Really Stupid Stuff I Read in the New York Times

Sam Tanenhaus on Atlas Shrugged, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and John von Neumann:
The advance guard of Cold War planners, space and weapons theorists like J. Robert Oppenheimer, John von Neumann and James R. Killian, the president of M.I.T., chosen by Eisenhower to oversee the creation of NASA, were administrators rather than doers, unlike the executives at New York Central Railroad and Kaiser Steel whom Rand had interviewed while writing “Atlas Shrugged.” It would be hard to imagine a more monumental mischaracterization of Oppenheimer, and von Neumann, especially.  Not only did von Neumann essentially invent the modern digital computer, but he was also a profoundly creative mathematician.  Tanenhaus not only gets administrator vs. doer completely backwards, he also confuses Galt and Rearden, a couple of the cardboard characters in AS.

Where the Stars Live

If you've ever spent any time under clear dark skies, you've seen the cloudy band of light running across the sky that we call the Milky Way.  Its name comes from the resemblance the ancient Greeks saw to  milk, which gives us our other name for it, the Galaxy.  Galileo was the first to penetrate the nature of this cloudy band of light when he turned his telescope upon it and saw a myriad of stars.

As telescopes and astronomical techniques improved it became clear that the Milky Way, our galaxy, was a sort of island universe in which our star, the Sun, was embedded as one of enormously many stars.  There are a few other cloudy patches of light in the sky, three of which are visible to the keen eyed - Andromeda and, very prominent in the Southern Hemisphere, the Magellanic Clouds.  There are also more temporary cloudy glows, the comets, which were long found more interesting.  Telescopes revealed ever more of these cloudy patches.

It eventually became clear that at least some o…

Kavanaugh and Rape?

According to a letter received by a couple Democratic lawmakers, as a high school student Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape the author while she was in high school.  It's a serious charge, and it deserves careful consideration even it was a long time ago.  It's been a while since Justice Thomas (very likely) lied his way on to the Supreme Court, with plenty of help from good old boys Arlen Specter and Joe Biden, and it looks like Kavanaugh is on his way to a similar feat.

Of course Kavanaugh denies it and his alleged helper claims not to remember.  Say what?  You assisted in so many rapes that you can't be expected to remember every one or what?

Usually sexual abusers don't stop at one, so if BK is guilty, there might be other women out there.  If so, I certainly hope some have the courage to tell their stories.   It's probably too late in recent history to think that highly skilled Jurists are unlikely to be sexual abusers - everything we kno…

Conservative Theory and Conservative Humbug

Those who pass for conservative intellectuals usually have some principles they like to claim as foundational: small government, states rights, that old time religion.  It can't be denied that humans have some tendencies well described by the word "conservative" - the impulse to resist change, especially change that might be personally inconvenient.  My contention, though, is that conservative theory is essentially humbug - an intellectual Potemkin village to distract us from the real objectives of those who claim to be conservatives.

What about the small government claim?  It's true that modern American conservatism wants to shrink some government functions - any such that attempt to protect the citizenry from the depredations of the rich.  Of course they are also quick to attempt to regulate the most fundamental aspects of private life - anti abortion fanaticism is one of the key motors of the current conservative dominance.

Conservatism has two key kinds of suppor…

Taking Offence

At a recent wedding party I happened to be seated next to a teen-aged girl.  She asked me what my ethnicity was.  I replied that I was some kind of Northern European stew.  23 and Me says English, Irish, German, French and Scandinavian with a dash of Central European.  She said that she was Chinese and Japanese.

I mention this because it has become fashionable in some circles to claim that any questions about ethnicity are micro-aggressions.  I'm pretty sure that this young lady was either just curious or just wanted an excuse to talk about herself.  We did then have an ordinary conversation which wasn't about ethnicity.

Shortly after, I heard the story of a professor lecturing her anthropology class happened to use the word "Oriental" in describing people from the Orient.  The whole class then got up and left the room in protest.  No doubt they were all deeply offended - especially the Caucasians.  The fact that the Professor herself was of Japanese extraction appar…


I live about half a block from an elementary school.  Every day a long procession of cars appears on the surrounding streets as parents of kids more than a couple of blocks away drop off their kids.  Of course kids that live more than a few blocks away are picked up and delivered by school bus.  Often as not, those children on the block are walked to school by a parent.

This didn't surprise me too much of this since I sometimes walked my own five year old to school, clinging and protesting, only to see him greeted by the other students like a minor rock star (girls flirting, boys high-fiving).  Of course when I asked him about this, he quite logically replied "I just hate giving up my freedom."

Of course, like others of my generation, I walked to school a mile or so myself.

Anyway, I didn't think much about the modern system until I read this WaPo story by a mother who sent her son to school in Japan:

All Japanese children go to school on their own. My son attended a …

Rosy Fingered Dawn

... is one of the famous Homeric epithets.  I happened to be up early today and noticed the pink fingers of dawn quite prominent in the morning sky.  A closer look revealed that the pink fingers were in fact jet contrails illuminated by red morning light filtered through a dusty atmosphere.

So what were they in Homer's day?