Mowing the Oregano Photo Essay

As Dr. X suggests, D.C. Sessions’ talk about “mowing the oregano” sounds like a euphemism for an obscene act. But if photos are to be believed, he may actually have oregano in his garden (although I have never before heard of mowing it). Here is his garden, with an amount of sun of which I am, at this point in the year, unabashedly jealous.20140406_171205

It’s still too soon for outdoor gardening here in Michigan, but a couple of weeks ago I started some tomatos, cukes and peppers in a nifty little indoor greenhouse I bought at the local garden center. I may have started a bit too soon.
But as a last sign of what a wacky winter it’s been, our local photographer extrordinaire Lad Strayer snapped this shot of a loon on a local lake, well outside it’s normal range.
Johanna and I drove by, and although we had to park illegally and stand out in a cold drizzle, we counted three loons, the first she’d ever seen.

Life is strange, but good.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Not So Fast on Mass Extinctions?

Der Spiegel reports that the IPCC’s new draft report is backing off the claim of mass AGW-caused extinctions.

“There is very little confidence that models currently predict extinction risk accurately,” the report notes. Very low extinction rates despite considerable climate variability during past hundreds of thousands of years have led to concern that “forecasts for very high extinction rates due entirely to climate change may be overestimated.”

In the last assessment report, Climate Change 2007, the IPCC predicted that 20 to 30 percent of all animal and plant species faced a high risk for extinction should average global temperatures rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius… The current draft report says that scientific uncertainties have “become more apparent” since 2007.

How about that? As the research continues, we know more about what we don’t know. Anti-science types might not grasp that thisus an indicator of good science, and may jump on it as evidence that scientists don’t really know anything about climate change. I expect that. What I’m curious about is whether the acolytes who worship the IPCC reports like holy scripture will give this due notice or pretend it never happened?

Posted in Climate Clusterfuck | Tagged , , | 11 Comments



Our Westeros winter is finally ending, but not without a parting shot; freezing rain. I couldn’t really get the beauty of the ice on the tree, but as I was trying to, some students walked into the picture and managed to frame themselves nicely between the branches.

Posted in Street Photography | 8 Comments

Russian Talking Heads No Smarter than American Talking Heads

The stupidity of people in the media is repulsive. I cheered Nate Silver’s statement that

Plenty of pundits have really high IQs, but they don’t have any discipline in how they look at the world, and so it leads to a lot of bullshit, basically.

So it’s with something between resignation and satisfaction that I see Russian media types being just as stupid.

A Russian television anchor has raised global eyebrows by noting in a commentary that Russia is “the only country in the world capable of turning the USA into radioactive dust.

Apparently the guy’s reached his important position without ever learning that the U.S. has nuclear missile subs.

Posted in Politics in General | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Open Secrecy

The White House web site hosts a memorandum on “Transparency and Open Government,” from President Barack Obama to the heads of executive branch departments and agencies. It begins:

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.

This week McClatchy News Service reports the latest installment in the ever-engaging series, “Barack Obama Does America.”

The White House has been withholding for five years more than 9,000 top-secret documents sought by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its investigation into the now-defunct CIA detention and interrogation program, even though President Barack Obama hasn’t exercised a claim of executive privilege.

In contrast to public assertions that it supports the committee’s work, the White House has ignored or rejected offers in multiple meetings and in letters to find ways for the committee to review the records, a McClatchy investigation has found.

We’re not surprised, right? We’re not meant to be surprised, because we’re not meant to believe the President’s memorandum. It’s like going to church on Christmas and Easter–it doesn’t make anyone believe you’re sincere, it’s just a pro-forma act.

But this really sticks in my craw. I am firmly convinced that the warnings from the 1960s about the imperial presidency were correct, and that the situation has just gotten worse since then. Congress has the authority and duty to engage in oversight over the executive branch, and Obama is purposely obstructing their authority and duty, and doesn’t even bother with the thin pretense of executive privilege.

The issue is not security. The Senate Intelligence Committee has experience dealing with classified material, and well-established procedures for doing so. The issue is that we have yet another president in a long sequence of them who believe that they are the government, and the legislative branch is simply a forum for providing marginally more public legitimacy for their political goals.

And as long as we remain committed to the primary system of electing presidential candidates, there is zero chance our next president will be any different. To hell with Obama; to hell with them all.

Posted in Executive Power | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Perverse Incentives for Perverse Individuals

Some time back I had a discussion with a colleague that has stuck in my head. Nominally we were talking about the propriety of “sweatshop” factory labor in the third world. I argued that it was better than the alternative, he argued that it was morally unconscionable and shouldn’t be allowed, and I argued that leaving people to a worse alternative was even more morally unconscionable. Then he whipped out a common law analogy, which was something like this:

If you see a person drowning, it’s not acceptable to make them suck your cock in return for saving them.

And here, I guess, is where the philosophic mind and the economic mind part ways. Because while I find it easy to agree that a person who would stare at a drowning person and say, “I’ll toss you that life ring, but only if you suck my cock when you get out of the water” is a morally unconscionable person, do we really want to give that that morally unconscionable person an incentive to say, “I’d save you if I got a blow job out of it, but since the law says I can’t require that in exchange for saving you, I’ll just leave you to drown”?

Posted in Analyzing Libertarianism | 31 Comments

Who Likes Charter Schools?

Liberals tend to oppose charter schools. Liberals also tend to claim they care about minorities. But check out this video about New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to block charter schools, and take a close look at the faces of the people protesting his decision.

See also this article about affordable housing in Portland, Oregon (via Will Truman at Ordinary Times).

Liberals “care” about better education and affordable housing, but they’re so hung up on weighting them down with other goals that they founder and drown. And in each case they ignore the real cause and proffer the same “solution,” more money. But as both these stories show, doing things differently is a better solution than just giving more money to keep doing things the same way.

Posted in Analyzing Libertarianism | 4 Comments

Why Would an Innocent Person Plead the Fifth?

From Ken White at Popehat.

I’ve been seeing a lot of comments to the effect of “why should Lois Lerner take the Fifth if she has nothing to hide?” Ironically these comments often come from people who profess to oppose expansive government power, and from people who accept the proposition that Lerner was part of wrongdoing in the first place — in other words, that there was a government conspiracy to target people with the machinery of the IRS for holding unpopular political views. Such people do not seem to grasp how their predicate assumptions answer their own question.

You take the Fifth because the government can’t be trusted. You take the Fifth because what the truth is, and what the government thinks the truth is, are two very different things. You take the Fifth because even if you didn’t do anything wrong your statements can be used as building blocks in dishonest, or malicious, or politically motivated prosecutions against you. You take the Fifth because if you answer questions truthfully the government may still decide you are lying and prosecute you for lying.

This comes, remember, from a former federal prosecutor.

Posted in Laws | 4 Comments

I’m a Scum-sucking Piece of Shit

I just got a deligtful email from a David Patrick at Here’s the entire text of the email.

I just read your discussion of “Fuck You, I Got Mine” Libertarianism

What a lying, unintelligent scum-sucking piece of shit you are.

It’s a truly impressive argument he makes, isn’t it? I’m almost persuaded.

Posted in Analyzing Libertarianism | 6 Comments

A Comparative Curiousity

My students tend to get confused between a unitary form of government (a single national-level government, as opposed to a federal system) and unicameralism (having one house of the legislature). So I put together this handy chart using the countries listed in our text. It’s kind of curious. (For those who are unsure, symmetric bicameralism means the two house of the legislature have roughly equal authority, while asymmetric bicameralism means one has significantly more authority; think the British Parliament). The empty cell is curious, because it’s by no means a theoretical impossibility (and since I haven’t checked all the world’s democracies yet, I don’t know that it’s nonexistent).


Posted in Politics in General | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments