Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Macchiavelli: This is the tragedy of man. Circumstances change, and he does not

South Park money chimp

Monday, June 21, 2010

book notes

Last Call: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Orkent

Brewers and distillers broke of because the brewers thought the distillers were selling crap while the distillers thought the brewers were stoking prohibition with their saloons.

South shied away from prohibitionists before Civil War because of their association with abolition. Warmed to the prohibitionist after Civil War in part because they saw liquor as playing in what they viewed as Negro insubordination.

Klu Klux Klan new emphasis in the 20's against Catholics and Jews was a strategy to expand out of the South (highly successful)

Wet vs. Dry was also Urban vs. Rural, immigrants vs. nativists, ethnics vs. Northern European Protestants. Nativists made immigration quotas in 20's based on the 1890's Census and blocked Congressional redistricting based on 1920's Census -- which would have given urban ethnics proportional representation.

Daniel Okrent's Last Call revisits Prohibition. - By Johann Hari - Slate Magazine: "Many people understandably worry that legalization would cause a huge rise in drug use, but the facts suggest this isn't the case. Portugal decriminalized the personal possession of all drugs in 2001, and—as a study by Glenn Greenwald for the Cato Institute found—it had almost no effect at all.* Indeed, drug use fell a little among the young. Similarly, Okrent says the end of alcohol prohibition 'made it harder, not easier, to get a drink. ... Now there were closing hours and age limits, as well as a collection of geographic proscriptions that kept bars or package stores distant from schools, churches and hospitals.' People didn't drink much more. The only change was that they didn't have to turn to armed criminal gangs for it, and they didn't end up swigging poison."

Friday, June 18, 2010

book notes

Jesus Wars by Phillip Jenkins

5th Century monks kind of acted like Nazi brown shirts, busting heads in the streets. They would also go to war against the monks of an opposing bishop.

Since Jesus was probably born in May, his baptism may have been conflated with his birth to get the Dec. 25 date -- baptism was often celebrated at Jan. 6 & early Christians thought Jesus took on divinity at his baptism.

marker between the pre-modern and modern world -- someone else's wrong beliefs could bring God's wrath onto you or your community.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

book notes

The Icarus Syndrome by Peter Beinart

Great takedown of Wilson's self regard as a disinterested pedagogue to the world.

Early 20th Century Progressivism really did have a precept contrary to a founding precept of the U.S. -- that human nature improves with improving material circumstance.

Kennan: Wilson and Stalin both sought to impose an abstract ideal as a universal onto a messy, diverse world.

Kosovo set the stage for Iraq by:
-- setting precedent for U.S. force without U.N. approval
-- discrediting the Europeans
-- re-crediting preventative war

"In 1939, few American politicians believed that a Nazi takeover of Warsaw constituted a grave danger to the United States. By 1965, many believed we couldn't live with a North Vietnamese takeover of Saigon. In the 1980s, Americans lived peacefully, albeit anxiously, with thousands of Soviet nuclear warheads pointed our way. By 2003, many Washington commentators claimed that even Iraqi biological or chemical weapons put us in mortal peril."

Saturday, June 05, 2010

book notes

Book Review - The Invisible Gorilla - By Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons - "Chabris and Simons also propose an “illusion of potential”: the belief that “vast reservoirs of untapped mental ability exist in our brains, just waiting to be accessed.” They use this to introduce a fascinating review of urban legends of modern psychology, including well-publicized claims that watching certain videos, like the Baby Einstein series, will make your child smarter; that classical music makes everyone smarter (the so-called Mozart effect); that older adults can keep their minds limber by doing Sudoku and crossword puzzles; and that people use only 10 percent of their brains. It turns out that none of this is true."