global deflationary spiral will have its moments of hilarity.
The FDIC announces its bank seizures on Friday evening, and thus stays out of the public consciousness, but whether people are aware of it or not the FDIC is eating a lot of bank losses.
It shouldn't be surprising that the FDIC is seeking more credit, and since this is America, no one should be surprised at how it is trying to get it. (Next thing you know they'll be sponsoring American Idol.)
Monday, February 22, 2010
I also enjoy Mish, who is always thought provoking and doesn't pull any punches. This evening Mish is feeling the doom, with his two recent posts being Commercial Real Estate Apocolypse, and Doomsday Arrives for Illinois.
When you look at these budding crises, throw in the fiscal disasters of California, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Arizona, then consider the Euro crisis stemming from unsustainable debt levels in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Italy, and it's pretty hard to make the case that we're anywhere near a global recovery. And while we're all digging out of our debt hole, who's going to keep the factories in China humming?
It seems like it has been ages since I dumped tabs, and my have they piled up notwithstanding the 11 hours of meetings today.
Via Glenn, PJTV interviews Ann at CPAC.
Authors give their "ten rules for writing fiction," Part I and Part II. Elmore Leonard, the original at that, is better than all of them.
Ezra on the philosophy of tab dumps.
A monarch's tragic fall from grace.
Carl Hiasson smiles: "Florida's first population decline since 1946 squeezes budget."
Roger Ebert as you have never seen him. Haven't read it yet, but recommended by a friend with a "wow."
Remember Enron? Jeff Skilling's case finally reaches the Supreme Court.
Time for the beauty sleep.
According to law enforcement officials with knowledge of the delivery, officials watched the tractor trailer travel to its intended destination. Soon after, several vehicles pulled up, left and then came back. They stayed several hours and then left. When officials later checked the tractor trailer, the drugs were gone.In the coming austerity, the ridiculous war against this plant should be one of the first things to go.
Did you, like me, completely miss that today is National Cherry Pie Day? Fortunately, those of you who clicked the link have plenty of time to prepare for National Banana Bread Day, which is tomorrow.
In similarly interesting news, the United States Mint has just released the long-awaited Millard Fillmore dollar. Just sayin'.
On the small chance that you have a pot-luck supper this evening, these both make for excellent conversation-starters.
In the category of possibly good news there is this: the huge "refinancing mountain" is getting smaller.
One of the looming problems that rattles both bankers and government officials is the big pile of corporate debt that comes due from 2011-2014, the product of a huge wave of financing, particularly around LBOs and private equity deals, toward the end of the "bubble" years. The concern is that the much-diminished lending capacity of the corporate banks and the demise of the "shadow" banking industry will make it very expensive and in some cases impossible for much of that debt to be refinanced. That could cause more companies to fail for liquidity or financing reasons, thereby throwing more people out of work and otherwise damaging the "real" economy.
The good news, if you are looking for it, is that borrowers made substantial progress during 2009 against those future refinancing requirements. I got this table in my email last week. As you can see, the "mountain" shrank significantly in the last year. Unless the capital markets go south again, which nobody expects (not that they expected it the last time), the mountain should get smaller again in 2010.
Take your good news where you can get it.
Over the long term, it is hard to see how we are not baking massive inflation in to the future of the United States dollar. After all, we can pay those debts back only three ways: Growing the economy much faster than anybody expects and constraining public spending (current regulatory and legislative trends preclude both), imposing massive and probably uncollectable taxes, or debasing the currency. Door Number Three seems the most likely by a long shot.
That said, in the recent past and probably the near future the dominant trend is deflation (or no inflation), almost no matter how you measure it.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
As somebody who has been hit by projectile vomiting, I do not wish it on anybody, not even on somebody who purports to have enjoyed it.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
From my Facebook feed:
My sentiments exactly.
More than four years ago, long before the "surge" and victory in Iraq, (then Lt.) General David Petraeus spoke at Princeton, and your blogger was there to cover it. Both security and attendance were lax, and the general gladly acceded to my request for a photo (fortunately, I've lost weight since then). At that time General Petraeus had distinguished himself in Iraq, first as the commander of the 101st Airborne and then as the head of the multi-national "transition command." In that capacity he organized the training of the new Iraqi Army. He stopped in Princeton in October 2005 on his way to his then new assignment at Ft. Leavenworth, where he created -- or perhaps resurrected -- the Army's counterinsurgency doctrine.
Today, General Petraeus is back on campus to receive the University's James Madison Medal. The Madison Medal is
named for the fourth president of the United States and the person many consider Princeton's first graduate student. Established by the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni, it is presented each year by the University to an alumnus or alumna of the Graduate School who has had a distinguished career, advanced the cause of graduate education or achieved an outstanding record of public service....
He was introduced this morning as "the most distinguished soldier of his generation," and that is surely true. From the University's press release:
Petraeus has gained renown both as a military leader and public intellectual. After 19 months as the top U.S. commander in Iraq, he assumed leadership of the U.S. Central Command -- which oversees American forces in East Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia -- in October 2008.
Before taking over as the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Petraeus served as head of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He previously was the first commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq and the NATO Training Mission in Iraq. Prior to that, he was commanding general of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Iraq.
Petraeus was selected last spring as the speaker at Princeton's Baccalaureate ceremony, where he urged graduating seniors to pursue public service, saying "Princeton has uniquely prepared you for such service." He was selected by President Shirley M. Tilghman after consultation with senior class leaders who recommended Petraeus because he represents the University's informal motto of "Princeton in the nation's service and in the service of all nations."
"The Woodrow Wilson School is very proud that Gen. David Petraeus was selected as the 2010 recipient of the James Madison Medal," Paxson said. "Gen. Petraeus is an alumnus who has served his country with distinction for more than 30 years and has exemplified the core values and informal motto of Princeton University. He is a superb example of a scholar-soldier and recognized around the world as a man of intelligence and integrity."
Petraeus has been honored for his service with the Defense Department Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Department Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the State Department Distinguished Service Award, the NATO Meritorious Service Medal, the Gold Award of the Iraqi Order of the Date Palm and the French Légion d'Honneur.
This time, General Petraeus spoke before a packed audience in Alexander Hall's Richardson Auditorium. Security was tight, and you needed both a reservation and a photo ID to get in.
Not surprisingly, the general spoke carefully in his prepared remarks -- much of which were given over to gratitude for Princeton and his professors here. His formal topic was not, in fact, an "update from USCENTCOM commander," as advertised, but a more thoughtful reflection on the challenges and methods of organizational change. Petraeus' observations about the importance of pushing down initiative in to the lower echelons are useful for any executive in any large organization, military or otherwise, with a difficult and complex mission. The question and answer session was excellent.
Rather than recreating the talk here, I'll post a link to the video when it becomes available on the University's site. It will be worth your time.
General Petraeus spoke without slides, but he did put up a couple during the Q&A. The first is a graph of the violence in Iraq, and its precipitous fall after the first few weeks of the "surge." It will be familiar to readers of "milblogs," but probably not to most of his audience in Princeton today.
The other point he made, or at least illustrated, was that American soldiers reenlisted in Iraq in record numbers. He posted this slide of a reenlistment ceremony in one of Saddam's old palaces in Baghdad, and noted that these thousands of soldiers, many of whom had served two or three tours, were re-upping while in the theater of operations rather than heading home. He noted, probably for the lefties in the crowd, that these soldiers made their decision before the economy tanked, and would have had no problems getting good jobs on their return.
The other night at dinner a heard a distinguished conservative scholar note that in 1940 we already had Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, and Marshall. Did we have such men to lead our wars today, he wondered. I'd say so.
A rare depiction of panthera tigris princetoniensis.
OK, not that rare.
Tim McGraw's evocative "Southern Voice."
It's got R language, but you guys can handle it.
...a bit before the end of Princeton's thrashing of Yale's men's basketball team, I snapped this picture of Princeton Stadium in the snow.
Friday, February 19, 2010
My company, which is based in New Jersey and is in the medical device industry, is in the middle of its annual compensation review process, a delight that never improves with the passage of time. It is with no small interest, therefore, that I note that local employer Bristol-Myers is freezing salaries, and even mother J&J is rolling out a giant realignment of its global compensation scheme to bring its pay in line with "local markets across our company and around the world." That would be code for pay cuts in places where J&J is at or above the top of the local market, which is probably a lot of places.
There will be more of this, and not just in the health care industry. The compensation practices at a lot of large companies got out of line during the bubble years. It is very hard to cut the pay of employees you want to retain when things are going well, even if they could not easily go elsewhere for more money, because the decision is unpleasant (and, like everybody else, most large company managers hate making unpleasant decisions) and the result will demotivate the otherwise fine employee. When times are tough, though, people will understand a cut in pay as a signal that they are not going to lose their job to save money, and that can be very reassuring.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
A major financial institution -- one of those that has been right more often than wrong in recent years -- just showed me some scary output from their model of the U.S. economy, to wit: In order for the American unemployment rate to decline from 10% to 6%, GDP will have to increase by 5% for 16 consecutive quarters. How possible is that? In the last 80 quarters, there have only been 10 that grew so quickly.
Point is, barring a growth miracle -- and the Obama administration's regulatory apparatus is not exactly promoting growth, whatever else may be said about it -- the unemployment rate will still be much higher than the recent norm in November 2012.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I've been at it for 13 hours or so, but now am resting peacefully watching a recorded episode of "House" and sipping at a glass of merlot. Time for a tab dump!
Good for Michelle Malkin. I hope she and Cap'n Ed and Allah make a lot of money. Nothing delights an entrepreneur more than liquidity.
Power Line's Paul and John take a look at the Obama administration's apparently cool attitude toward India. History may regard George W. Bush's commitment to that country as his administration's most significant foreign policy success. Let us hope that is not the reason for Obama's reserve. The only addition I would make to the Power Line post is this: As important as India is to the containment of China, it is also our main instrumentality for coercing Pakistan to take our side in the struggle against the jihadis. During most of the last decade, whenever Pakistan's interest in fighting terror flagged, we would move closer to India and the Pakistanis would come around.
JP Morgan has apparently put up an amorphous $3 billion reserve against the possibility that the "quants" may be wrong again, a "model-uncertainty reserve." A back-handed compliment to JP Morgan, to be sure, but I do have a question: What facts do JPM know that are sufficient to prove the need for the reserve to the satisfaction of JP Morgan's auditors?
The Onion tackles monetary policy.
Out of 2,227 weeks on record, last week the Northern Hemisphere had more area covered by snow than 2,225 such weeks. Not just North America, but the whole northern hemisphere.
I don't want come off like I'm wishing poor health or an untimely demise on anybody, but this news is making me think evil thoughts. Lord, I apologize.
On the one hand, in light of all the spending in the last year the Republicans run the risk of looking ridiculous for filibustering a $15 billion jobs bill. On the other hand, what a remarkable measure of the change in political sentiment that Harry Reid cannot win a cloture vote over such a trivial bill.
Strip club etiquette. Aren't you glad I did not label it "news you can use"?
Not all immigrants make the same contribution. Some are more productive than others. I, for one, think that these findings ought to inform national policy, but am not holding my breath.
ExxonMobil has been adding to its reserves, meaning that in 2009 it discovered significantly more oil than it pumped out of the ground. I'm fairly sure that this disclosure in fact proves nothing one way or the other about "peak oil" theory, but it sure speaks tanker loads for another assertion, that XOM is now and for many years has been the best run of the integrated oil companies. I bought 50 shares with summer job money in 1985, put them in the dividend reinvestment plan, and have never looked back (XOM vs. the DJIA since 1970). Gotta love the power of compounding, and it has provided an excellent (albeit purely psychological) hedge -- when gasoline prices go up, my irritation at the pump is offset by sweet contemplation of mother Exxon.
If you are 23 years old today, I strongly recommend doing the same.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
From my Facebook feed, fount of many wonders:
It is fashionable to remark that America “lost its innocence” on September 11th. This is balderdash. Our innocence is too deep and intractable for that. The thing we’ve really lost doesn’t even deserve the name of bravery. We’ve lost the ability to come to grips with the simple fact that life is not a safe proposition—that life will kill us all by and by, regardless. And as a society, we’ve just about lost the sense that until life does kill us, there are values aside from brute longevity that can shape the way we choose to live....
Safety is a fine thing, but as an obsession it rots the soul. If I should live to be 90, and I am called upon to attest to the other nursing-home residents that my life was about something racier than guessing right on the butter-v-margarine conundrum, I will speak of that thunderstorm on Lake Superior. I’ll describe the touch-and-go struggle to keep the boat pointed just enough off the wind to maintain headway, and the jackhammer pounding of a madly luffing mainsail trying to spill a 75-knot gale. I’ll talk about the way we huddled in the cockpit with our eyes rigidly forward because looking aft would mean another lightning-illuminated glimpse of the dinghy we towed, risen completely out of the water and twirling like a propeller on the end of its line.
Pleasant though many of them were, with the cheese and crackers and such, I doubt I’ll have much to say about the hours I spent on Superior with the sails furled, motoring in perfect safety through flat water and dead air.
Read it all.
Judging by at least some of the comments to this post, he's absolutely right.
Not mine. Credit Will Harrel '13, a relatively new addition to the TigerHawk family of readers.
By the way, we love photographs of universities around here, and do not by any means expect this to be all-Princeton all the time. If you have taken a worthy photo of another college or university by all means sent it along to "email@example.com" with permission to publish it. Indicate whether you want specific or anonymous credit.
Barack Obama is bucking the greenie ideologues in his own party and coming around to the idea that nuclear power might actually help in the fight against anthropogenic global warming. Better late than never, but now I have a question. Suppose greenhouse gases really do pose an existential threat to the planet, and further suppose that there would be a lot less of them if we had spent the last thirty years building nuclear power plants rather than coal-fired plants (electricity generation accounts for 41% of American CO2 output, more than any other activity by a long shot). Then, would these "artists" owe the planet, or at least the people who bought their record, an apology? What about the environmental activists who opposed nuclear power then, and tell us about the threat of carbon dioxide now? And no fair saying you were in favor of wind and solar -- even if those technologies could substitute for coal power today (and they probably cannot), they were no substitute back in 1979, 1989, or 1999, yet we (and the rest of the world) are living with the accumulated carbon dioxide because activists and regulators essentially stopped the development of nuclear power in this country. So, dude, where's our apology?
[Editor's note: For my own part, I am not big on extracting "apologies" for decisions or positions taken in good faith that turn out to have been unwise or wrong after the fact. But the left, and particularly its most potent instrumentality, the trial bar, has made a living off of ex post political and legal attacks for as long as I can remember. So, tit, tat, all dat.]
An op-ed by an old-time Democratic U.S. Senate staff member in today's Philadelphia Inquirer proposes an interesting idea for Senate Democrats -- to paint their Republican colleagues as demonstrably obstructionist by forcing "the Republicans to filibuster bills that most voters support," knowing the cloture vote would not pass.
But that doesn't mean that Senate Democrats can't use Rule 22 to their advantage. President Obama's proposed budget is full of ideas that are very popular with the general public - such as measures to rein in Wall Street bonuses, programs to create new jobs, a middle-class tax cut that applies pre-Bush tax rates to the very rich, and provisions for going after companies that hide their earnings overseas to avoid taxation, to name just a few...I have always thought that winning by losing was a tactic that has worked well for Arabs in the Arab-Israeli conflict, in terms of generating international sympathy. I am not so sure that it would work well for a political party that has a solid majority in both legislative bodies and also runs the executive branch. I am also not so sure that the ideas which Mr. Schwartz cites above poll as well as he thinks they do, but I am going to concede that he might be more familiar with that data than most of us.
...Winning by losing: Could it work for the Democrats?
Even if he is correct about the popularity of such proposals, why not try to pass bills that actually have bi-partisan support, instead of attempting a cram-down or trying to highlight sharp policy differences? It is tactics such as this (which the author's penultimate paragraph nearly admits) which crowds out constructive work on the Hill, and leaves centrist Democrats such as the now-retiring Sen. Bayh out in the cold.
To avoid real bloodshed in November, the Democrats ought to think about passing bills that have broad support among voters in most states (and not just proposing for the sake of partisan point-making). I still believe that there is a health care bill that could be priced to move, provided it includes tort reform and portability provisions, among other things. If a conservative Republican such as Rep. Paul Ryan uses language in his proposals that include terms such as "universal access" (to tax credits to pay for coverage, to be precise), then there is likely a middle ground that could be reached, if the Progressive Caucus can stomach it.
A friend alerted me to a new iPhone game that is enthralling his kids: "Bailout Wars," in which the objective is to defend the White House against greedy bankers seeking government assistance.
The right sucks at this sort of thing, and will lose the culture wars as long as it ignores the fight for popular culture. How hard would it be to write an app called "Bust That Union!," in which you, the entrepreneur, have to hunt down and "terminate" lazy employees who insist that "work rules" allow them to avoid actual work? But nooooo. All we get are "greedy bankers" besieging the White House.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Two items. First, Newsweek is reporting (breathlessly and supposedly exclusively) on an intelligence breakthrough in the Persian Gulf.
U.S. intelligence officials appear to have obtained access to what could turn out to be a significant trove of phone numbers, photographs and documents detailing the links between Al Qaeda's leaders in northwest Pakistan and the terror group's increasingly menacing affiliate in Yemen, two counter-terrorism sources tell Declassified.
In late January, an Al Qaeda operative headed from Pakistan on his way to Yemen was arrested in the Persian Gulf country of Oman, a U.S. counter-terrorism official confirmed.
There has been no public announcement of the arrest. But in a possible indication of the operative's importance, just a few days later, two postings on a jihadi web forum suggested that Al Qaeda leaders were worried and wanted their "commanders" to take immediate precautions.
The postings stated that the "captured brother" -- identified as a "field commander" named Abdullah Saleh al-Eidan who went by the name of "Barud"- - was "on his way back from Afghanistan" and had been turned over to Saudi authorities.
Even more noteworthy, the postings -written by a fellow Al Qaeda "brother" - reported that Al Eidan had with him 300 "important phone numbers" as well as pictures, names and documents from Afghanistan.
Ordinarily I hate to see the reporting of intelligence victories because it can alert the enemy to a gap in its counterintelligence, but in this case it hardly matters. If the jihadis are reacting on their own web sites, not much is lost by telling American voters.
The other bit of news in the same story is that "Al Qaeda Central" seems to be alive and well and much more closely affiliated with its allies on the Arabian Peninsula than previously suspected.
At the same time, the capture of Eidan may suggest that the connections between Al Qaeda's central leadership and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)-as the group's affiliate in Yemen is called-- may be greater than U.S. officials have previously thought.
Just last month, when asked at a White House press briefing what was the most "shocking, stunning thing" he had learned from the administration's review of the Christmas Day bombing incident, John Brennan, President Obama's counter-terrorism advisor, replied: "Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is an extension of Al Qaeda core coming out of Pakistan. We had a strategic sense of sort of where they were going, but we didn't know they had progressed to the point of actually launching individuals here."
If true, this news sheds further light on the administration's decision to focus on the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and tends to discredit those critics of the administration who prefer a more decentralized strategy. Hey, for all we know that is exactly the reason this intelligence was leaked internally.
Second, there is this delightful bit of excellent news from the central front:
The Taliban’s top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to American government officials.
The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan described by American officials as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.
All good, as far as it goes, but did we really need this bit of self-congratulation from the New York Times?:
The New York Times learned of the operation on Thursday, but delayed reporting it at the request of White House officials, who contended that making it public would end a hugely successful intelligence-gathering effort. The officials said that the group’s leaders had been unaware of Mullah Baradar’s capture and that if it became public they might cover their tracks and become more careful about communicating with each other.
The Times is publishing the news now because White House officials acknowledged that the capture of Mullah Baradar was becoming widely known in the region.
Funny, I don't recall the Times being worried about ending intelligence efforts during the Bush years. But perhaps I judge too harshly.
What is the real story, however, is that far from mere observable, on-balance sheet funding needs, Greek has suddenly found itself at the mercy of a Moody's, whose just one additional notch down, would increase the funding needs by almost 40% in addition to near term maturity requirements.Yes, ratings triggers on the swap, if tripped, would force Greece into a default. (That of course assumes no bailout, which today at least sounded less likely).
Of Princeton's storied "eating clubs" (which sprang in to place in the 19th century after the university banned fraternities), five are selective and choose their members in a process known as the "bicker" (the rest admit their members by lottery). The popularity of the selective clubs waxes and wanes with fashion. Some years lots of sophomores turn out for the bicker, and other years far fewer do. Since the selective clubs have always been unpopular with the political left, it has seemed that they become more popular when the left is less so, relatively speaking. The bicker pool increased significantly among my class (sophomores in February 1981), for example, a majority of whom supported Ronald Reagan in the previous November's election (along with the freshmen that year, but in contrast with the juniors and seniors, who went for Carter).
All of that wind-up leads to this bit of news, which is that the number of sophomores turning out to bicker at the selective clubs increased significantly this year. I have no idea whether the same correlation exists among today's undergraduates, but thirty years ago that would have probably meant that the bundle of lefty values are becoming less popular on campus. Any alumni or current undergraduates who have something to add, please do.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Nassau Street, looking west from Moore Street, about twenty minutes ago.
As previously reported, the updated "We Are The World" for Haiti is out. Apart from the rap bit, which I can tolerate but do not like, I think it holds up pretty well against the original from my youth. The main difference being that I recognize all of the original dudes, and almost none of the new ones. Oh well. Enjoy them both.
A cheap, pandering headline, to be sure. I continue to suspect that greenhouse gases are causing some warming at the margin. That said, this article from the Times of London certainly implies rising, er, skepticism from within the establishment. It points to the growing recognition that the surface stations are compromised.
My own view is that the climate science community should hit the reset button on the whole project. Post all the raw data, then post all the adjustments with the explanations therefore. Do it in bloggy form, allowing for comment fields. Post the software used in the models, and use change control (which requires ex ante justification for any change), just as one would require for any mission-critical software. Use open-source programmers, when appropriate, who might well produce better code for a given routine. Harness the distributed power of the web, act in the open, and see what the data look like and the models predict then. Do all of that, and many more people will believe the result.
It is not only Valentine's Day, but the first day of the Year of the Tiger according to the Chinese Zodiac. I'm thinking that a 1.3 billion people can't be wrong.
Princeton University is celebrating accordingly, as will TigerHawk and, presumably, ExxonMobil.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Not that many of you will care, but at some point in the last couple of hours the five millionth "unique visitor", as calculated by Site Meter, clicked through to this blog. The actual five millionth visitor probably arrived a few days back, because I did not install Site Meter until about three months after I established the blog in the winter of 2003-04, and it has been down a couple of times since (including at least once during a surge of traffic from Instapundit). Anyway, it is fun for me. Thank you for coming back!
"If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut."
Harvard University took such a hit to its endowment last year that its students are now suffering. Fortunately, some Princeton students put aside a two and a half century rivalry and traveled to Cambridge on a mission of mercy.
We always say "Princeton in the nation's service," but these guys truly walk the walk.
If you read one blog post today, read Michael Yon's latest dispatch from Afghanistan. You will learn more about that war from the soldier's eye view in that one post than from dozens of mainstream sources. And pay particular attention to the exceptional story of American entrepreneurialism in the service of war. Captain Jared Cox is one soldier who certainly ought to be snapped up on his discharge. Google would be nuts not to grab him.
The sun came out around lunch time, so I unlimbered my camera and wandered around the Saddlebrook Resort looking for birds. I had seen a hawk out on my run the other day, but could not locate him today. I did, however, spot the Great Egrets (the endangered birds that inspired the Audobon Society) in the protected swamp behind the main building, a crane, and (I think) a pelican. I am no birder, and would appreciate a more precise identification of the last two birds from those of you with actual expertise.
Shouldn't the smart kids get a sign, too? Even next to a golf course in Florida it is hard to defend this celebration of mediocrity.
I have a day to kill at the Saddlebrook Resort near Tampa, which would be awesome if the temperature were not 44 degrees outside, expected to peak at 51 degrees, far below the average for this date of 71 degrees. It is like March in New Jersey, and so I have perched myself in the lobby coffee shop with a huge pile of newspapers, my laptop, and about 400 emails to scan and delete. Suffice it to say that the tabs come first. They are juicy. Chew them well, Grasshopper.
Every traffic-hungry blogger on the right is going to link to Glenn Reynolds' column in the Wall Street Journal this morning, so why be coy about it? It's a sharp look at the "tea party" movement, including its manifest grass-rootiness.
Peggy Noonan argues that Barack Obama may actually mean it when he says "I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president." Unlike Noonan, I call bullshit. There is no way that Barack Obama would "rather be" a "really good" one-term president than a mediocure two-termer. However, I suspect most former presidents would rather have been the former than the latter, which is a difference. Recognizing that President Obama is at some risk of being neither (that is, he might be a mediocre one-term president), he is implicitly comparing himself to James Polk and John Adams, the two one-termers (excluding Lincoln and Kennedy) who are usually ranked in roughly the top quartile of American presidents. Well, good! The sooner President Obama starts adding to American territory, the better.
The John Mayer kerfuffle, and a thoughtful reflection thereon.
A really interesting analysis of the crisis in the Eurozone. If things keep heading south, this might be the summer to go on that trip to Europe.
Word of the day: Fissiparous. Blogger's spell-check function does not recognize it as a word at all.
In case you missed it, lefty pundit and former West Wing writer Lawrence O'Donnell completely lost his shit on MSNBC the other day. Power Line notes the requirement for an apology. (As an aside, I've never understood the value of an apology that is demanded or otherwise extracted. Seems like "honor culture" nonsense. Give me an apology sua sponte, or do not do it all.)
Ezra Klein examines the list of Senators and Members who got a "golden ticket" to the health care summit and finds it wanting.
This seems like too many people to get anything done. And where are the good-faith folks who'd actually have something interesting to say? Ron Wyden's not on there. Jay Rockefeller's not on there. Even Olympia Snowe's not on there. They've left off the people who know the most about the subject and would be likeliest to cut a deal. Obviously, that's not an accident: The guest list would swell dramatically and there'd be more hurt feelings. But in confining this to leadership and committee chairs, something will be lost, too.
Ezra is too kind. There are only two explanations for this list. First, that the typical Washington nonsense -- it is not what you know or are capable of, but who you are -- still obtains even in this supposedly crucial test of the Obama presidency, or, second, that the White House is not actually interested in striking a deal. Pick your poison, both are mistakes.
Three Dog Night was all wrong. "Four" is the loneliest number.
TPM: "Man Charged With Stockpiling Weapons Was Tea Partier, Palin Fan." Yeah, well, Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers are "Democrats, Obama fans", but that wasn't a problem, was it?
Orwell nods: The new commandments on the barn wall.
Nested tabs: The links dump at Maggie's Farm.
A good time, good tune, good video. From a Facebook friend.
Friday, February 12, 2010
If snow falls on the Florida Panhandle, as expected, the white stuff will be on the ground in all 50 states. Is there a record of this happening before?
Weather is not climate, but dude, where is my global warming?
MORE: All 50.