Author Page for Paul Campos
It’s been a bad year for World War I veterans. A few months ago I stumbled across one of those articles that make Wikipedia such an amazing resource, listing the survivors of the Great War. There were seven at the time, but with the death of Harry Patch, the last surviving British soldier, that number is down to three.
This is an ignorant question, but at the time of the war were Canadians British subjects? I’m wondering if Jack Babcock is still in the running for a Westminster Abbey funeral.
THE OLD MEN ADMIRING THEMSELVES IN THE WATER
I HEARD the old, old men say,
And one by one we drop away.’
They had hands like claws, and their knees
Were twisted like the old thorn-trees
By the waters.
‘All that’s beautiful drifts away
Like the waters.’
For egregious data dredging in the service of intellectual dishonesty it would be hard to top this: : “If you’re 29, there has been no global warming for your entire adult life. If you’re graduating high school, there has been no global warming since you entered first grade.”
Thus does George Will quote noted climate scientist Mark Steyn in the pages of the increasingly discreditable Washington Post.
The idea, if you want to call it that, is because 1998 was the single hottest year on record there hasn’t been any global warming since then, even though this decade has on average been hotter than the 1990s, which in turn was hotter than any previous decade. (The ten hottest years on record include 1997, 1998, and every year since 2000).
Hey, all he wants are some answers.
This is essentially the same thing as if in 2002 a top CNN anchor had demanded that the Bush administration prove it didn’t demolish the WTC.
I don’t think that guy would have kept his job though.
Also, I was glancing yesterday at a couple of websites dedicated to proving that the moon landings were faked, and was struck by how the (il)logical structure and rhetoric of these types of sites are always the same, whether they involve moon landings or birth certificates or controlled demolitions or the Illuminati.
On the general topic, Hofstadter’s essay remains required reading.
Update: In the comments Warren Terra brings up something I’ve been wondering about as well:
“The Birfer theory really boggles me: I can’t even understand the thought process involved. Obama’s been a (very minor, initially) public figure since at least his time as editor of the Harvard Law Review, and at the very least since then there’s never been any change in his biography, in which he was born to Stanley Ann Dunham in the state of Hawai’i, a birth that was announced in the local paper. What exactly do these nutcases surmise – that he wasn’t born to Dunham, but instead was born to some other woman overseas and smuggled as a newborn to Dunham’s hospital? What possible reason could a newlywed college student have for doing such a thing? How would it make any sense? Even in their most unhinged fantasies, why would Obama’s family have plotted from his infancy to fake the location of his birth and the identity of his mother? After all, anyone born to Dunham or anyone born in Hawai’i would be a natural-born US citizen even if they’d been the hideously malformed extraterrestrial lovechild of Ming The Merciless and Josef Stalin.
I mean, with the Moon Landing, JFK, 9/11 Truther, Illuminati, etcetera conspiracy theories the facts don’t fit and the evidence isn’t there but at least there are plausible motivations being alleged. Even the various UFO theories involve human (or alien!) actors doing things secretly for erasons I can understand, such that a rational person in similar circumstances might well perpetrate such a conspiracy for personal gain or for their version of the greater good. But I just can’t comprehend what the Birfers think the Dunhams could posibly have in mind. Maybe it’s because they really think he’s the Antichrist, so no logical thought process need be involved.”
Has anybody looked at their various arguments closely enough to answer this?
One of my sisters in law has spent her whole career as a scientist working with NASA/JPL types, so I’m acutely aware of the barriers women face in those sorts of fields, and of how much worse they used to be. And I can appreciate that dealing with those sorts of barriers wears on people.
That said, I was rather taken aback by the vehemence of some of the responses to my earlier post, which generated all sorts of bizarre assumptions, i.e., that I think women aren’t interested in science and technology, and that I like sexism and phallocentric patriarchy and Hitler and the Yankees and that’s why I believe things like the Apollo project were so male-dominated.
Anyway, here’s a poem that I read in college and had forgotten about, but that was probably bouncing around somewhere in my mind when I wrote the stuff about a project dominated by men as boys.
By WH Auden
It’s natural the Boys should whoop it up for
so huge a phallic triumph, an adventure
it would not have occurred to women
to think worth while, made possible only
because we like huddling in gangs and knowing
the exact time: yes, our sex may in fairness
hurrah the deed, although the motives
that primed it were somewhat less than menschlich.
A grand gesture. But what does it period?
What does it osse? We were always adroiter
with objects than lives, and more facile
at courage than kindness: from the moment
the first flint was flaked this landing was merely
a matter of time. But our selves, like Adam’s,
still don’t fit us exactly, modern
only in this—our lack of decorum.
Homer’s heroes were certainly no braver
than our Trio, but more fortunate: Hector
was excused the insult of having
his valour covered by television.
Worth going to see? I can well believe it.
Worth seeing? Mneh! I once rode through a desert
and was not charmed: give me a watered
lively garden, remote from blatherers
about the New, the von Brauns and their ilk, where
on August mornings I can count the morning
glories where to die has a meaning,
and no engine can shift my perspective.
Unsmudged, thank God, my Moon still queens the Heavens
as She ebbs and fulls, a Presence to glop at,
Her Old Man, made of grit not protein,
still visits my Austrian several
with His old detachment, and the old warnings
still have power to scare me: Hybris comes to
an ugly finish, Irreverence
is a greater oaf than Superstition.
Our apparatniks will continue making
the usual squalid mess called History:
all we can pray for is that artists,
chefs and saints may still appear to blithe it.
I’m just old enough to remember the original moon landing. I watched it with my grandmother, who reminded me, as Neil Armstrong emerged from the lunar module, that she was born the same year as the Wright brothers’ first flight. A few thoughts:
(1) I recall a lot of talk during the broadcast about the historical significance of the event. I seem to remember Werner Von Braun or someone like that claiming it was the most important event in human history. And Armstrong’s first words about a giant leap for mankind signaled in that direction.
In retrospect, the whole thing — meaning the reach for the stars, the final frontier, etc.,– appears to have fallen a bit flat. Of course in large part the Apollo program was a creature of cold war politics, rather than any nobler scientific or exploratory motivation, but even so, at a remove of 40 years, it’s startling the extent to which humanity reaching the moon now seems more like a curious footnote of the era rather than a giant leap for the species.
(2) Considered as an incredibly expensive and complex exercise in practical engineering, the Apollo program was indeed a stunning achievement. In many ways it was a paradigmatically American achievement, and specifically of American men, or rather boys as men (think of the most impressive neighborhood treehouse, times ten million). Aside from putting the Russians in their place, the most important motivation was probably the sheer desire to figure out how to actually make the thing work. And it was an intensely and peculiarly male project: I don’t recall ever seeing a single woman in that huge Houston control center, where hundreds of guys in short-sleeved white shirts and crewcuts ran the show.
One measure of how much has changed in the last 40 years is that the very idea of a woman astronaut in the 1960s would have seemed outlandish to most Americans (that the Russians had a female cosmonaut was widely interpreted as a preposterous publicity stunt).
(3) The members of the Apollo 11 crew are typical of the astronauts from the heroic age of space exploration in that all of them have shunned the spotlight. It’s hard to remember now how celebrated these guys were in their day, and it’s surprising in a way that John Glenn was very much the exception in choosing to exploit that fame for broader political or other purposes. Thus it’s particularly noteworthy that Buzz Aldrin used a reunion of the crew this weekend to call for a mission to Mars. I have mixed feelings about such a thing — on the one hand sending humans into space is fantastically expensive and in an age of robotics produces almost no added scientific benefit. On the other . . .
Update: In response to a couple of comments, I would have thought it obvious from my remarks about how much has changed in regard to things like gender roles and being an astronaut that I wasn’t ascribing the intensely male atmosphere of the Apollo project to biology, as opposed to say sexist assumptions about men’s and women’s work.
This story summarizes an investigation into why 14 soldiers from one army base in Colorado have been convicted of or charged with 11 murders and two attempted murders over a three-year period. Almost all were Iraq veterans, and several claim to have witnessed war crimes. A number had pre-existing psychological problems that normally would have kept them out of the service.
This kind of thing is in all likelihood the tip of the iceberg. It’s hard to ignore dead bodies, at least if they’re those of American civilians, but one can well imagine the amount of domestic abuse, reported and especially unreported, that represents just some of the collateral damage of war.
Con law professor Louis Seidman:
Speaking only for myself (I guess that’s obvious), I was completely disgusted by Judge Sotomayor’s testimony today. If she was not perjuring herself, she is intellectually unqualified to be on the Supreme Court. If she was perjuring herself, she is morally unqualified. How could someone who has been on the bench for seventeen years possibly believe that judging in hard cases involves no more than applying the law to the facts? First year law students understand within a month that many areas of the law are open textured and indeterminate—that the legal material frequently (actually, I would say always) must be supplemented by contestable presuppositions, empirical assumptions, and moral judgments. To claim otherwise—to claim that fidelity to uncontested legal principles dictates results—is to claim that whenever Justices disagree among themselves, someone is either a fool or acting in bad faith. What does it say about our legal system that in order to get confirmed Judge Sotomayor must tell the lies that she told today? That judges and justices must live these lies throughout their professional carers?
Perhaps Justice Sotomayor should be excused because our official ideology about judging is so degraded that she would sacrifice a position on the Supreme Court if she told the truth. Legal academics who defend what she did today have no such excuse. They should be ashamed of themselves.
(This is from live blogging of the Sotomayor testimony. I don’t know how to link to the quote itself).
Seidman is a standard issue liberal con law professor btw, so I’m sure he was just as appalled by John Roberts’ ridiculous claims that judging is like calling balls and strikes etc., i.e., this isn’t just some disingenuous right-wing diatribe.
Anyway, a couple of reactions:
(1) I’m not as confident as Prof. Seidman that Sotomayor and Roberts and the rest of them are lying when they describe adjudication as much more strongly constrained by formal rules than he believes it to be. I agree with Seidman that such descriptions are deeply unrealistic, but on the other hand, to paraphrase Upton Sinclair, it’s remarkably difficult to get people to understand things when their professional identities depend on them not understanding them. You can call that “living a lie,” or “getting over” or whatever, but I believe the traditional description is “thinking like a lawyer.”
(2) To say that judging is inherently ideological can mean various things. I think it’s useful to distinguish between legal ideology and political ideology (of course there’s a lot of inevitable overlap between such categories). To simplify, political ideology is reflected in beliefs such as “affirmative action is bad,” or “abortion should be legal,” while legal ideology is reflected in beliefs such as “courts should generally defer to majoritarian politics,” or “the plain meaning of a statute should be preferred to legislative intentions regarding its meaning.” In my view adjudication in our system has to be ideological in the latter sense, because there’s no consensus within the system about all sorts of questions of legal ideology.
The most cynical view of judging is that judges consciously manipulate the indeterminacy generated by the lack of consensus on questions of legal ideology in order to enforce their preferences as a matter of political ideology. For what it’s worth, I believe that very few if any judges do this consciously, although plenty of them do it unconsciously.
Basically, being a federal judge, and especially being a member of the SCOTUS, probably requires that one not admit to oneself a whole lot of things about the actual nature of the enterprise. In that sense it’s like any number of other social roles.
Update: Daily Beast article on this (I didn’t choose the title).
While trying to think of something interesting to say about the Sotomayor hearings for the purposes of paid journalism (no luck so far), I found my mind wandering back toward Pete Rose. Here’s a question: Has the increased sophistication in the analysis of baseball stats over the past 25 years had an appreciable effect on the probability of things like Pete Rose’s 1983 season being allowed to happen?
That year, Rose played 151 games and had 555 plate appearances. He hit .245 and didn’t hit a homer, while racking up a total of 20 extra bases on hits for a nifty .286 slugging percentage. He stole seven bases in 14 attempts, and had an OPS of 69.
Given that he was a lead-footed 42-year-old first baseman with essentially no defensive value this represents, I submit, possibly the worst season ever by a regular on a pennant-winning team.
Now of course even at the time it was widely recognized that Rose’s stats were bad, but I think today it would be somewhat less likely that either the relevant decision makers or public opinion would tolerate all the nonsense about intangibles and grit and hustle and character that made it possible for a first baseman who was hitting like a backup catcher to hold a starting job on a good team for an entire season.
And WE LIKED IT THAT WAY.
One of the things I’ve dreaded about getting older is turning into one of those cranky middle-aged guys who is always going on about how much better sports were 35 years ago, when the players still cared and it wasn’t all about money.
You know what was great about the All-Star game 35 years ago? The players still cared and it wasn’t all about money.
The primary function of our political elites is to protect the financial interests of our economic elites. Of course that that has always been more or less the case, but the crucial modifier is “more or less.”
At a time when the supposedly progressive party controls all the political branches of the federal government, our economy is being run like a glorified banana republic.