January 31, 2006

Nothing else on   {Comments: 207}

I didn't watch much of Bush's address, but two of the things I did catch left me aghast. One was his frontal assault on the question of NSA wiretaps and the president's constitutional authority, which wasn't surprising so much because of the president (who has a proven record of defiant check-raises) but because members of Congress were cheering upon their own emasculation. Hello? I wonder if one would be shot for walking out of one of these things.

Then there was the bizarre call for Congress to reenact the line item veto, which was held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1998. What an ominous and audacious thing to be saying on the day his second Supreme Court appointee was confirmed, especially given Congress's concerns about Alito's abilty to stand up to executive overreaching. Is he serious? Obviously he is, given the extent to which this speech has been carefully crafted. So was this a message to the Court, a message to his new nominee, or just the usual hardheaded power-hungry tone (see defiant check-raises, above)? In any case it seems like a futile move, given the geography of the Court's decision in Clinton v. City of New York (which is comforting).

MORE: Just wanted to mention that I'm not against the line-item veto per se, and that it obviously has benefits at a time when corruption and pork are running rampant through the legislature. But I have enough sense to be against anything that would give this president more power.

UPDATE: Now Baude is on the line item veto question with a series of possibilities about why the president might have brought up a mechanism that is well known to be unconstitutional.

I have one more possibility to add: This is the president's way of making it clear that he is not in a position to stop Congress from passing special interest legislation, and that therefore he bears no responsibility for the current mess.

January 28, 2006

Benched   {Comments: 0}

January 25, 2006

Hard-nosed quasilibertarian policy analysis   {Comments: 0}

Peter Northup has a couple devastating responses to Jane Galt's response to a William Saletan piece on what the left's strategy on abortion ought to be. The whole sequence is worth reading, as are Peter's other source materials.

I feel like I should also mention Will Baude's very convincing op-ed in the Times, even though it comes at the abortion issue from a totally different (though perhaps complementary?) direction.

Redevelopment   {Comments: 0}

A few pictures here from the demolition of the Rockwell Gardens housing project on Chicago's west side. The project is being converted into mixed income housing, and many of the former residents have been moved off site.

I'll probably add more pictures later, as the demolition continues.

January 19, 2006

Fire at will   {Comments: 0}

Comments are once again possible on locussolus. I haven't really done anything to improve spam handling, but since I'm tending to the blog a little more frequently these days maybe I will be able to hold the line. If anybody has any suggestions about dealing with spam, well, comments are open!

UPDATE: Nevermind. I'm closing comments again because there have been over 2000 spams in less than a day since I first posted this. I simply don't have the time to delete all this crap, and it's been taking the fun out of blogging for a while now. Maybe I will go commentless from here on out? Please email me if you have a solution to this problem -- my email is near the bottom of the sidebar.

MORE: Thanks to all who have written with suggestions about how to get around this problem. At this point my plan is to fix thingd by having comment registration through Typepad. I'll be doing this at some point in the future, but it won't be in the few days, since I'm out of town for the week.

On the foldability of space frames   {Comments: 0}

Here are a couple of articles on Santiago Calatrava, the architect who designed the Milwaukee Art Museum and the yet-to-be-built transit hub for lower Manhattan.

January 15, 2006

Connections   {Comments: 0}

January 14, 2006

Coy Apology   {Comments: 0}

I shouldn't settle the score with anyone.
I expected to be braver than this.

Having looked back on my feet today
mewing my fine little specimens.

I'm as keen and quick as my first cousin
the waving Miss Cotton, another sunny day in Tuscon.

As Plato says, I'm "undisturbed, even by dreams."
You must know I've whirred by tollbooths

impersonating policemen in a rush.
But this is not what I'm sorry for right now.

--Daniel Nester, 2003

January 13, 2006

I am not accustomed to protocol   {Comments: 1}

"If what he represents is opposition to 600 years of exploitation, why should he wear a suit and tie?"

Purposely kept vague   {Comments: 0}

Both before and after I saw Syriana a couple weeks ago, friends (and reviewers) have been telling me what a confusing and difficult movie it is. And I've been wondering about this, because I didn't find it confusing in the least. At first I thought maybe I was missing something, because several of the people who were "confused" were people whose readings I generally respect ("great deference" seems to be the term of the moment). But when I realized most of the complaints centered around the plot, with its variously interwoven and indirectly connected strands, I was kind of taken aback, because everything I needed to understand what was going on was right on the surface -- it's not as though a lot of guesswork was required to tease out the subtleties of who was doing what and why. Maybe the plot wasn't perfectly predictable, and maybe the characters weren't as one-dimensional as the caricatures on Fox News, but Syriana is hardly what you'd call high modernist.

All of this is even more baffling when you consider the critical response to Traffic, which was pretty much universal adoration even though the plot in that case was similarly constructed and the subject matter even more controversial (although perhaps less timely). I guess Syriana ends on a far less hopeful note and engages the audience more directly (basically as antagonist), but as far as understanding the plot is concerned, I don't see the difference.

Largely unavailable in contemporary American society   {Comments: 0}

Jeremy Reff had a post a few days ago about the "race/ethnicity unknown" category on college applications and how it may have skewed reporting of university minority populations. Or rather, the post was about Jeremy's reaction to that discussion, in light of his particular ethnicity. I don't really have anything to add, except to say that his words really resonated with me as someone of similarly split ethnicity -- especially the bit about the peculiar freedom to "comment on race and from race."

(Also: is there some irony buried in the fact that I identify so strongly with remarks about indeterminate, or at leat unacknowledged, identity?)

January 12, 2006

Alito   {Comments: 0}

A couple non-legal (illegal?) observations about the judge, since I'm no legal scholar (although Jonathan Turley is):

1) I'm not really inclined to think his minor membership in CAP is a big deal, but I can't really fathom how someone with a brilliant legal mind has forgotten his reasons for joining it, given that he put it on his resume. I mean, there might be some organizations in my past about which I can't remember all the circumstances surrounding my membership or involvement, but there's no way I'd put them on a job application. For someone of Alito's stature to forget something like this is first of all unimpressive, but more importantly completely implausible. So... he's hiding something. But whether he's hiding something important or just playing the usual cat and mouse game where appointees avoid any sharing whatsoever, I have no idea.

2) As far as that game of cat and mouse goes, he's not half the player John Roberts was. Roberts had a clarity and a consistency that made him seem straightforward, even if he was sidestepping a question. Alito, by contrast, seems less confident when he's being evasive, which tends to undermine the credibility of his answers. I'm not suggesting this particular skill has anything to do with being a Supreme Court justice, but the contrast is certainly striking.

MC 299667   {Comments: 0}

UPDATE: Jonathan Versen writes, "You might be interested to know the Citroen DS series were nicknamed 'the angry clam.'" More info about the DS here, here, and here.

January 7, 2006

Sonnet XXX   {Comments: 0}

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up rememberance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste.
Then can I drown an eye, unus'd to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan th' expense of many a vanish'd sight.
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

--William Shakespeare

January 6, 2006

A spoon is like a headache   {Comments: 0}

I can't remember who referred me (Metafilter?) to this ambitious takedown of the 90s, but like much of what you'll read at exile.ru it's hilarious because it's so true.

There's also this collection of prominent scientists' thoughts on what the most dangerous idea today might be. Some of the responses are provocative, but on the whole they seem (to me, at least) to be characterized by conventionality rather than the kind of paradigm-smashing insight I expect the organizers were looking for. I guess that's not really surprising, but either way you'll get a good sense of the scientific community if you read through enough of the responses. This one's via ALDaily.

Wild boar prints in the mud   {Comments: 0}

Congratulations to my sister Jackie, who's had her first freelance travel piece published at journeybeyondtravel.com. Also: her blog and travel magazine.

January 5, 2006

There are other theories, of course   {Comments: 0}

Greg at BTD links to this great flash animation that's apparently been making the rounds for some time, but which was in any case new to me. I was trying to decide whether I agreed with Greg's claim that "[t]he media universe imagined in 'EPIC' couldn't exist without some good old fashioned news reporting" when I came across this bizarre piece in today's Times about a smell emanating from New Jersey. In it Jonathan Miller has apparently lifted a series of bloggers' speculations and applied some of that good old fashioned news reporting (along with a gorgeous maple syrup photo) to fill in some of the details -- but of course not all! Anyway this juxtaposition -- the perennial question of whether blogs would survive without a media to piggyback vs Jonathan Miller's cheeky blog-inspired fluff piece -- made me laugh.

I also heard today that the Indianapolis Star is accepting amateur photo submissions.

January 4, 2006

Tank cars   {Comments: 0}

January 3, 2006

No comment   {Comments: 0}

I have temporarily disabled comments (the only sure way is abstinence), but they'll be back in a day or two. MT's filters seem to have been overwhelmed, and I haven't been following things enough to know whether this is because I need to update them or whether the spammers have just gotten smarter. If it's the latter, I'll probably be going to a registration comment system... more on this soon. In the meantime, if you have a comment of some kind, please don't hesitate to email (my address is at the bottom of the sidebar).