The Right Coast

August 31, 2004
Johnny Kerry
By Tom Smith

A Right Coast reader and 101st Airborne veteran who served in Vietnam sends in this version of the famous Kipling poem:

(With apologies to Mr. Kipling and the British Army)

Johnny went public with ‘is boasts, an’ ‘ero without fear,
“Til sudden like the Swifties say, “We got a turncoat ‘ere.”
The Libs they just ignored ‘em, sayin’ “Ah, it’s all a lie!”
Then Johnny’s outted by their ads an’ to myself says I:

Oh it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, ‘e’s the ‘ero of the day.
But it’s wait now, Mr. Kerry, what’s that record really say?
The horns are loudly blowin’ boys as our band begins to play,
An’ it’s goodbye, Mr. Kerry, as they blow your arse away.

Johnny goes to Cincinnati sober as a man can be,
An’ they give ol’ George a “Bravo Lad!” but John no sympathy.
They give ‘im plain their message, sittin’ silent in the ‘alls,
That when it comes to fightin’ men, they know oo’s got the balls.

For it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, but wait, he might ‘a lied
From the platform of his campaign train an’ on the Boston tide.
His ship is on the tide, my boys, his ship is on the tide,
An’ it’s plain as day she’s sinkin’ boys, because the turncoat lied.

Yes Johnny mocked our uniforms that guard you while you sleep.
He cheapened all our medals throwing his upon that heap;
An’ rustlin’ up his phony troops, he led them for a bit,
Until his aspirations and theirs no longer fit.

Now it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, an’ Johnny how’s yer soul,
In that brave front rank of ‘eroes as our drums begin their roll?
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
An’ they’ll keep right on a rollin’ boys, ‘til we chuck ‘im in the hole.

We make no claim as ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But ‘onorable men an’ warriors fightin’ once agin for you.
An’ if your ‘ero’s record, our charges soundly taint,
That’s what we’re tryin’ to tell you blokes, your ‘ero ain’t no saint.

For it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, an’ “Check him out, the Loot!”
Was ‘e the “Savior of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot?
Now it’s Johnny’s turn to prove us wrong, an’ make us all out liars,
By signin’ that one eighty form an’ puttin out the fires.

Oh it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, ‘e’s the ‘ero of the day,
But it’s hold on, Mr. Kerry, what’s that record really say?
The horns are loudly blowin’ boys, as our band begins to play,
“Cheerio, Old Man,” to Johnny and blows his arse away.

* * *

We get quite a few veterans as readers of the Right Coast, which pleases me immensely. The poem above, in addition to its political content, does a pretty good job, IMHO, of capturing the sound and feel of Kipling's underrated verse.

August 30, 2004
I want a purple heart
By Tom Smith

I seem to have done something to my rotator cuffs (that's in your shoulders to you aliens to the weight room) attempting to do more than my usual pathetic number of pull ups. It hurts, and I want a purple heart. Yes, I did it to myself and no, I was not in any real danger, but I still want a purple heart. But I am not in the military, you say. True, but on my side there is the fact the shoulder is a much less embarassing place to get wounded than the butt, and also, I promise to request only one such medal and to be duly modest about it, should one be given to me. Think it over.

In the alternative, I request to marry a billionairess. I don't want to give up my current spousal unit, so the best way to work this out is for you simply to give her a billion dollars. If this seems too much, a hundred million plus a Gulfstream V will do. In exchange, I will give really boring speeches, and ride around on my expensive toys clad in lycra, showing off my middle aged body.

Just some random observations: no one has mentioned that maybe the reason Kerry threw his medals, ribbons or whatever away is that (1) they just evoked embarrassing memories of butt wounds and/or (2) he knew they were a big fraud anyway, so what the heck? If you were the Richard Burton character from Where Eagles Dare and you got a Victoria Cross, would you toss it away? Not bloody likely. But if you knew it was just for, well, you get the picture. Moreover, nobody seems to have pointed out how rude it was for Kerry to throw away medals which he requested in the first place. If I ask somebody for tickets to the game, and somebody gives them to me, and then I throw them away, that's rude. He could at least have kept them and bartered them latter for a fancy haircut or something, assuming you could find a stylist who wanted a purple heart.

In case you missed this little treasure . . .
By Tom Smith

John Kerry's classic book. What else do you need?

August 29, 2004
Surf Science
By Tom Smith

Shocking to me is that this seems to be almost the only, and apparently the leading, research paper on the hydrodynamics of surfing, at least as far as I can tell from Google. It's 30 years old! Have there really been no advances in the theory of surfing in all that time?

I tend to think many improvements could be made in surfboards to make it easier to learn how to surf. I'll let you guess why I would think so. In the last ten years, there have been enormous improvements in snow ski design, making skiing much easier and more fun. Ski design, it seems to me, stagnated for a long time before it really took off in the '90's. Is surfing due for a similar technological revolution?

I'm not really sure. I don't yet understand what's going on with surfing well enough to tell. It may be that surfing is just planing on water, and there's only so much that can be done with a plane. On the other hand, I wonder if more sophisticated designs, of the sort one sees in speedboats, kayaks, and sailboats, for instance, might be applicable to surfboards.

Here are some wild ideas. Surfbboards are flat, giving them high initial stability, but very low secondary stability (or whatever you call it), so that one tipped, they tend to keep tipping. A U shaped hull is much more stable. Less likely to plane, though and harder to turn. Maybe big fins would make it easier to turn. This would look like a kayak you stood on to surf.

Or, what about a big channel down the middle of the board, like a tunnel boat? (I know some boards now are concave on the bottom) Would the decreased drag increase the speed of the board? Would there be a lift effect? What would the effect on turning be?

How about a catamaran surfboard? Think long, slender sponsons with fins. Could such a barge be made to turn? What if the sponsons had significant rocker (that bannana shape) and even some side cut to their shape, like slalom skis? That would increase drag, but would it make them easier to turn? Could sponsons be designed so that they planed readily?

But this is all wrong. Maybe it's all just planing, so all you can do it make subtle variations to an essentially flat surface.

By Tom Smith

Women like to compete, just not against men.

Bush's tax cuts
By Tom Smith

Nice graphic on Bush's tax cuts. Via instapundit. The middle classes only had to pay more if you count the top 20 percent as the middle classes -- that's in terms of tax burden, not marginal rate.

I'm in favor of tax cuts because the federal government wastes the most astonishing amounts of money.

But this doesn't mean we don't need world socialism because of global warming
By Tom Smith

In my first law school teaching job, I had lunch with some colleagues and the dean, a notoriously unpleasant woman. She expressed admiration for the Chinese, who forcibly aborted the fetuses of women who had deviated from official population policy. I allowed that if that ever happened in this country, I would head for the mountains with my gun and join the Resistance. She seemed to think I was kidding, but I wasn't, of course.

But it turns out all the fuss about the population bomb was rubbish and nonsense. How very shocking. I remember reading stories in Time magazine about women who, hearing the tick tick of the population bomb, got themselves sterilized in order to make the world a better place (which they may have inadvertently done, genes being what they are), while at most just making themselves victims of the tragedy of the commons.

I still want my SUV. It will burn lots of gas and be full of kids.

August 28, 2004
Should consrvatives hope W loses?
By Tom Smith

Fergeson thinks so.

White Mischief
By Tom Smith

African tragi-comedy.

New Corporate Law Blog
By Gail Heriot

Our colleague at USD, Professor Lynne Dallas, and several corporate law professors from other law schools have started a new corporate law blog called "Biz Fems Speak!" Check it out.

Right wing grousing
By Tom Smith

Readers with access to the San Diego Union Tribune might want to check out the front page of tomorrow's Sunday paper Insight section. It should have a piece by me about the upcoming Republican convention. I share with Herr Professor Rappaport some disaffection with W, from the right. In my case, I think he has been pretty lame on social issues, throwing sops to social conservatives and expecting a lot in return. But support your local paper to see the rest. Or if you don't sully your hands with newsprint, look here later for a link. A
AND here it is.

Hiram Fong
By Gail Heriot

I love success stories. And Hiram Fong, the first senior Senator from Hawaii, had a great one. His parents were illiterate Chinese immigrants. As a young boy, he did did all manner of odd job, picking beans for 10 cents per 100 lb. bag and shining shoes. Yet he grew up to be one of Hawaii's most successful businessmen and politicians. (He was lucky too; his "seniority" over the junior Senator was won on a coin toss.)

The Republican Fong, who served in the Senate from 1959 to 1977, died last week at the age of 97; his passing was duly noted in several papers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. But Post's obit contains a stray sentence that I am afraid may mislead some readers. It says, "His support for civil rights legislation put him at odds with many in his party in the 1960s." I'm sure it put him at odds with some Republicans, just as it put him at odds with some Democrats. But, for the record, Republican support for 1960s civil rights legislation tended to be significantly greater than Democratic support. For example, the Senate passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by a final vote of 73 to 27. Of the "no" votes, 21 were Democrats and 6 were Republicans. On the House side, Republicans voted in favor 138 to 34 while Democrats voted for the measure 152 to 96, with most of the "no" votes coming from Southerners.

Cool news from Keck
By Tom Smith

New planet hunting news from the gigantic Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

August 27, 2004
How is this possible, if it's not Abu Ghraib?
By Tom Smith

Don't hold your breath for the trial on this one.

August 22, 2004
Does Size Matter?
By Gail Heriot

Nothing would give me greater joy than to allow Texas to divide itself into five states, thus enabling it to send 10 (mostly conservative) senators to Washington instead of two. I love Texas. I love Texas so much I want to spread the love around.

Such is the tongue-in-cheek (well ... maybe not so tongue-in-cheek) recommendation of Vasan Kesavan and Michael Paulsen in today's OpinionJournal. They point out that Congress already gave its permission for such a move back in 1845 in the Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas passed by Congress and signed into law by President John Tyler. All that remains is for the Texas legislature and governor to follow through. The citizens of Texas have been under-represented in the Senate long enough; it's time to correct the problem.

Alas, the Texans I know are unlikely to go for it. They like the Big Texas symbolism, and nothing is likely to change their minds. Maybe it's all for the best. The process of naming the five new states would be a difficult one. Most Texans are proud to call themselves Texans, so things might get a little ugly in deciding which state had the right to retain the name. They can't imitate the Antilles with Greater Texas, Lesser Texas, etc., since that's just not in the Texas spirit. My guess is they would end up with the bland N. Texas, E.Texas. W.Texas, S. Texas and Austin (that being the only part of Texas where you would find many people who don't want to be called Texan). But I'm sure that better names can be devised.

I'm not from Texas; I'm from California, so I won't get myself involved. But as long as we're on the subject of carving up states, I feel duty bound as a former Virginian to point out the controversy over the legality of West Virginia. As Kesavan and Paulsen show, the Constitution does not allow a state to be made out of an already-existing state without the permission of both the already-existing state and Congress.

West Virginia got the latter, but did it get the former? Here's the story: In 1862, Virginia was in rebellion. But pro-union sentiment in the mountainous western part of the state was strong. A rump session of the Virginia legislature consisting only of westerners met in the west and claimed to be the "true" Virginia legislature, loyal to the union. This group authorized the creation of West Virginia. The same group, calling themselves the West Virginia legislature, then turned around and petitioned for admission to the Union. It was all highly irregular, but, times being what they were, their petition was accepted.

As far as I know, Virginia never challenged this. Maybe Virginians thought they were better off. But it's interesting to think about which politicians might never have been ....

Moments from family life
By Tom Smith

DAD: Patrick, don't pick through the bacon!
PATRICK: I'm looking for the good pieces!
* * *
DAD: Where do you want to go to lunch?
LUKE: Let's go to McDonald's. You can have five Big Macs wrapped in lettuce and really lose some weight!
* * *
WILLIAM: Rrrrrrrrrrr! Arrrrghhhhhhhh!
DAD: Luke, stop sitting on William's head!
LUKE: He said I could!
* * *
DAD walks into TGIF's with three boys, and one male infant, aged 10 months.
WAITRESS: Would you like a menu for the baby?
DAD: No, I'll just order for him.
* * *
LADY at TGIF's: Your boys are very well behaved. You should be proud of them.
DAD: Thank you.
[LADY leaves]
PATRICK: She obviously doesn't know about the Taser.

Mysterious changing headlines
By Tom Smith

I could have sworn the headline on this story in the WaPo was different when it originally appeared on Friday, I think. Now the headline implies the stories on both sides, Kerry and Swiftvets, are incomplete. But the original headline, I think, implied that the Swiftvets story was 'flawed and incomplete', without saying the same of the Kerry version. Now the headline seems to have been fixed. Apparently retroactively, as well, since the print version online (so to speak) has the new, improved headline as well. Am I just behind on my Ginko-Baloba (where did I leave my damn bottle of the stuff?!) or is the Post rewriting headlines they get flack for? Can they do that (ethically I mean)? Isn't there kind of a blogospheric norm that you don't go back and change your posts, except to correct typos, and do minor tweaks? If the Post did rewrite a headline to correct an obvious bias, they would be doing something considered a no-no by the norm masters of bloggery. Tsk. Tsk. If so, not very professional of that great journalistic organ, eh?

Please note: I could be wrong! Memory is a mysterious thing! However, I expect full credit if I am right.

(Note to younger readers: Ginko-Baloba is an herbal supplement we middle aged people sometimes take to improve memory. I doesn't work.)

August 20, 2004
Let's get to the bottom of this
By Tom Smith

Call me idiosyncratic, but to me the most troubling accusation that John O'Neill has made is, well, to quote his interview on the Lehrer News Hour:

JOHN O'NEILL: No. What we've said is his first and third Purple Hearts, which he used to leave Vietnam very early after about four months, we've said that there is almost conclusive evidence that those were fraudulent, that is that they resulted from self-inflicted wounds.
JIM LEHRER: Self-inflicted? He intentionally wounded himself?
JOHN O'NEILL: Oh, no, he didn't intentionally wound himself. He threw grenades, in one case fired and in another case threw a grenade.
They were very close to him and he wounded himself with his own grenade. He didn't mean to.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Let's stop here --

Let's stop, indeed, before this gets out of hand. From earlier in the interview, we learn said grenade accident caused Kerry to be wounded in his nether regions. Now, this is my point. In politics, love and life, there is such a thing as luck. It is a cruel fact, but there are people who throw grenades not far enough, and get shrapnel in their butts, and those who don't. I am not trying to be funny here. I avoid grenades partly for this very reason. I look at them, and just intuitively think, there's something that could harm my bottom. Hence, I don't even own a grenade. But I don't want to be president. To be President, you need to be the sort of person who is mysteriously blessed, whom God loves for peculiar reasons of his own. Now marrying a billionaireness might count in Kerry's favor on his score, but that is cancelled out by her personality. We are back to those offending fragments. They are evidence, damning evidence in my view, that Kerry's karma is way out of whack. If half the stories of his cutting to the front of the line, abusing subordinates, calling Secret Service agents names, etc., etc, are true, the guy is a walking karma black hole, with shrapnel wounds in his butt to prove it. We knew beyond doubt this was the case with Carter when he was attacked by the crazed rabbit. Can you imagine Reagan being attacked by a rabbit? You cannot. I don't care about Cambodia. I want to know, did Kerry, or did he not, blow up his butt with his own grenade? If the answer is yes, then, I'm sorry, but he cannot be our Chief. Irrational prejudice still counts for something in this country.

ON THE OTHER HAND, this is not so funny.

August 19, 2004
That was annoying
By Tom Smith

Glen Reynolds was right on in predicting how the mainstream media would spin the Swiftboat story, as least as far as Jim Lehrer goes. You can read his interview with John O'Neill here. Thomas Oliphant (whom I can never look at without imagining him in one of those propeller beanies) was there to uphold the honor of the daily press. I thought he was pathetic, but my lovely wife Jeanne thought he did OK.

Most annoying was Oliphant's repeating, over and over, that O'Neill's allegations simply did not live up to the standards of evidence required by the legitimate press. Oh please. It's rather late in the day to stand on the daily papers' claim to journalistic objectivity. O'Neill says he has sworn statements from eight officers and four sailors to the effect that Kerry left the scene of the incident of the action for which Kerry got his bronze star, and only came back later. The testimony of 12 eyewitnesses is evidence, and a lot more than the one or two anonymous sources behind many stories in the regular press.

Then there's this instructive exchange:

JIM LEHRER: Excuse me. [Green Beret rescued by Kerry] Rassmann says there was [hostile] fire.
JOHN O'NEILL: He does.
JIM LEHRER: He says there was fire from both... is that not right?
TOM OLIPHANT: He says, as does the citation and the Bronze Stars awarded both to Kerry and to this fellow who has a memory now of the facts that is contradicted by the facts as cited in his own medal --
JIM LEHRER: Go ahead --
JOHN O'NEILL: His own medal citation was produced 100 miles north based on Kerry's own report. He got it after he left Vietnam.
The next major problem I have is you need to understand this is a 75-yard-wide canal. These boats were sitting there, the four boats, stable, totally there for an hour-and-a-half trying to save the three boat.
Nobody was wounded. There is no bullet hole in any boat. There is no damage of any kind. So the problems they have are massive and multiple.
JIM LEHRER: We cannot resolve that here. . . .

In other words, unless the VC/NVA were shooting blanks or blindfolded, it's hard to believe there was fire, as Kerry claimed. And the physics of the story seem consistent with no hostile fire. As between eyewitness testimony and the account of a guy who was in effect applying for a citation, the former seems at least as credible. So, time to change the subject!

Also, check this out:

JOHN O'NEILL: Jim, one other thing, they can look at, which is the web site that has a great deal of information on it.
JIM LEHRER: Is there a web site that's comparable to that? I'm sure the Kerry --
TOM OLIPHANT: Yes, it's called the daily press, which is the most difficult thing for these guys to deal with.

Too, too funny. Oliphant says that what the Swiftvets are for Bush, the daily papers are for Kerry. Meaning what? Surrogates? That's correct, but Oliphant probably didn't mean to say it quite that way.

Sjostrom on Krugman
By Tom Smith

This seem right to me. Krugman has lost it a bit.

Claremont McKenna College Professor Guilty
By Gail Heriot

For those of you who are following the story of the psychology professor who sent Claremont McKenna College into a tizzy when she falsely reported that she was the victim of a hate crime, the Los Angeles Times reports that she was found guilty of attempted insurance fraud and filing a false police report.

Recommendations from Professors
By Tom Smith

With all respect to Eugene, I think recommendations from the professors of applicants for law professor jobs are a waste of time. Rarely, the recommendation will say something impressive, like "this is the best student I have had in 20 years of teaching," and be from somebody not given to exaggeration. Usually, however, all the letter does is prove that the student took the time to suck up to the professor recommending him. Indeed, while such a study would make one unpopular, I would bet a survey of the most overrated, tedious and puffed-up law professors in the academy would reveal that they were, by objective measures, such as grades, less qualified than others, but that they got their job because some worthy intoned that "he (or very frequently she) is the best student I have blah blah blah."

At Yale, the upsucking was a veritable industry. It got to the point that I suggested that professors announce at the end of class that those students who wanted merely to suck up please wait for those who had genuine questions. Of course, this was naive, because it overlooks the fact that one of the most effective upsucking techniques is to ask a question that reveals that you have thought long and deeply about your professor's profoundly dumb idea. I suppose that this is, in fact, a valuable skill in the academy.

In my limited experience, having recommendations from large gorillas matters a lot more if you are trying to get a job at a top ten law school, and you have not yet written any of the brilliant articles you have convinced someone you someday will.

Most of the recommendations stuff is just old boy and girl networking. What you really want is some sort of objective measure of a person's talent. This is why gold medals at the Olympics are not awarded on the basis of who has the best letters. "Without a doubt, Sally Salmon is the fastest swimmer I have ever had the privilege to coach in my blah blah blah." I would like to see professorships awarded by examination, as for example fellowships at All Souls at Oxford are, though I imagine that process is probably more corrupt than it looks, fetching female scholars doing well in a way that rather defies the laws of statistics. Awarding jobs on the basis of a track record of published articles is sensible, of course.

Ah, but I am leaving out that inestimable quality, colleagiality. This is the quality that junior, untenured faculty members display in sucking up to more senior faculty members, no matter how unworthy of admiration they may be. And true enough, the knack for it can be demonstrated by one's upsucking skills as a student. I remember a particularly gagging meeting I had with professor-maker Bruce Ackerman at Yale, in which I had gone to ask him how one went about becoming a law professor. (That's how dumb I was.) He replied "It's simple. You have to make us like you." I managed to stop myself from saying "But what if I think you're a dick? Could you still like me?" Nevertheless, it was a truly yucky moment. I ended up hitting it off with Bob Bork, which probably explains a lot about me. In spite of his demonic reputation and admitted appearance (he is proof that not everyone should be allowed to make their own decisions about facial hair), Bork was as nice a man as you could hope to meet, in a rather shy way, and very smart.

Come to think of it, Eugene is right. In this fallen world, students who want to be law professors when they grow up should find some professors, preferably those with vast influence, and attach to them like a lovable leech. Disgusting, but true.

August 18, 2004
Girlie Men in Germany?
By Gail Heriot

This really ... uh ... pissed me off, if you'll pardon the expression, though I suppose that being a woman I have no ... uh ... standing to complain. In any event, the Telegraph reports that German men are now being "shamed into urinating while sitting down" by a goofy gadget that tells them, "'Hey, stand-peeing is not allowed here and will be punished with fines, so if you don't want any trouble you'd best sit down.'" (Hat tip: Best of the Web).

According to the article, this will save "millions of women from cleaning up in the bathroom after them." But it seems unlikely to me that this is being driven by anything of the kind. The article further reports that the phrase for someone who sits and urinates is "sitzpinkler," another word for "wimp." What better symbolic target for those who oppose the very concept of masculinity or of masculine virtue?

Of course, there's nothing in the article that states that any German governmental unit actually imposes such fines. And, no, I don't think that's next, not even in Germany. It only says that the gadgets are available for purchase (and 1.8 million have sold). Call it an assault on masculinity conducted in the private sector.

Send us your police
By Tom Smith

This is absolutely correct. We need more police, especially in ludicrously underpoliced Southern California. It would make it more like Italy, which is a good thing. I like those caribineri strolling along with their sub-machine guns. But a few thousand of them in East LA and give the Bloods and Crips something to think about. The greatest beneficiaries would be poor, minority families liberated from rule by thugs.

I once had as a pro-bono client a housing project sponsored by a Catholic parish in Northeast DC. It was one of the few places not infested by drug dealers in the area. Some dealer got kicked out of the project and demanded to be able to come back to visit his mother or something. What he really wanted to do is sell drugs. He hired a lawyer, who called to say he and his client were going to march back into the project and that to stop him would violate his civil rights. We hired a bunch of off-duty cops as extra security and were waiting for him. They came, they saw, they left. It's amazing what you can accomplish with a bunch of guys with guns. Among them are peace, order and security, which you need to do anything else.

August 17, 2004
Gifted kids
By Tom Smith

Gifted kids face a lot of problems in school, and so do their parents. The Davidson Institute was established by the couple that made a fortune with games like MathBlaster, and are now full time philanthropists in education. I hear good things about them.

Public schools often practice a kind of thick headed egalitarianism, where the only way to get special attention is to bring a weapon to school or be the right type of victim. The public schools in our area explictly profess a "the gifted can take care of themselves" philosophy. La Jolla and other top districts have a GATE or "gifted and talented" program, but I am told to get into it, you have to perform very well on a spatial intuition test, which wouldn't do my oldest boy any good, who is lucky if he can tell a square from a triangle. Shapes apparently "discriminate" less against non-white persons. Since my oldest boy's giftedness runs straight down the middle of verbal intelligence, that doesn't do him much good.

One of the problems with gifted kids is that, perhaps by definition, their gifts tend to be unique or at least unusual. One kid might be a mathematical prodigy, but not particularly good at language or creative writing. Another might be the next J.K. Rowling, but unable to grasp square roots. They tend to demand individual attention, which most schools don't want to give, and may not be able to. Gifted kids often get easily bored, which can make them less than a joy to be around. Some teachers think gifted means able to do twice the quantity of stupid homework they give to the rest of the kids. Kid despairs, ditches homework, gets a "C" and voila, problem of giftedness solved, since kid obviously isn't as smart as teacher (no rocket scientist) was told. Then there is the stigma in the culture against being smart, which makes you a geek or a nerd. You can try home schooling, but maybe you don't want to live in a trailer, so require two incomes, and fear your child will become socially isolated outside of school, which can very well happen.

We have our kids in a pretty good Catholic school, which does a fair job of accommodating special needs. It speaks volumes that having an IQ far outside the norm on the high side makes you "disabled" in a normal classroom, and yet it does. My poor sixth grader simply put his head on his desk and slept while one of his teachers, a remarkably dense human, would blather on about whatever coursed briefly through her uncluttered mind. It was very difficult to deal with. It was disrespectful, and yet she really was a boring idiot. Try explaining to a sixth grader with a very high IQ that in the long run it is in his interest to suffer fools gladly. I got into a lot of trouble in high school for treating certain nuns as if they were as stupid as they were. What would really be best would be private tutors, a la the English aristocracy.

There are good non-religious (for example, Episcopalian) private schools in San Diego, that weigh in at about $15K per kid per year, which for us would be $45K per year in after tax money, or $90K in income. So sad, but we don't have $90K in annual income to spend on grade school at the moment, what with nannies and vacations to pay for. Even if we did, it's not entirely clear these schools are a boon to gifted kids either. The law of large numbers and regression to the mean being as ruthless as they are, the children of the wealthy tend to be somewhat but not dramatically smarter than most kids, and these schools seem geared to their constituencies, rather than to unusually bright, and unusual in other ways as well, kids. I'm not convinced it would be worth the money, in our case.

While I'm at it, I suggest you read a chapter in almost any of the science or history textbooks used in elementary or middle school, public or private. Written by committees, apparently, of total hacks, these texts manage to take inherently interesting topics and absolutely butcher them. I mean, how do you make volcanoes boring? Believe me, it can be done. Earthquakes and tidal waves? Yawn. It is truly an outrage. Any educated person, and I mean it, could write a better science text than the ones we force our kids to use. I mean for heaven's sake, just start by descibing the carnage done by a big volcanic eruption, and go from there. Jane is swallowed by lava. Why does she burst spontaneously into flame? Because lava is X degrees and the human body burns at Y degrees. What's lava? Explain briefly, then move on. John is crushed by a volcanic bomb. What is a volcanic bomb? Explain. How hard could that be? Maybe it would work better for boys than girls, but that's half the population. I would have the kids so terrified they would want to know all about the intricacies of volcanoes just so they'd hope to have a chance of survival. The political correctness of the history texts is also stifling and ridiculous. The standard California state history pablum on the missions depicts them as concentration camps. Yet the Mexicans are also victims, even though they are the ones that enslaved the Indians (assuming that's what handing out food and religion amounts to), which is quite a trick. The only absolute moral value in these materials, apparently, is recycling. For a while, my kids were coming home preaching about how we were not to throw away newspapers and the like. I put a stop to that nonsense in a hurry, I can tell you.

Hair Issues
Tom Smith

Kerry gets a haircut. But it doesn't do that much good. Here's my personal stylist.

August 16, 2004
Naked Woman appears on instapundit
By Tom Smith

I am sorry to have to be the one to report this, but there is a picture of a naked woman on instapundit. Yes, I am referring to the tasteful ad for romantic art in the right hand column, which shows the shapely bum of a naked person of the female sex and quite probably female gender as well. What, Glen Reynolds does not get enough hits without resorting to such questionable tactics? Let me assure all readers of the Right Coast that we will never resort to this, at least not while we are still using Blogger, which makes posting photos anything but intuitive.

Journalists out of Najaf
By Tom Smith

This is interesting at Belmont Club.

Canadian health care
By Tom Smith

Canadians appear to be dissatisfied with their health care system. The answer? More government spending, of course. Americans (as opposed to North Americans) already pay for a lot of Canadians' drug expenses, but that's not enough apparently. Actually, I suspect these numbers do not reveal how deep dissatisfaction with Canada's health care system is. Typically, polls give each respondent a vote, regardless of how much contact they have had with health care. Healthy people tend to like their doctors and assume they will get good care when they need it, far too optimistically in the case of our chilly neighbour to the north. A far better question to ask would be, how do sick people feel about the health care system? It would also be good if you could adjust for all the sick people who would express dissatisfaction if they had not died waiting to get surgery.

August 15, 2004
Art for Artists' Sake
By Gail Heriot

"What public art does best is impossible to measure," testified one artist bent on receiving legally-mandated subsidies for himself and his fellow artists. Precisely. And that is a large part of the reason the City of San Diego (and hundreds of other cities across the country) should have refrained from requiring private commercial and industrial projects to pay such subsidies. Since it's impossible to tell whether the buyer of public art is getting his money's worth, it makes a lot of sense to let him or her make the decision whether to make the investment. After all, it's their money; they are less likely to make foolish mistakes with it than others.

The San Diego City Council nevertheless voted a little while ago to require private companies building commercial and industrial projects worth $5 million or more to spend at least 1% of their budgets on public art (to else "donate" half that amount to the San Diego's Public Art Fund). Where I come from, that's a lot of money--much of which will likely eventually come out of consumers' pockets. And if the public art it produces is like most of the public art I have seen, it will be money down a rat hole. I for one would rather see the money spent on landscaping (or as Joyce Kilmer might have put it, "I think that I shall never see a legally-mandated public sculpture as lovely as a tree"). And I'm not usually regarded as a complete philistine in these matters.

Not surprisingly, those testifying in favor of the law tended to be artists themselves, who stood to benefit financially from its passage. I'm curious. When Congress conducts hearings on whether to purchase a new weapons system for the military, do members seek out the opinions of military contractors who stand to gain financially if the project is approved? If they ever do, I hope the media takes them to the woodshed for it. But when potential beneficiaries for San Diego's art tax testified in its favor, as far as I can tell, no one in the local media peeped. Maybe it's considered impolite to accuse artists of behaving like pigs at a pig trough. They're so cool. And they provide us with immeasurable benefits. Yeah, yeah.

August 13, 2004
Julia Child is Dead at 91
By Gail Heriot

I will miss Julia Child, who died just a little shy of her 92nd birthday. It's not because I aspire to be a great cook (I am an excellent eater, but a laughable cook). But there was something deeply lovable about this woman. And the fact she was 50 years old when she started her career as America's greatest authority on cooking makes her especially endearing. The whole world loves a late bloomer; they show us that there's still time.

What you may not know about Julia Child is that she was a American agent with the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner to the CIA) during World War II. Sort of anyway. The New York Times seems to pooh-pooh this phase of her life by writing that she had "fantasies of becoming a spy," but was actually simply a "file clerk in Ceylon." But if you were an American spy, wouldn't you tell the New York Times that you were just a file clerk? And at 6' 2", she must have been some file clerk ....

August 10, 2004
By Tom Smith

So he throws like a girl. So what? All these personal attacks on Kerry are just wrong.

A strange land
By Tom Smith

So if this is correct, and fashionable Brits refer to the people who live in Israel as "the Jews," shouldn't they also refer to Israel differently, just to be consistent? They could call it "Jewland" or perhaps "Jewlandia."

I wouldn't get invited to many dinner parties. I think the best thing we can do is win the war on terror, and then the fashionable Brits and the rest of them will go the way of the pre WWII British brownshirts, and cease ever to have existed. Indeed, they will take credit for having advocated a tough line on terrorism all along, isn't that right, darling? Making America fashionable again isn't the most pressing reason to defeat terrorism, but it is one of the collateral benefits. That is the logic of false friendship at the heart of the fashionable world.

August 08, 2004
Michigan Decision Puts Public Use Requirement Back into Eminent Domain Law
By Gail Heriot

George Mason University's Ilya Somin writes for Sunday's Detroit News:

"The Michigan Supreme Court has overruled one of the worst judicial decisions of modern times. In County of Wayne v. Hathcock, the court reversed the infamous 1981 Poletown decision that allowed Detroit to use the power of eminent domain to take and bulldoze an entire neighborhood so General Motors could build a new factory. As a result of Poletown, more than 4,200 people lost their homes, 600 businesses and 16 churches were destroyed, and a historic community — known as Poletown after its large Polish-American population — was wiped out...."

Interesting reading.

Update: Michael DeBow pointed out to me that Thomas Bray also has a great column on the decision and that the Detroit Free Press wrote a favorable editorial.

August 07, 2004
Abortion debate in UK
By Tom Smith

Sometimes it must be nice not to have a written constitution. In the UK, Parliament is reconsidering Britain's permissive abortion regime, in light of public reaction to evidence about the survivability of unborn fetus non-person persons after only 6 months of gestation, plus new ultra-sound videos that show the critters looking and acting remarkably like babies. (But for the love of Values, don't let that fool you! They're sneaky little devils! And this is just the beginning of the manipulation. Once they get out and become provisional non-person persons, they do all kinds of things to ingratiate themselves, make cute noises, gaze at you, smell good (if clean), gurgle, wave arm-like appendages, coo, chuckle, suckle if you let them, and otherwise violate your privacy right and left. Take my word for it, they are not to be trusted!) (Click on "video" in upper right to see what the ultra-sounds look like.)

Normally, I would be in favor of considering facts, including those revealed by new technology, in a debate over policy, but this is an exception. Looking at facts in this case may threaten a woman's right to choose. By looking at facts, we would be taking a step onto a slippery slope which could lead to the restriction of this all important right. Sometimes facts have to be ignored in the interests of more important ends. And besides, what is a fact, anyway? Who knows? It's all relative, personal, patriarchal, and all that other stuff you learned in college. Now shut up.

Swiftboat vet ads
By Tom Smith

Here's a link to the Swiftboat vet ad against Kerry.

I met a guy who spent a long time on one of those swiftboats in Vietnam. He was a security guard at this hospital I worked at as a groundskeeper. I must have picked up 100,000 cigarette butts over the course of two summers, which believe me, would be very good training for public office, as it consists largely in cleaning up messes made by Congress. In any event, the Navy vet said he spent a year getting shot at, being scared out of his mind, and smoking a lot of pot to adjust to the life of having hot lead streaming at him from the jungle day after day. He said he had joined the Navy to avoid getting drafted into the Army, where he was afraid he would get shot at. Perhaps he moved to Idaho because it was a long way from water.

Stop this now
Tom Smith

I thought we had settled that lying by a presidential candidate was a personal matter. Can we please just move on? What could be more personal than how one chooses to spend Christmas day? Especially if it involves shooting civilians in Vietnam, or doesn't. I can't keep straight was is supposed to have happened, what everyone knows he made up, and what informed people realized actually did happen. Did he go to Cambodia, did he earn his Silver Star? Let's just all agree that this is nobody's business. It's also nobody's business if the media makes things up. What one chooses to put in a newspaper is one's own business. Personal. Is that clear enough for you? All of us tell lies. I even had a colleague here at the law school who, in defending Clinton, said he told lies and had had affairs, and that he thought his wife had too. Well, if a law professor can do it, who is anyone to question that behavior? Whether he was telling the truth about lying and having affairs, I don't know. He might have been lying about lying and exagerating his virility. In any event, it's extremely personal. Like whether Kerry had an affair with that staffer who ran off to Africa. Personal. Whether his wife is a Rolls Royce engine powered harpie. Personal. Now will everyone shut up and stop criticizing Kerry? You are violating his sacred right to privacy.

August 06, 2004
Guy Lit Update
By Tom Smith

Many thanks to those who have sent in suggestions for the Guy Lit list. The movement is growing! I think I will ultimately convert the list into a mondo list at Amazon, in my attempt to educate the world as we know it.

So far suggestions have been strong on war and crime, but some categories probably need more representation. For example, what about sports? Are there sports books, memoirs, histories, fiction or whatever, that rise to the level of literature or get pretty close? Or which are just damn good, whatever anybody says?

Another area is the American West. There must be lots of good books in that area. Lonesome Dove is a superb novel, for example, loaded with guy stuff. Any others?

Finally, are there any books about men and women that qualify as guy books? Of the cuff, I can't think of any, but that doesn't mean there aren't any.

Not much yet on the literature of the sea, except of course Patrick O'Brian who will definitely be on the list. The Bounty books are also on. Kon-Tiki should be there. Others? People eating people on islands and rafts are always good.

Keep up the good work! Also, be encouraged to send links to any other blogs that might be interested. The more the merrier on this one.

August 05, 2004
More proof that property is the inevitable consequence of human nature
By Tom Smith

Check out this excellent post by law professor and surfer Tom Bell on the norms that create property rights in surfable waves. Further research is clearly required.

Some things never change
By Tom Smith

It's nice to know that in this wired-up, post-modern, interconnected, hip, cyber-cool world of ours, some things stay the same. To wit, if it is big, they will want to regulate it. Or, perhaps more accurately, simply, they will want to regulate it. The latest thing in need of regulation, or probably transformative post-regulatory readjustment, or something, is the copyright law that allows NBC to tell a film maker, no, he can't use an unflattering interview with Bush on an NBC program in his film. Oh my God, it's media concentration getting in the way of speaking truth to power, and it's Professor Lessig to the rescue, sort of. In this month's Wired magazine, the professor opines that even though the film maker can and apparently is going to use the NBC footage in his film, without permission, this isn't good enough, because sometimes people who claim fair use get sued, and these suits discourage fair use. So, and I gather this is a big theme of Lessig's writing, we need to weaken copyright laws so people can more freely use other people's stuff, especially if they're criticizing Republican presidents, or maybe that's just a happy consequence in this case.

I'll just skip over the gaggingly PC aspects of the piece. OK, I won't. Lessig opines that no self-respecting President would speak to an all-male private club (this is the starting point of an argument). Well, excuse me, but like hell he wouldn't. He spoke to the Pope. No girl Popes. Yet the Prez confabs. Why? Because he's politically important. Similarly, Bush has spoken big time to the Knights of Columbus in Ohio, and a very important group they are to him, too. It's an all male, private organization. And they're really, really against abortion and have been known to hoist a few while watching the game. So not only do they exist, but they are very un-PC at the same time. Troubling, I know, but there you have it. The Lessigian insight is that just as you wouldn't exclude women from your audience (false, but OK), you shouldn't use copyright to exclude people from your audience. Boy, that's a dazzler. Perhaps the way this argument is supposed to work is that when Lessig links copyright to sex discrimination, we go into brainlock, being so busy with running around in circles, screeching and waving our hands in the air. Oh my GOD, it's exclusion on the basis of gender! While we are about to faint from the sheer horror of it, Lessig attempts to slip past a patently dumb non-sequiter. I suppose we should be relieved that the argument is obviously false from the get go (uh, yes, Bush does commonly speak to exclusive groups), so as to relieve us of the toil of eliminating those obnoxious arguments, so commonly produced by professors, which are perniciously, but not obviously, false.

The real puzzler here is how anyone could think Lessig's argument here is smart, which he presumably does, having attached his name to it (so don't you try an' steal it, now!).

Allow me to clear some things up. We have informational property. Why? So people can make money producing it. NBC has shareholders. They like property. NBC says, let's not enforce our copyrights! NBC shareholders say boo hoo. In fact, because making informational property is profitable, there's more of it! Not just NBC, but lots of places. Bush talks to NBC, the Knights of Columbus, and lots of other groups that are mere subsets of the the entire universe, because they're big, even if they are not as big as everybody. NBC is big because they make money. They make money because they have property. How big? Just guessing, but probably more people will watch a single Sienfeld rerun on a Wednesday night than will ever see the provocative, thoughtful, courageous, usual lefty cant art house flick that should be the occassion of throwing NBC's property out the window, in Lessig's distinguished view. (And might I just add, the notion that the info-sphere would be any poorer for one less left celluo-screed on the evilness of Bush and the Iraq war is risible. Maybe there should be an exception to the fair use doctrine called the stupid, unoriginal use doctrine, under which you can't use it for that even if it would be fair) In any event, that's why Bush talks to NBC, and why Bush would and should talk to a club that admited only white, male dwarves, if it had enough members.

Oh, but I forgot. It's so big, NBC. Or was that Amalgamated Rope or one of the other thousands of other firms or industries or activities that have to be de-propertied or else something or other will suffer? It's railroads and law professors all over again. It's 1912 in cyberspace.

August 04, 2004
I hope Dr. Atkins is writhing in Hell
By Tom Smith

I'm on the Atkins diet again and I thought everyone would be fascinated to know how lousy I feel. It's only my third day, and it's nice how it all comes back how nasty the process is. It is consistent with the conservation of suffering law, which states that the amount of suffering in life is constant, and can only be transformed from one sort into another.

My theory of how Atkins works is that over the first couple of days, you attempt to assuage your natural desire to eat something besides meat by eating so much meat that you become sick. Then the idea of eating anything is revolting, and before you know it, you've lost weight.

Patrick has toasted some bread and the odor molecules are worming their deep into my brain. There are neurons in there begging pathetically for a slice of bread, some milk, a banana, an apple for God's sake! But no, I am determined.

Yesterday, I had a 4 egg omelet and coffee for breakfast. At 10.30 I was hungry again, so I ate a one pound rib eye steak. Mysteriously, I did not feel like lunch. By 3.30 I was hungry again and had a largish tuna salad. For dinner I had another rib eye steak. I woke up at 6 am as hungry as I have felt in years. I am beginning to see why grains are the basis of civilization. Before, eating carbs, I felt like reading a book and even like writing one. Now, eating mainly meat, I feel like killing something.

I have cheated by eating a couple of handfuls of blueberries, but I figure they are low glycemic carbs and cavemen ate them.

Whether low carb diets are consistent with athletic performance is controversial. Athletes on low carb diets work out more to fight the depression of having only eggs and Vienna sausages to look forward to. This increases their performance. Their tendency to throw themselves over cliffs while cycling, or drop stacks of weights on the their heads if powerlifting, reduces their performance results, however.

It's probably idiopathic, but I have this strange feeling like a little man is inflating my eyeballs while simultaneously cramping the muscles in the back of my neck, at the same time as he churns my stomach with some sort of propeller, and this is combined with weakness in my extremities. Interesting, but unpleasant. Scotch is allowed on the Atkin's diet. A trip to the market is in order.

First things first
By Tom Smith

I'm thoroughly enjoying my new subscription to First Things. It's one of those rare magazines worth getting in hard copy. Several notable items in this month's issue.

First, a pretty devastating review of Richard Dawkin's latest screed by a particle physicist. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and science populizer most famous for his book The Selfish Gene. In his review, Barr makes the point that Dawkins is extremely careless with his scientific facts, consumed by his hatred of religion, and seems not to have been genetically programmed to do philosophy. I think the "selfish gene" is one of those memes that is now doing more harm than good, rather like Dawkins says of religion. Genes aren't little guys; they don't have intentions. They aren't really selfish. The fact that genes are replicators and natural selection works the way it does, doesn't raise any special moral questions beyond those already on the plate thanks to questions of materialism and free will. If we were silicon based robot fellows, who never replicated at all, but were completely determined by our hardware and software, we would face exactly the same issues of the status of morality, the meaning of life, and so forth, as we do with biological equipment. It follows that Dawkins has no special qualifications for speaking about these moral issues, a fact he has amply demonstrated. He should stick to explicating biology. Are we free, moral beings? Good question. Let's move on.

Bob Bork has a typically hard hitting essay in this issue about anti-gay marriage amendment to the Constitution. He says that the Court is going to impose gay marriage on the country, and the only way to stop them is with a constitutional amendment. If the former is true, I agree with the latter. The Court should not be allowed to legislate a national gay marriage regime just because their clerks can come up with some risible rationale that a right to gay marriage flows from a Civil War amendment. What I'm not sure I believe is that the Court would really be that stupid. Famous last words, I know. It would be a lot more divisive than abortion, and would undermine the legitimacy of the Court with a solid third or more of the population. There is something very wrong with a procedure that would let Kennedy and O'Connor wreak extreme and novel social policy from on high. I don't want national debates preempted by fond memories of how Auntie Em and Delilah lived in that old shack up in Rattlesnake Gulch, and by gum, everyone knew they was married, that's the only word fer it, by cracky, done married! But if Bork is right, and the Court is determined to nationalize gay marriage, then they should be stopped, if possible, which it may not be. The sensible way out, which no doubt wise heads have noticed, is not to force Texas to recognize Massachusetts gay marriages under full faith and credit.

August 03, 2004
Oh, that's just great
By Tom Smith

Several weeks ago, an article by Annie Jacobsen of Women’s Wall Street received a good deal of attention. The article chronicled a frightening experience she had on Northwest Airlines flight 327 from Detroit to LAX on June 29. In the article, she described the unusual behavior of a group of middle eastern men on the flight, including actions that caused some on the plane to fear that a terror attack was in progress.
Ms. Jacobsen was told by authorities that the men were verified to be members of a band en route to play a gig at a Southern California casino. Clinton Taylor checked with the Sycuan Resorts and Casino in Al Cajon, CA, near San Diego. The Casino verified that the artist Nour Mehanna and his backup band in fact performed at the casino on July 1. (

From here, a probably off the wall paranoid homeland security site. The point is, that casino is quite near where I live. I look down on it when I climb the "mountain" behind my house. I also drive by the gas station one of the 9/11 highjackers worked at while living in San Diego. It makes sense the musicians would come here as a lot of Iraqis and other Middle Easterners live in this general area. The Starbuck's I go to frequently is one of their hangouts. Let me tell you, it was no laugh riot there on 9/12, but that's true of a lot of places. My kids go to school with a lot of Iraqi-American Catholics, aka Chaldeans. They stick to themselves mostly, but there is a lot of good Iraqi food. Oh, and it's El Cajon, not Al Cajon . . . revealing slip. El Cajon is Spanish for the box, with a pejorative connotation, the nasty box. It has never been considered a particularly desirable place to live, and still isn't. Not to be confused with lovely rural Jamul, where I live, the word said to be Indian for "slimy water."

Guy Lit
By Tom Smith

I'm thinking of doing a post on "guy lit." My premise is that English departments, bookstores, the whole cultural infrastructure has marginalized the sort of great or near great books that many guys would enjoy. Instead, there are an infinite number of novels about the family lives of minority persons struggling with their new lives in NYC/London/ whereever. The Joy Luck Club, etc. etc.

So send me your suggestions about books that arguably qualify as literature on masculine themes. So for example, war, big game hunting, crushing hard labor, survival, racing cars, climbing, dogs and fighting Communism, come to mind. Credit will be withheld, upon request.

Lots of questions arise. Hemingway, of course, but which books? Some of them suck. Anything by Mailer besides The Naked and the Dead? What are the best gut wrenching memoirs to come out of WWII? Speak, Darkness? With the Old Breed? Anything else? There must be tons of books out there for men and boys that just don't get mentioned much anymore because they're just irretreivably un-PC. I remember some series of WWII books I read in junior high about war in the Philippines that left my mouth hanging open for days; probably not on the shelves anymore.

But not just war. However, I do think guy books tend to be about stuff. My lovely wife Jeanne reads novels that always seem to be about the relationships among people all of whose lives suck. That is not a guy book.

So, suggestions welcome. Maybe a truly shattering post-meme will arise out of it.

Get your SUV and feel fine
By Tom Smith

I still want my SUV:

In the new Atlantic Monthly, Eric Alterman notes that Laurie David, wife of Larry David--among Hollywood's wealth elite owing to "Seinfeld" royalties--has become an influential environmental crusader, but herself travels in chartered Gulfstream jets. Laurie David has organized numerous celebrity save-the-environment events and "reviles the owners of SUVs as terrorist enablers, yet gives herself a pass when it comes to chartering one of the most wasteful uses of fossil-based fuels imaginable," a private jet, Alterman writes. I did a few quick calculations. The mid-sized Gulfstream G200 model can carry about 2,100 gallons of jet fuel, which is made from petroleum, and would burn around 1,200 to 1,500 gallons flying from New York to Los Angeles, depending on wind speed and how many passengers were aboard. A Hummer driven 15,000 miles, the average put on a car per year, would burn around 1,250 gallons of gasoline. So for Laurie David to take one cross-country flight in a Gulfstream is the same, in terms of Persian-Gulf dependence and greenhouse-gas emissions, as if she drove a Hummer for an entire year. But then, conservation is what other people should do.

Politicians and celebrities use private jets a lot. And not just left wing hypocrites either. Scalia and Cheney flew down to kill geese or whatever bird it was in the swamplands in Air Force 2. It's mainly ego, and it's expensive. Also steward persons would treat us better if they couldn't be sure anybody who was anybody would be on private wings. (via instapundit.)

Update: Interesting response from a reader:

I do not think I will win any friends, but I grew up with private air
travel. My father ran a large private company with several planes,
including a small jet. I have to tell you that it is not just mainly ego
that drives people to have private planes, but I do agree that it is
incredibly expensive.
As for the first point, if you have never travelled privately, you do not
know what you are missing. No lines, no inane questions, the plane always
has what you want to eat or drink because you made sure it was stocked
before you left. You leave when you want and the departure is when you need
it to be. If there is a delay (mechanical/weather), you just go to a
restaurant or somewhere else and they call you when they can leave, then it
is up to you when you actually leave. That is not ego, it is convenience.
If you travel quite a bit on business (I am a lawyer and not I don't get to
travel privately anymore) then the description I posted above sounds like
heaven. Air travel, even before Sept. 11, was worse than being on a
cross-town bus, much worse. Even first class isn't really that much
different. For that reason alone, if you travel quite a bit, the
convenience factor becomes more and more important. So, while it may seem
like an ego thing it really isn't. To paraphrase, people who get an ego
trip out of flying in a private jet don't travel in circles where it is
common (i.e., their friends won't look up to them because they have access
to a jet). Everyone I know who has access to a jet (friends of my parents)
certainly don't think about private air travel as something that makes them
better than everybody else (I know I never thought about it that way growing
up). Private air travel just meant that you were lucky enough to go where
you needed to go while avoiding a whole lot of misery. I know I don't speak
for everybody, but the whole ego thing I think is a bit of transference on
the part of the author of the original article.
The second point is more important. Executives have many, many time
constraints. No matter what they do, there is still only so much time that
they have. Many executives have to be in several places in a single day.
If so, commercial air travel is out of the question. The delays, lack of
privacy on the flight (for work, conferences, etc.), and the ability to
delay departures, etc. just make it impossible to travel by regular
airlines. Also, if a company values an executive's time (every hour he
works is worth on average $X for the company), then, even if it costs
thousands of dollars extra to fly, it can still be cheaper if it allows the
executive to put in more actual work time as opposed to getting to the
airport, waiting in lines, check-in, boarding, delays, etc. I am an
American lawyer based in London, at today's exchange rate my hourly rate is
around $900 an hour. If you start counting my travel time to the airport,
waiting in line, checking baggage, departure delays, etc., it can quickly
add up. I usually travel business class to the continent if I am staying
overnight even if a client frowns on it because the difference in check-in
and the ability to carry everything with me and not have to wait on baggage
actually makes it cheaper for the client if I fly business class.
The third point is security. I am actually pretty happy that the
Vice-President of the United States doesn't fly commercial. Think of all of
the security risks for him and for the other passengers. Maybe celebrities
have some of the same problems, but just with people bugging them while they
can't go anywhere on the plane. For the average wealthy person or
executive, that isn't a concern, but definitely for high value targets such
as the Vice-President, I think it would be stupid for them to put
themselves, and others, at risk so that some people can feel happy that
everyone has to endure the same misery. On the other hand, I am highly in
favour of Norm Mineta and others (especially Congress) flying commercial
because I want them to go through the same problems we do when we fly.
Unfortunately, they get around most of the hassle factor. I want that to
end so that they have to endure what we endure. I also want Norm Mineta to
have to fly the riskiest flights as much as possible because I want him to
think long and hard about his profiling rules, etc. and how that stupidity
endangers people.
Finally, after September 11, if you were flying with your family wouldn't
you want to be on a flight where you know for certain that no jihadi will be
trying to kill you? If I had access to a private jet now I would never let
my family fly commercial. I don't want to be like Ted Olsen and receive a
phone call from my wife minutes before the plane crashes into the pentagon.
I do agree that it is good to point out the hypocrisy of the anti-SUV
celebrity crowd. However, other than that, the arguments are just classist
silliness. Just because everybody can't afford the benefits of private air
travel doesn't mean it should be demonised as an expensive ego trip.

August 02, 2004
Kerry's Secret Plan
By Gail Heriot

OK, John Kerry’s secret plan to bring home the troops did indeed make me laugh a bit. Yesterday on ABC’s This Week, Kerry told George Stephanopoulos that he would bring home a “significant” number of our troops from Iraq during his first term. He will accomplish this feat, not by cutting and running, but by convincing our thus-far reluctant allies to shoulder more of the burden. Evidently, our problem is that up to now France and Germany haven’t been asked to help in quite the right way. When asked to elaborate on his plan, he responded in Nixonian language, “I am not going to lay out my whole plan here. I need to be able to negotiate as a president.” He later added, “As president, I have enormous leverage and tools available to me this president has never used properly.”

Well ... let me just say that I am skeptical. But let me add one more thing. In general, we should be happy that we live in a world in which diplomatic machinations will only get you so far. Sure, talented diplomats can make a difference on some of the issues of the day. And their actions quite frequently affect the course of events substantially (though all-too-often in ways they did not anticipate and cannot control). But there’s only so much that a diplomat can do to persuade a nation to go to war or even support a war conducted by some other country. Iraq is not exactly an obscure issue in Europe. The average voter has a strong view on it; most are strongly against. The views of the great army of French and German voters are likely to trump those of Mr. Kerry’s army of special envoys. That’s democracy.

If Kerry wants to convince the governments of France and Germany to help, he will need to convince these voters of the rightness of cause, not negotiate with their leaders. Persuading that many people is a tough job. I’m not sure it’s worth anyone’s time at this point. But Kerry is hardly an obvious choice for such a task, since it’s not clear that he is convinced himself.

nice blog
By Tom Smith

Check it out. From LA. Hip and right.

Markets more accurate than polls
By Tom Smith

Some research on betting markets on election results. Via instapundit.

August 01, 2004
Social democracy ills
By Tom Smith

Leisure economies don't work.

Great un-PC fiction
By Tom Smith

I read a fair amount of popular fiction, but it's hard not to notice that a great deal of it is crap. Rarely do you need to read a sentence twice in order to squeeze all the meaning out of it. Furthermore, a lot of the most accomplished fiction in terms of prose writing talent is just morally degenerate, not to put too fine a point on it. My very favorite morally degenerate writer is probably Thomas Pynchon, who, for sheer writing virtuosity, subtlty of effect, range of skill, is hard to beat. But to the extent you can figure out what he is trying to say, it's just more of the same that you got plenty of in college. It's "subversive," as if that's something to be proud of. You can read the Crying of Lot 49 first, then if you like it, try Gravity's Rainbow, a strange, rambling, but involving novel set at the end of WWII. For boomers who grew up immersed in the tropes of WWII, it has everything. I liked Cryptonomicon, of course, but Gravity's Rainbow ranks far above it in terms of literary merit, and is more profound in terms of its applications of probability theory, digitized reality, and for want of a less pompous phrase, its "critique of modernity." But don't expect the satisfactions of a linear plot.

But sometimes you want to read great modern literature by someone who is not a leftist, and that is harder to find. But two truly great writers I can recommend, who are both deeply not PC, are Joseph Conrad and Ford Maddox Ford. What makes them un-PC is hard to articulate in a way that does the writers justice, but you can at least say that both are deeply moral, which it's hard to be if you're a relativist or a nihilist. Conrad writes from a masculine code that judges men (his characters are mostly men) constantly in moral terms, in anything but simple minded ways -- but he does judge them.

Ford I always avoided until a few years ago. I avoided him because the wrong people liked him when I was in college. Pretty stupid reason. I've never read the Good Soldier, the novel that was always assigned in English classes at Cornell. The book I would recommend is Parade's End, which is sort of like a rewrite of Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy done by somebody with greater writing skills and a more complex view of the world around him, and moved from WWII to WWI. Ford was some sortof Catholic, and personally, I find the Catholicism beneath the surface in Ford more moving and effective that the in-your-face Catholic convert/mythical Catholic aristocracy of Waugh. Though I really like Waugh as well, and reread Brideshead every few years. But there is something of the Catholic novel for boys about the Brideshead. For my money, Ford just does a better job capturing the interior lives of people in awful conflicts, and the difficulties of living up to old-fashioned standards in impossible settings -- like war and love. Another thing is that I think Ford has a deeper understanding of evil than does Waugh, who certainly understood social cruelty and folly. But Ford goes beyond that.

DNC bounce
By Tom Smith

Looks like the post convention bounce has arrived. How significant this is, I don't know. Iowa eletronic market seems to be discounting the bounce as transient.