Friday, May 30, 2014

This week's sign of the Apocalypse

It's true you can drown in 4 inches of water, which is why these guys SHOULD HAVE SCUBA GEAR. And WATER WINGS FOR THE DOG!

People if crap like this can happen, why do we even have testosterone at all?

Hat tip to MK

Thursday, May 29, 2014

This Is Bad

At first, I thought that this was pretty funny.  You would have to know Gary, to see why it is funny.  But he would absolutely not see why taking a grenade onto a plane would be a problem.

A political science professor at Stanford University who attempted to bring a World War II-era grenade Tuesday afternoon through security at Los Angeles International Airport — forcing police to evacuate a portion of the airport — was being questioned by police Tuesday evening, three law enforcement sources told the Los Angeles News Group. 

Gary Walter Cox, 58, told authorities the grenade had belonged to his father, who had recently died, the sources said. He thought it was inert but a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said police determined that it might actually have been live. 

The grenade was spotted by Transportation Security Administration workers during routine screening, a federal law enforcement official said. The Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad was called out to the airport, and Terminal 1 was evacuated at about 3:45 p.m. Police transported the item and later blew it up, the three sources said. The terminal was reopened about 4:20 p.m. 

The reasons it is not funny:

1.  He was returning from his dad's funeral.  Dad has been sick for a while, dad's an old military man.  You can see why Gary wasn't really thinking straight, even by Gary standards.

2.  More importantly, they are going to charge him with a felony.  And he had to stay in jail overnight.

So, in short, my tendency to see things as ironic and amusing is just wrong here.  This is terrible.  You'd have to know Gary to understand this, and the judge won't know that.  The facts are not good.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Symbolism, Posturing, and the Desire to Matter

In the 1980s, the "Divestment" movement was pretty strong.  I wrote this about one battle in that war, at Dartmouth.

Anyway, the logic is that activists can't do much about conditions in South Africa (or Israel, or wherever the Great Eye of Leftism is currently focused, from the Dark Tower of the Times editorial page, ready to call out the orcs from the MSNBC "news"room) directly.  But they can take decisive and effective action by [XXX].  And I have to admit, I pretty much never understand the connection between whatever their chosen XXX is and the actual thing they say they care about.

Of course, the answer is that it's the doing, because it shows the caring.  The connection, in terms of actual effect, is of secondary importance.  What they are going for is to show that they are non-conformists (by dressing in exactly identical ripped jeans and organic free range t-shirts, and being indignant in exactly the same way as everyone else) and that they are good people.  If you disagree with them, even by saying that you doubt their action has any consequence, then you are  bad people.   Facts don't matter at all, because it's the symbolism of the action that matters.  The supposed target is far away and not all that important.  What's important is the mutual congratulations of the activists themselves:  "You are so....ACTIVE!"  "No, YOU are more active.  Really.  I admire your activism!" and so on.

So, a piece, in the Tower of the Great Eye itself, on the utter pointlessness of divestment, at least in terms of effect. 

I don't think it will matter much, of course.  The point is not the effect of action, but the symbolic unity of calling people to action.  This is true for any religion, of course, but it's surprising that the Left does not recognize its religiosity.

In spring semester 1991 I was teaching at UNC, and there was an anti-war activist in my class.  He came up often after class to interrogate me about my views on the war.  I was  not terribly pro-war, but said that--given our energy policy, our commitments to Allies, and the fact that there was an actual UN Resolution (661) that gave at least face legitimacy to ending the occupation by force--I thought his protests were not very useful.

He was enraged by this, and came up with complex reasons why in fact the protests were the key to getting Iraq to leave Kuwait.  Force could never work, but protests by hairy smelly middle class Carrborovians...THAT would show Saddam a thing or two.

We had class on the morning of February 28.  This was the morning after the day when the Iraqis tried to leave, and got smashed like bugs on the "Highway of Death."

I was glad that (it appeared) the war was over.  But Mr. Active was ecstatic, and ready for me to eat crow.  "We did it!  We stopped the war!  Our protests made the difference!"  He was actually standing up in class, and did not let us start the lecture until he got to make his point.

As far as I could tell (he was pretty fired up) the logic was this:  A. There was a war. B. Beard-boy and several of his friends had protested the war.  Earnestly.  C. The war ended.  D. Beard-boy & Co. were heroes. 

Now, I'll admit that if B caused C then D is at least plausible.  So that is the heart of the question.  He did eventually calm down enough to admit that his PARTICULAR protest may not have ended the war, but the SYMBOL of his protest was important.  In fact, the causal relation between all the protests and the end of the war was symbolic.  The symbol of the near-total destruction of the capacity of the Iraqi Army, and the actual destruction of the Iraqi Air Force, were not part of his "end the war peacefully" narrative.  He had said the war should end, and the war had ended.  I assume he also believed in Santa Claus (it's a similar logic...)

That doesn't mean that all protests are pointless, of course.  The Civil Rights protests were important, if only because they were televised and revealed the savagery of the southern apartheid system.  Protests in the Phillipines, Central Europe, Egypt, etc. have caused change, though not always for the better.

The problem that I see is that "protest" in the U.S., especially by U.S. college students, has been relegated to a kind of extra-curricular activity.  It's fine that it's pointless, because it's like an internship.  The whole object of the exercise is the improvement of the protester, not the effectiveness of the protest.

Monday, May 26, 2014


The YYM graduated two weeks ago.

And now he has "moved home."  HE is actually not here, but his stuff is.  Nice.

Monday's Child

1.  Some utterly tone-deaf political ads

2. The difference between the Bolivarian Revolution, and a revolting Bolivian.  Evo decides he wants to be a Sport Boy.  And who are YOU to say no?

3.  Charlie Rangel gots GAME, bud.

4.  An experiment and some work I have had a TINY role in supporting (through a kind of crowdsourcing).  Very interesting:  fungus makes ants bit a twig and lock down.  They hang on until they die, and their entire insides are eaten by the fungus.  The interesting thing is the biting down:  it keeps the ant "safe" as a host for the fungus.  The ant doesn't want to bite down, and certainly doesn't want to lock down until it dies.  But the fungus takes over.

5.  Angus has been spending a lot of time in Santa Fe. And this happened in Santa Fe.  Coincidence?  I don't think so...


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Your Holiday Sign of the Apocalypse

What shall we call this? peek-a-boo bibs? bibless bibs? a Gotha tuxedo?

People, if crap like this can happen, why do we even have a government at all?

Hat tip to Mrs. Angus

Friday, May 23, 2014

"Check Your Privilege!" and "Micro-Aggression"

EDIT:  If you get angry and want to skip the post, make sure you watch the Eddie Murphy SNL bit at **.  It's worth more than the rest of the post put together, anyway.

A bit ago, I did a visit to an educational institution.  And found myself talking to some students.  They were perplexed by two phrases.  One of the phrases, "Check your privilege!" I had heard, though only distantly.  The other, "Micro-agression," is so absurd I had to ask them repeatedly whether they were serious.  They were.


1.  Check your privilege (no, that is not satire.  Seriously.  Not. Satire.)  The "Know Your Meme" info...

2.  Micro-agression.  Some examples, which are actually just people being rude.  Look, folks, people are rude to me all the time.  Well, it's usually Angus or de Marchi, but you see what I mean.

A recent attempt to get a former U.S. Army Colonel to "check his privilege turned out well....for Colonel Schlichter.  His claim was that his "privilege" was that he was better and worked harder.

I'm not so sure.  It's really just a point about the benchmark.  If women are disadvantaged compared to men (and they may well be, systematically so), then that's a problem.  Using "Check your privilege!" just because you are losing an argument and have your facts wrong doesn't seem very persuasive.

And that was the point the students were making.  They were having a discussion, suggesting an alternative interpretation or presenting evidence on some policy question.  And the "social justice activist" would interrupt, shout "Check your privilege!" loudly in the other person's face, and strut away, as if repeating a memorized phrase won the argument that otherwise was being lost egregiously.  It's no better than "That's un-Islamic!" or "That's not what the Bible says!"  It's no better because it's no different.  It's just a way for a loser to counterattack and be seen to win, at least in the eyes of co-religionists.

Except....that in fact the indignation-professionals actually do have a point.  There are a set of behaviors that really do single out black, Asian, Hispanic, Arab, etc. folks.  And women are hit with a whole set of attacks, some conscious (and therefore threatening) and some just clueless (and therefore hurtful).  Some examples.  White men are disproportionately the rudeness inflictor, and women and minorities are disproportionately the rudeness target.  It doesn't even out, and usually no one even says anything.  So the reaction is not totally off-base, even though I think the "micro-aggression" moniker is useless.  If people are rude, ignorant jerks, or bullies, they have to be confronted.

And the white men doing it need to be confronted by other white men.  "Hey, not cool. You can't say that."  Until that starts happening, we won't make much progress.  And I don't how it can happen when we are also telling white men that they are so privileged that they have never had to struggle for anything.  That's not true:  they have had to struggle against other white men.

**I have always thought this SNL skit with Eddie Murphy was a bit disturbing.
**And now I see why.  It is exactly the "Check your privilege logic."
**  White people just give each other free stuff!

I have to say, Colonel Schlichter, we sort of do that.  No, you had to work hard, and all that.  But a black person who worked just as hard might well have been passed over for promotion, and a woman certainly would have been.  People are tribal.

Here's the problem, in a nutshell.  Black people sometimes see race as an explanation for almost everything.  White people usually see race as being essentially irrelevant.

Any loser will tell you that success is nothing but luck, or privilege.  The game is rigged.  THAT's why I lost.

And any winner will tell that success is nothing but talent, a pure meritocracy.  The game is fair.  THAT's why I won.

Who's right?  Nobody.  Sometimes losers really did get cheated, and sometimes the winner really did have an unfair advantage.  But not all the time.

UPDATE:  From comments, ZB writes:
Munger, I like you. But your age is showing. I've worked in management in a large company in the last decade, and preferring white men in a promotion or hiring choice is the opposite of what happens now. People are fighting the old fight and the consequence is the violation of moral prohibitions. And it's hurting economic activity.

My response:
ZB, that's a fair point. But, to be clear, I'm talking about old men. Like me, or the Colonel. We worked hard, sure. But the selection process was biased against others, if only because they had no chance of being educated or making connections.

There are two things that are true, simultaneously. 1. Some white men lose out on jobs taken by minorities and women who are, by the "usual" standards, less qualified, but were chosen BECAUSE of their minority or female status. 2. In many, many businesses, and especially including my business, academics, women and minorities are grossly under-represented compared to their share of the population. And that's even more true in management. You being right that #1 is frustrating doesn't change the fact that #2 is frustrating.

So, my claim is really tactical. If women and minorities want to close the gap, they are going to need the support of white men. And calling white men privileged and bigoted is not going to help solve the problem. But that's okay, with many "activists," because they need the gap to justify their fundraising and their "training" seminars. They are indignation professionals, rather than being serious about solving problem #2.

Update 2:  A "checklist," if you want to find out about YOUR privilege.  For comparison, I was a 43/100.  But then I grew up in a very poor house with an abusive alcoholic father who hadn't graduated from high school and was really angry at the idea that other people might get educated.  I was very fat, was called "Mole" all through school (and not in a nice way, if there IS a nice way to be called Mole; the origin of the name was physical resemblance, I should note). 

I was spat on, had my lunch money taken most days until the 8th grade, and I was OFTEN the only white kid in my classes.  I was often called out as "fag," "honkey," "ofay," or "fatso," along with others I've probably forgotten.

I did go to Davidson, but I went because I worked two jobs to pay for it.  It's always felt to me like a secret identity when the rich white liberals I work with secretly admit that they don't really know how to talk to black folk.  Because they have never met one without a mop or a tray at those lilly white private schools where they were taught how to be rich white liberals. 

The answer, of course, is that the very idea of "talking to black people" as a cultivated skill is a mistake.  That's an actual person in front of you, not an abstraction that you learned about in your sociology class.  Just listen; your black acquaintance doesn't really want to hear you jabber how many "black friends" you have, or how you drove your Volvo to Moral Monday.  Some of my colleagues are surprised to see I won an "Image" award from the Durham NAACP.  The reason was that we talk about race in my class, and we talk about it as if we were all people, not representatives of racial categories.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Actual Moment: A Movie of the YYM Getting His Diploma...

Pretty fun.  The scene after....

The Visible Dunk: Is Self-Interest Good for the Team?

Selfish Play Increases during High-Stakes NBA Games and Is Rewarded with More Lucrative Contracts

Eric Luis Uhlmann & Christopher Barnes

PLoS ONE, April 2014

Abstract: High-stakes team competitions can present a social dilemma in which participants must choose between concentrating on their personal performance and assisting teammates as a means of achieving group objectives. We find that despite the seemingly strong group incentive to win the NBA title, cooperative play actually diminishes during playoff games, negatively affecting team performance. Thus team cooperation decreases in the very high stakes contexts in which it is most important to perform well together. Highlighting the mixed incentives that underlie selfish play, personal scoring is rewarded with more lucrative future contracts, whereas assisting teammates to score is associated with reduced pay due to lost opportunities for personal scoring. A combination of misaligned incentives and psychological biases in performance evaluation bring out the “I” in “team” when cooperation is most critical.

Liberalism Day ( #liberalismday )

So, "liberal" used to mean people who were convinced that freedom and equality (of opportunity, meaning no a priori privileges) were the best way to organize society.

And it still does mean that in Europe, to a large extent.

Can we take it back?  Maybe.  Let's give it a shot.

June 16, "Liberalism Day."  Joe Bob says, check it out

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

This week's sign of the apocalypse

People, if crap like this can happen why do we even have a government at all?

Men Are Just Different

Here's my question:  do you think that this technique would be used...or a female type human?  It possible, but I expect that the proportions tend to lean in the male direction, in terms of the population of folks who would try it.

A nod to M.K.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Trigger warnings

Trigger warnings?  Seriously?  Education, itself, is unsettling.  Hearing an idea you disagree, but can't find an argument against, is unsettling.  I'm going to add the following "trigger warning" to my syllabus:

This class contains references to crimes, drug use, sex, racism, and radical ideas about revolution, redistribution, and economic policies you will almost certainly disagree with.  If that's a problem, if you cannot--for whatever reason--hear ideas you disagree with, or stories of the hardships of other people that will make you feel uncomfortable, please leave now.  

Monday's Child

1.  Duke's graduation ceremony...if you have two hours to spare.

2.  Beta parents:  Trying hard to be the best at...nothing, really. Just trying to survive and not screw up.  I am clearly a Beta parent.

3.  For REAL inequality, just head south a little bit from Miami. Cuba looks like there was a war there, but there was just communism.

4.  I'm pretty sure that everyone I know who bought these shoes was injured soon after, from moderately to pretty badly.

5.  Don't Bike With Texas!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

How to watch TV in Oklahoma

You're welcome!

Do As We Editorialize, Not As We Do

Why was Jill Abramson fired as Executive Editor from the NYTimes?  (I have to admit, I didn't know that it had happened.  I stopped reading the NYTimes on principle after their remarkable--and never corrected--hatchet job on the Duke lacrosse players...)

The story appears to be that she actually believed that the male "Progressives" who run the NYTimes, the propaganda wing of the Democratic Party, actually believed the stuff they always say about equal pay for women.

Clearly, they do not.  And if some "girl" does try to the pay she deserves, she is "pushy" and gets fired.  Wow.

With a nod to Susan L.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

All By My Selfie

From the EYM.  Looking contemplative....

It was great to see him for the YYM's graduation....

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday Morning Sermon: cured meats edition

Say, friend. Have you ever wondered what salad is like in Heaven?

Well wonder no more:

I think this would be a more effective pitch than whatever is raining down from the majority of pulpits this morning.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


We have two dogs.  Tanzie is quite bright, skittish, and a little stand-offish with strangers.  Skippy Squirrelbane is sweet, enthusiastic, and never met a stranger.  He is, however, NOT bright.  At all.

Every night they get a milk bone before the LMM and I sit down for our evening togetherness (we read, and then watch the weather, unless there's a baseball game on.  Very exciting.)

The dogs know that they get their bone before we go into the sitting room.  But sometimes we forget the bones.  To ensure that we do NOT forget the bones, they behave cooperatively, sitting side by side and blocking the doorway.  Not sure if it's intentional, but it is effective.  It would not be easy to get past them without paying the bone toll!

Friday, May 09, 2014

The revolution will be pre-announced

So people, it's that time of year again. You know, time for the Taliban spring offensive!

In case you had forgotten to mark your calendars or buy tickets, the group officially announced that the offensive will begin on May 12th!

Now personally I find the Taliban offensive 24/7/365, but you gotta admire their confidence, no?

Hey infidels: we are coming for you next Monday and we don't care if you know it or not!

Funniest part of the article though is this:

The Afghan government and Nato have not yet responded to the Taliban’s announcement.

What are they supposed to say? Thanks for the warning numbnutz? Don't bother, we give up? I know you are but what am I?

I love the phrase, Taliban spring offensive. Like rush week or fashion week. Also a good name for an indie band.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

This week's sign of the stink- pocalypse

After 90 years, Davidson college is abolishing their laundry service for students.

Reactions are mixed.

From Davidson's president Carol Quillen:

Quillen, who washed her own clothes as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago and while pursuing her Ph.D. at Princeton, added that no one comes to Davidson for free laundry.

From an alum:

“We gave up vespers, we gave up chapel, we went coed, we even gave up the marching band, but dad-gum-it, we can’t give up the laundry. What is this world coming to?”

Then there's the LOL quote of the week:

Though nationally prominent for its academics, free laundry distinguishes Davidson on every Internet list of special student benefits for various colleges.

Any thoughts, Mungo? I bet you went there for the laundry, right?

Read more here:

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

G. Rossman Peeks at P-Kroog's Journal

And we all benefit, by getting to read it.


Krugman’s Journal. May 1, 2014. Dog carcass in alley this morning. Only I predicted its stomach would burst like a housing bubble. 

 When the storm comes the insufficient aggregate demand of all their austerity will foam up about their waists and all the oligarchs and politicians will look up and shout “save us!” and I’ll look down and whisper “stimulus.” 

 (You'll need to have read "The Watchmen" to get many of the allusions.  But it works pretty well on its own!)

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

This week's sign of the apocalypse

People, if crap like this can happen to a bro, why do we even have a patriarchal society at all?

JUST a bit outside...

They actually got it centered perfectly...on the wrong yard line.

Nod to WH

Liberty Defined

It's long, but it's quite interesting.  I don't agree with all of it, but Dr. Paul is an articulate spokesman for our side.  I don't really get the "End the Fed" stuff as the number ONE priority, though, I have to admit.  There are some fiddles that would improve the way the Fed works (like stop expecting miracles, and credible commitment), sure, but not "end."

Still, this is pretty cool.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Flying is cool

Clic the pics for even more ariel images!

Monday's Child

1.  I like beezin'....'cause beezin can give you pinkeye.  (The video is good.)

2.  It's the Department of JUSTICE, after all, so this must be okay, right?  Perhaps they should change their name to "Comité de Salut Public."  THAT turned out well, that whole, "We know what is good for everyone" thing, right? (Plus, they are calling it "Choke Point," a porn joke.  So we should be glad they have a sense of humor.  Right?)  Some details...

3.  What if faculty were full-time and administrators were adjunct?

4.  Men who support female leadership are accused of duplicity by women, and of wimpiness by men.

5.  Sometimes, you CAN fault the police.  Or even sue them successfully.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

g > m

I thought I'd get beyond the r > g mania and post about a more fundamental inequality:

g > m

to wit:

It started out close in the year of our births but then......

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Entrepreneur and Social Justice: A Chart

So, looking at NGRAM.

Checked "entrepreneur" and "social justice" and came up with this:

Click for an even more up-trending image.

It means pretty much exactly as much as other NGRAM images, I realize.  Just thought I'd share.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Men Are Just Different

I think it is safe to say that the idea to try this, and certainly the willingness to continue it once it turns out to be a pretty bad idea, is strongly connected to maleness.

With a nod to S. Wilson.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Whacking Day

I posted this on FB, and thought I would share it here.

Walked out into the garage to get some cold drinks for my evening repose of news and baseball scores. Heard a hiss/slither near my feet, looked down expecting to see a mouse. Saw instead a copperhead, about three feet away, on the floor. 

Went back inside, got the Remington 870. But of course the snake is in the garage, right beside the car. So I can't really shoot it. So I beat it into a pulp with a metal broom while also shrieking like a 13 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. 

Not the most manly thing I've ever done, but the snake is dead. About 18 inches long, not a big copperhead but plenty big enough. He was sitting right where the dogs run past for their evening constitutional, too. 

We just got lucky, I guess. The snake, not so much. I think I'm going to have 5 or 6 of those cold drinks, now. 

Which suggests that I share "Whacking Day," a remix.  Enjoy.

Bachelorette: Grand Strategy

Duke students turned this in for their final class project in my good friend Peter Feaver's class.

Long (it's a full "episode" of Bachelorette, with the US looking for her new forever "grand strategy"), but entertaining.  Full of insider bits for you IR folks.