Archive for February, 2007

Senatology

February 27, 2007

Joe Lieberman had a very statesmanlike op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today.

We are at a critical moment in Iraq–at the beginning of a key battle, in the midst of a war that is irretrievably bound up in an even bigger, global struggle against the totalitarian ideology of radical Islamism. However tired, however frustrated, however angry we may feel, we must remember that our forces in Iraq carry America’s cause–the cause of freedom–which we abandon at our peril.

Pejman Yousefzadeh and Tigerhawk take note, but Roger L. Simon takes the prize for best headline: “Lonely are the Liebermen.”

However, something very interesting caught my eye. Senator Lieberman had a similar opinion piece in the Washington Post back on December 29.

In Iraq today we have a responsibility to do what is strategically and morally right for our nation over the long term — not what appears easier in the short term.

The Senator’s byline for the December 29 piece:

The writer is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. [emphasis added]

His byline for the February 26 piece:

Mr. Lieberman is an Independent senator from Connecticut.

Can this omission possibly be anything but deliberate?

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Streaming ODEs

February 21, 2007

Colleges have been in the news for putting course materials, including recorded lectures, online – most recently in the Wall Street Journal.  I got curious, Googled around, and found these videos of MIT’s “18.03” (differential equations) lectures, taped in 2003.

Fantastic.  The professor, an Arthur Mattuck, is clearly one of the great pedagogues.  As the MIT site says, “Professor Mattuck has inspired and informed generations of MIT students with his engaging lectures.” I haven’t taken calculus in about a decade, but I could follow this.  Enjoy.

Friday Mystery Author: Barbara Tuchman

February 19, 2007

This week’s Friday Mystery Author was Barbara Tuchman, and the passage (on the Dreyfus Affair) was from her tour de force, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War: 1890-1914. This was her fourth book, published in 1966, after The Zimmerman Telegram and The Guns of August had made her reputation. It covers a period of social ferment, indescribable political and moral passion, and dashed hopes. Ms. Tuchman conveys it all with relish and regret.

Jaures was buried on August 4, the day the war became general. Overhead the bells he had invoked at Basle tolled for him and all the world, “I summon the living, I mourn the dead.”

The title is from Poe.

Stop by on Friday for the next edition of Friday Mystery Author.

Short Term Capacity at JetBlue

February 19, 2007

Most discussion of operations strategy at airlines focuses on very long-lived capital investments (airplanes) and network decisions (hub-and-spoke, etc). In the Chicago Tribune today, however, the AP describes how recent snowstorms snarled JetBlue’s network, and provided a rare example of utilization today that affect capacity decisions tomorrow:

The airline had scheduled 600 flights for Presidents Day, even more than the 550 to 575 flights on a normal Monday. Of those, 139 flights have been canceled, JetBlue announced late Saturday night.

JetBlue Airways Corp. spokesman Sebastian White said headway was being made on Sunday, but that the cancellations on Monday were needed to make sure all flight crews had gotten the legally mandated amount of rest before taking to the skies again.

JetBlue had to act decisively or this capacity crunch could persist for days or weeks. What other industries feature this type of interplay between capacity and utilization?

Keith Jarrett

February 19, 2007

Last night I had the chance to see the great pianist Keith Jarrett perform a solo concert in his trademark, entirely improvised manner to a packed, joyous hall. To see a great American master performing works that have never been heard before and will never be heard again (except perhaps on a recording) was profoundly moving. The concert-goers showed great affection for Mr. Jarrett and complete accord with his musical vocabulary.

Mr. Jarrett’s concert improvisations are were often quite massive, but last night he played a series of relatively short pieces. Some were of a distinct genre – ragtime and blues – but others were as spiky and “difficult” as anything by Boulez, Schnittke, or Nancarrow. I heard echos of Debussy and Shostakovich. His well-known vocalization and his physicality were much in evidence, as he stood erect, crouched, marched, and danced.

If you are new to Keith Jarrett, I suggest his Koln Concert as a starting point. The La Scala and Paris concerts are very good; the Vienna Concert might be his best. He also has a good Goldberg Variations on harpsichord and a complete set of Shostakovich’s 24 Piano Preludes & Fugues.

UPDATE: I should add one improvisation anecdote. Mr. Jarrett played five encores. Sitting down for the third to sustained applause, he remarked, “I need all the time I can get. [Laughter] If I had brought Debussy or Beethoven or Schumann, I would know what the first note is, and I’d just be waiting to play it. Since I don’t, your applause is that much more important to me. [Laughter]” (Close paraphrase, not exact quote.)

MORE: Marc Geelhoed was there too.

The sections of Friday night’s concert added up to something as powerful as the totality of the Cologne concert, but achieved that in different ways, in different amounts of time.

Friday Mystery Author: February 16, 2007

February 17, 2007

I have really gotten Friday Mystery Author off schedule. I’ll try to do better. As always, if you think recognize this passage, please post the title and author in the comments – or just say hello.

Six weeks later, on August 8, 1899, the retrial of Dreyfus by a new court-martial was scheduled to open in the garrison town of Rennes, a Catholic and aristcratic corner of traditionally Counter-Revolutionary Brittany. France quivered in expectation; as each week passed bringing the moment closer, the tension grew. The world’s eyes were turned on Rennes. All the important foreign newspapers sent their star correspondents. Lord Russell of Killowen, the Lord Chief Justice of England, came as an observer. All the leading figures in the Affair, hundreds of French journalists and important political, social, and literary figures crammed the town. The Secret File was brought from Paris in an iron box on an artillary caisson. No one anywhere talked of anything but the coming verdict. Acquittal would mean for the Dreyfusards vindication and last; for the Nationalists it would be lethal; an unimaginable blow not to be permitted. As if on order they returned to the theme of the first blackmail: Dreyfus or the Army. “A choice is to be made,” wrote Barres in the Journal; Rennes, he said, was the Rubicon. “If Dreyfus is innocent then seven Ministers of War are guilty and the last more than the first,” echoed Meyer in Le Gaulois. General Mercier, leaving for Rennes to appear as a witness, issued his Order of the Day: “Dreyfus will be condemned once more. For in this affair someone is certainly guilty and the guilty one is either him or me. As it is certainly not me, it is Dreyfus. … Dreyfus is a traitor and I shall prove it.”

At six o’clock on the morning of August 8 the Court convened with an audience of six hundred persons in the hall of the lycee, the only room in Rennes large enough to accomodate them. In the front row, next to former President Casimir-Perier, sat Mercier, his yellow lined face as expressionless as ever, and nearby, the widow of Colonel Henry in her long black mourning veil. Dignitaries, officers in uniform, ladies in light summer dresses and more than four hundred journalists filled the rows behind. Colonel Jouaust, presiding officer of the seven military judges, called out in a voice hoarse under the pressure of the moment, “Bring in the accused.”

Last week’s edition is here.

More Defense of Idealism – and Democratization

February 17, 2007

UPDATE 2/17/06: Neo adds that democratization, too, is the neocon agenda:

[T]echnological advances in weaponry combined with modern communications and ease of travel, as well as an influx of money, have [made] it possible for a small and fiercely angry group to obtain weapons with enormous destructive power, and to deploy them against the West, with the help of rogue nations and leaders who feel their own interests lie in such an attack.

Encouraging the growth of liberal democracy in the region would short-circuit that process, if successful.

1/19/07: Neo-Neocon says that idealism is the neocon agenda:

[T]rying to transform these regions into functioning democracies that protect human rights … is the neocon agenda, and I’m all for it.

Click here for the original version of this post.

Roundup of Iraq Books

February 17, 2007

Zeal and Activity readers may recall our Fall 2006 and Winter 2007 roundups of chewy writing on Iraq and the War on Terror.  Now Michael Rubin, writing in The Middle East Quarterly, rounds up and critiques Iraq in Books (via Power Line).  This is a handy survey of recent memoirs, agenda-mongering, and first-draft history.

Resolutions and Incentives

February 15, 2007

Another reason to oppose the assorted no-confidence resolutions floating around in Congress: they box Members and Senators in too tightly. Congress is anxious to distance itself from perceived failure in Iraq and (in light of same) its past votes. By doing so, Members and Senators set up an unfortunate payoff structure: they are vindicated if Iraq slides further into chaos with greater loss of Iraqi and American life, and discredited if Gen. Petraeus succeeds.

Since I am a markets guy and believe in rational actors and incentives, I think this matters. Having set up these incentives, can Congress withstand the temptation to influence the outcome? These resolutions may set up a natural, self-fulfilling majority for a 1974-style break-and-run. Boneless Wonders indeed.

UPDATE: Lawrence J. Haas outlines the potential consequences for Congressional Democrats should Iraq ultimately succeed (via Neo-Neocon). “At some point, the nation will recapture its spirit. Taunted by our enemies or attacked directly, Americans will look to the party that is ready to respond in kind. Will Democrats once more be on the losing end?”

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds thinks so too.

Friday Mystery Author: O. Henry

February 14, 2007

I am a day late and a dollar short with the answer to last week’s Friday Mystery Author, and I do apologize. After a week of not much, I blogged away Monday night and ran out of time to write this up.

This week’s passage was from a gem of a short story by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), called “Friends in San Rosario.” I suppose it may be found in this collection.

Like many O. Henry stories, “Friends in San Rosario” features a Western setting late in the nineteenth century, and formerly rough and tumble characters now carrying forward the work of civilization and accommodating its rules – while abiding by earlier codes of behavior. According to Richard Zelade, this story was autobiographical – and resulted in a prison term for Mr. Porter.

Despite his many friends’ best intentions, Porter was destined to be a sacrificial victim for the changing times, the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong moment. Texas’s vast, formerly free ranges had been fenced in, and the feds intended to do the same to the state’s freewheeling bankers.

In prison, Mr. Porter launched his writing career and acquired the pen name O. Henry from a guard.

MORE: “Friends in San Rosario” was filmed in 1917.