Monday, August 29, 2011

Quotes of the day

Never trust a critic.
Especially this critic.--Mark Kermode

But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.--Paul Krugman

Yes, a terrifying prospect — and an excellent reason to limit the powers of ruling parties, though Paul never seems to notice this.--Steve Landsburg

I get the ball, I throw the ball, and I take a shower.--Mariano Rivera

... those who receive and act out the gift of athletic genius must, perforce, be blind and dumb about it -- and not because blindness and dumbness are the price of the gift, but because they are its essence.--David Foster Wallace

These tempests obscure a larger truth about [SC Justice Clarence] Thomas: that this year has also been, for him, a moment of triumph. In several of the most important areas of constitutional law, Thomas has emerged as an intellectual leader of the Supreme Court. ... In his jurisprudence, Thomas may be best known for his belief in a “color-blind Constitution”; that is, one that forbids any form of racial preference or affirmative action. But color blind, for Thomas, is not blind to race. Thomas finds a racial angle on a broad array of issues, including those which appear to be scarcely related to traditional civil rights, like campaign finance or gun control. In Thomas’s view, the Constitution imposes an ideal of racial self-sufficiency, an extreme version of the philosophy associated with Booker T. Washington, whose portrait hangs in his chambers. (This personal gallery also includes Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher.)--Jeffrey Toobin

I don’t do Ivies. ... Yale meant one thing for white graduates and another for blacks, no matter how much anyone denied it. ... We talk about diversity. The real problem of our Court is that it’s all Ivy League. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there are other law schools out there. ... I grew up with maids, and janitors, and yard people. It gives you a perspective on society. You’re looking from the bottom up, and how people see it from that direction. . . . You understand why people are angry or upset. You understand why they become rich soil for class envy and class hatred, or class warfare. You see how they become easy pickings for people who have snake-oil merchants for solving all their problems. But you develop a respect for them without condescension. You develop an attitude that we are all inherently equal regardless of who went to school and who did not—that there can be smart people who did not have any book learning and never had a chance. ... There’s a difference between being poor and being stupid. And you’re stupid for thinking that they’re stupid. As my granddaddy would say, you’re just an educated fool. . . . I am passionate about preserving liberty so that people can rise from that to go to the Supreme Court. My wife does this, too. My wife is my best friend. I can rant with her. She doesn’t read opinions or anything. We believe that this is a good country and that people should have a chance. That’s why you see so many of my law clerks who don’t go to Ivy League schools. These are kids who tried hard and did well. Why don’t we reward them?--Clarence Thomas

I always ask people, ‘What would you do with Plessy v. Ferguson, which was sixty years old?’ If it’s wrong, the ultimate precedent is the Constitution. And it’s not what we say it is, it’s what it actually says, and I think we have to be humble enough to say we were wrong. ... When interpreting a constitutional provision, the goal is to discern the most likely public understanding of that provision at the time it was adopted.--Clarence Thomas

In other words, Thomas is humble before his own reading of the constitutional text—and dismissive of the attempts of others, including other Justices, to interpret it. ... To that end, he plumbs the words of the framers and the eighteenth-century (and earlier) thinkers who influenced Jefferson, Madison, and their contemporaries.--Jeffrey Toobin

One of the things the activists care about is that the so-called ‘living Constitution’ is a convenient political fiction. A living Constitution gives more power and authority to the state.--Dick Armey

I don’t agree with him, but Thomas has the most internally coherent view of any Justice.--Richard Hasen, a professor at the School of Law at the University of California at Irvine

Further, notwithstanding Thomas’s enduring certainties, it is difficult to know what the framers would have thought of any given situation. (Alito, a conservative but not a full-fledged originalist, captured this problem nicely, in the oral argument about the California law on violent video games. Following up on a series of questions by Scalia, Alito asked the lawyer, “I think what Justice Scalia wants to know is what James Madison thought about video games. Did he enjoy them?”) It is true, too, that the framers often disagreed profoundly with each other, making a single intent behind the Constitution even more difficult to discern, and the twenty-seven amendments (all with their own framers) created another overlay of complication. For all of Thomas’s conviction, originalism is just another kind of interpretation, revealing as much about Thomas as about the Constitution.--Jeffrey Toobin

Jeffrey Toobin’s gripping, must-read profile of Clarence and Virginia Thomas in the New Yorker gives readers new insight into what Sauron must have felt: Toobin argues that the only Black man in public life that liberals could safely mock and despise may be on the point of bringing the Blue Empire down.  In fact, Toobin suggests, Clarence Thomas may be the Frodo Baggins of the right; his lonely and obscure struggle has led him to the point from which he may be able to overthrow the entire edifice of the modern progressive state.--Walter Russell Mead

Alan Krueger to chair CEA. Congratulations, Alan. An excellent choice by President Obama.--Greg Mankiw

Dismissing the achievements of welfare reform because the poverty rate didn't decline towards zero makes no sense to me. While it would be nice if it had happened, no one really expected it to. The fact that a miracle failed to materialize is hardly a searing indictment of reform. You can argue that the decline in the poverty rate was assisted by other reforms like boosting the earned income tax credit, and I completely agree. But boosting the EITC does nothing to help people who aren't earning income. If we hadn't done welfare reform, "not earning income" would still describe the majority of poor families.--Megan McArdle

Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional ,and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up.--Rep. Allen West, to Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz

[Warren Buffet] suggests that the 12 member congressional panel set up to cut current and future federal deficits leave tax rates unchanged for 99.7 percent of taxpayers, and only raise rates on the approximately 250,000 households who make more than $1 million. Simple calculations show that a tax increase on such a small number of households, even a very large tax increase, would have a negligible effect on total tax revenue, and hence on closing the budget deficit. As we will see, there are more sensible ways to improve tax revenue. Warren Buffett has persuaded 68 other billionaires to follow his example and promise to give at least half their wealth to charities. But why hasn’t Buffett proposed also that the very rich make large gifts to the federal government to offset what he considers ridiculously low taxes on their incomes and wealth? My guess is that he and the others who pledged to give away their wealth to charity would have little confidence in how the government would spend such gifts. Buffett, for example, is giving most of his wealth to the Gates Foundation, not to the federal government, and is relying on how this foundation will spend his vast gift. Given this reluctance to make large gifts to the federal government, why should anyone have confidence that the federal government will spend additional tax revenue in a sensible way?--Gary Becker

Bol legends have piled up over the years, and in the e-book "The Defender" Jordan Conn probes as necessary, interviewing Bol's teammates, friends and family. As a child, he may have killed a lion; he quite possibly coined the phrase "my bad"; he certainly warned Congress about Osama bin Laden in 1993. Filtered through the American media, his later life—he died last year of kidney failure—was a sad mishmash of illness and publicity stunts, such as a 2002 bout with William "The Refrigerator" Perry on Fox's "Celebrity Boxing." (Bol won, wearing red shorts stitched with the nickname "Sudanese Freedom Fighter.") The stunts were ridiculous—Manute playing ice hockey, Manute in jockey's silks—but the proceeds went to the Southern Sudan rebels.  As Mr. Conn details what motivated Bol and the responsibilities he felt to his region, "The Defender" gives Bol back the dignity he seemed to have lost. If the image of Bol crouched in the brush, talking strategy with armed fighters, is an unexpected one, it's also revelatory. Even his financial woes were a result of giving too much to the cause, and Mr. Conn suggests that Bol more or less killed himself through his insistence on campaigning for pro-independence candidates. Suddenly the desperation that marked his later years makes a lot more sense.--Nathaniel Friedman
Photo links here and here.

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