Res Ipsa Loquitur

Chris Bertram on Cuba and Castro (entire post):

I haven’t looked yet, but I’ve no doubt that there’ll be lots of posts in the blogosphere saying “good riddance” to Fidel Castro (especially from “left” US bloggers like Brad DeLong who never miss the chance to distance themselves). And, of course, Castro ran a dictatorship that has, since 1959, committed its fair share of crimes, repressions, denials of democratic rights etc. Still, I’m reminded of A.J.P. Taylor writing somewhere or other (reference please, dear readers?) that what the capitalists and their lackeys really really hated about Soviet Russia was not its tyrannical nature but the fact that there was a whole chunk of the earth’s surface where they were no longer able to operate. Ditto Cuba, for a much smaller chunk. So let’s hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care. Let’s hear it for the Cubans who help defeat the South Africans and their allies in Angola and thereby prepared the end of apartheid. Let’s hear it for the middle-aged Cuban construction workers who held off the US forces for a while on Grenada. Let’s hear it for Elian Gonzalez. Let’s hear it for 49 years of defiance in the face of the US blockade. Hasta la victoria siempre!

You know that whole thing about the values of the Left having eroded into simple anti-Western Imperialism? There may be something to that, you know…

…and that’s a Left I’m happy never to have been a part of, and never to be a part of. If the price of universal literacy is prison camps for writers, count me out. If the price of “decent standards of health care” is lavish living for the Party cadres and grinding poverty for everyone else, count me out. If the price of resisting apartheid is brutalizing and murdering your own citizenry – in essence creating a contest between two brutally repressive governments – count me out.

How, exactly, does Bertram keep any claim to moral authority after writing this?

Welcome visitors from The Leiter Report; please note my reply here.

Starting to Make Sense

So I had the nice sales guy from ‘Solar City‘ – Elon Musk’s home photovoltaic rollup – come by and pitch me on taking my house solar. I’m interested, and had the feeling that it was close to actually making sense.

Here are the rough numbers:For a 3KW installation (about 275 sf of cells), the total cost to me would be approximately $18K. My electric utility uses tiered pricing, we’re typically just nosing into the highest tier, with power use of about 800KwH/month (we need to look at that…). 3KW would get me comfortably into the lowest tier and would do things like run the fridge and some lights if we had an outage (which we’ve never had).

So here’s how I’m seeing the economics.

We’d shed about $80/month from our bill. So assume a cost of funds of 9% and am amortization period of 15 years, and we can support about $8,800. Add to that a $2K federal tax credit (the state credits are already discounted into the price) and we’re at, call it $11K.

So there’s a $7K ‘feel good’ cost.

But out of that, we can offset two more numbers – increase in electricity prices over the life of the system, and an increase in the value of the house (per the salesman, underwriters will move the electricity monthly savings into capitalized value).

It’s interesting – if the number was smaller, I’d certainly do it. If it was bigger, I wouldn’t. I’m right on the cusp.

Meanwhile, we’ll get a detailed proposal next week.

I’ll also get a proposal on solar DHW, which certainly has better economics. But hey, we have a big roof…

Noted Without Comment (Comment to Follow)

In the NY Times:

Midlife Suicide Rises, Puzzling Researchers

Mr. Neal is part of an unusually large increase in suicides among middle-aged Americans in recent years. Just why thousands of men and women have crossed the line between enduring life’s burdens and surrendering to them is a painful question for their loved ones. But for officials, it is a surprising and baffling public health mystery.

A new five-year analysis of the nation’s death rates recently released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the suicide rate among 45-to-54-year-olds increased nearly 20 percent from 1999 to 2004, the latest year studied, far outpacing changes in nearly every other age group. (All figures are adjusted for population.)

OK, one comment. If only they approached other complex statistical questions with the same delicacy.

Six Months

“He’s got three to six months,” said my neighbor’s daughter this evening when we spoke on the sidewalk between our houses as we usually do.

I’m blessed, among other things, with great neighbors. The neighbor to the north is a retired cabinet maker who lives with his wife, adult daughter and her young son. He spends most of his time in his garage next to mine, and between the times he’s helped me with home projects, loaned me tools, received packages for us, let workmen in and supervised them while I was at work, and come over to check on our house when we’re gone I’d say he’s done me two or three favors a week for the seven years we’ve lived here.

In return, he’s taken a few Tupperwares full of chili, borrowed my compressor once or twice, and had me hold tools while he worked on his pickup or his daughter’s SUV. And conversation. Most mornings when I’m home, I go out to get the paper and find him reading his sitting in his pickup truck in his driveway; we check in, say hello, and then when I roll my motorcycle out to the street he’s in the garage starting the day’s project, asking me what he can do for me.

Weekends if I’m working in my garage he’ll wander by and check to see if I need supervision. Otherwise I can listen to Limbaugh coming from the radio he keeps blaring all the time, and wander over to chat with him about politics, kids, and cooking.

He immigrated from Mexico when he was in his teens, and by the time he was 30 he had his own cabinet shop. The Century Freeway project eminent domained his shop back in the 80’s and he used the money to buy rental property and ‘retire’, which is what he’s been doing ever since I’ve known him.

Two years ago he started losing weight. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer, had surgery, and said he got better.

Apparently not.

It’s been a week of mortality. My ex-wife was hospitalized and had major surgery Tuesday. She’ll be fine, we visited her in the hospital this morning.

And Friday, as I was riding up the 101 freeway, traffic was jammed and as I worked my way to the bottleneck, I passed two CHP cars with a yellow tarp strung between them. Never a good sign.

Someone committed suicide by jumping from the bridge onto the freeway.

And that afternoon, as I rode home, the lanes had been opened and oblivious commuters were driving over the spot where he’d died.

Somehow that meant a lot to me, and means even more today.

Orpheus & Euridice – The Opera In A Pool…It Worked!!

Well, it was fookin’ amazing.

Here’s a time-lapse video showing the setup, show, and strike along with a snippet of the work.

I emailed about it:

And it was … transcendent. Orpheus is playing a clarinet floating in a Sabot the middle of a darkened pool, illuminated by a single warm spot, with the deep blue reflections of the statue/props on the other bleachers reflecting in the water around him, and as his boat moves in random arcs over the water, the music floats as well, and suddenly we were all drifting with him in longing.

The singer – Elizabeth Futral – was beautiful and had an amazing coloratura voice; slightly overmiked to make up for the cavernous space, her singing was passionate, funny, warm … and we all fell in love with her.

When it was over and the last light went down, I turned to Hunter and just said “Fuccccck….”

We got great coverage in the local press; here’s the LA Times:

NOBODY really knew if it was going to work, says Long Beach Opera artistic director Andreas Mitisek, until they actually got their Orpheus into the boat.

Only a couple of hours before, the Belmont Plaza municipal pool was clogged with frolicking swimmers, their cacophony ricocheting around its ample Greek Modern-style hall. But evenings here have recently been put to an unexpectedly sonorous use — an unorthodox staging of the new opera “Orpheus & Euridice.” And while Mitisek had been diligently envisioning it for some time, fingers remained tightly crossed until the night they first set Todd Palmer, LBO’s titular Greek, adrift.

“The first image Andreas created was of a [divine emissary] pushing Orpheus’ boat out into the water,” says composer Ricky Ian Gordon, who wrote the opera’s music and text. “Within moments, it became a hallowed space. It wasn’t a piece of music beginning or a piece of theater opening, it was a reflection of the role of mythology in our lives.”

…if you’re interested, it’s playing for two more days. Get your tickets soon; we sold out last night!

More information at the LBO site.

OK, Here’s The Funniest Thing I’ve Read Today

Via Global VoicesKabobfest:

So, someone sets up a blog about things white people like one month ago, and already it is getting more hits than our blog, which is basically about what Arabs like. It just lists anti-white stereotypes such as their supposed affinity for natural medicine (which the Arabs invented), recycling, and coed sports.

Here at KABOBfest, we have been profiling what Arabs like (hating Israel, women, and your freedom) and what we do not (Israel, women, and your freedom) for years, yet they get more hits. It’s [redacted] racist, man!!!! Damn this internet(s)!

and the authors remind us:

White people like KABOBfest. That is why they always follow us wearing suits and dark sunglasses, and in their Chevy Caprices.

In My Spare Time…

…I sit on the Board of the Long Beach Opera, a local avant-garde opera company.

This week, we’ll be premiering a staged version of Ricky Ian Gordon’s ‘Orpheus’, sung by soprano Elizabeth Futral. In a swimming pool.

Seriously…it is staged in and around the water at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach.

It’s going to be amazing.

Who: Elizabeth Futral & Todd Palmer
What: Opera by Ricky Ian Gordon, directed by Andreas Mitisek
Where: Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool, 4000 Ocean Blvd., Long Beach
When: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $45-$95

One More Reason I’m Happy I Chose Obama Over Hillary

Here’s Clinton fixer Howard Wolfson being interviewed:

Q: Your campaign often brings up this issue of whether or not Obama has been vetted, and I’m sure you saw Roger Simon’s column in Politico where he makes the argument that there will be new issues raised about Hillary Clinton as well if she is the nominee, and he brings up the issue of why she’s not releasing her tax returns. Why isn’t she releasing her tax returns?

Wolfson: Well, I understand that the Obama campaign is trying to push this issue. There is an awful lot known about Hillary Clinton’s finances. She files an annual report with the clerk of the Senate that reveals all the sources of her income, all the sources of her husband’s income. And so people know where she is getting her money, and this was raised initially when she gave the campaign a $5 million loan and questions were raised about where she got the money. Well, this is a woman who is a best-selling author. She’s made roughly $9 million from the sale of her book, so she has more than enough money to have given the campaign $5 million.

Much is known about her finances. There’s an awful lot of information disclosed by her, and if Senator Obama is actually, really interested in transparency, there are many questions — for instance, about his relationship with indicted political fixer Tony Rezko that he could answer, that he has not. What was the exact nature of his relationship with Mr. Rezko? How many fundraisers did Mr. Rezko throw for him? How much money did Mr. Rezko bundle for him? How many business meetings did Senator Obama attend that Mr. Rezko was at? What was he doing at those business meetings? What favors did Senator Obama perform for Mr. Rezko? So there’s an awful lot of information that, if Senator Obama is interested in transparency, that he could come forward and offer the American people.

I would have loved to have gotten a followup on that question…I don’t let my eleven year old throw sand like that when asked questions.

Weekend Must-Read #2

Over at Arms Control Wonk a discussion on Russia’s – surprisingly – hardening line on Iran’s weapons programs.

I suspect that the main driver, however, is the remarkable shift in U.S. politics in the aftermath of the November 2007 Iran NIE. The NIE‘s headline finding that Iran abandoned nuclear warhead and weaponization in the fall of 2003 has eliminated the possibility of U.S. military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities for the foreseeable future. This frees up Russia and other countries to toe a harder line against Iran without worrying about legitimating U.S. military action.

If this interpretation is true, it means that the litany of pundits and commentators complaining that the NIE plays right into Iran’s hands have it exactly backwards: by effectively taking U.S. military action off the table for now, the NIE makes it easier, not harder, for countries like Russia to send Iran a stronger signal about its enrichment program. After all, Russia (and China, for that matter) do not want Iran to develop the capability to deploy nuclear weapons; until the Iran NIE, however, this concern was counterbalanced by a worry that the United States might launch another war in the Middle East.

Interesting. I can see some strong counterarguments, but want to do some thinking first.

Weekend Must-Read #1

Over at Kings of War, a post about a UK study on media and Islamic radicalization. He discusses a paper by:

Nick O’Shaughnessy, Professor of Communication, Queen Mary University of London, author of Politics and Propagnda: Weapons of Mass Seduction. He presented the research he has done with colleagues Paul Baines (Cranfield University), Kevin Maloney and Barry Richards (Bournemouth University), and Sara Miller and Mark Gill (Ipsos MORI) on The British Muslim Response to Islamist Video-Polemic

and describes the paper

There is much talk and concern nowadays about the radicalization of Western Muslims which it is argued at least in part is caused by Islamist propaganda but there is not much empirical data in support (or otherwise) of this thesis. What O’Shaughnessy et al’s exploratory research suggests is that the linkage between cause (Islamist propaganda) and effect (radicalized Western Muslims) is weaker than is often thought. The truth is rather more alarming, in my view: some Western Muslims are self-radicalizing through a process of small-group socialization fed by images from the Western media which Islamist propaganda confirms and reinforces rather than initiates; meanwhile, a large number evince understanding and even sympathy for terrorist protagonists as victims, resorting to desperate measures out of frustration; and there is a growing belief in the fundamental Islamist proposition that there is a real war against Islam.

Read and discuss. The implications are kind of significant, as I see them.