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Showing posts from July, 2015

Block Island Fishing

In addition to listing the sort of events I mentioned yesterday, the Block Island newspaper also includes a regular fishing column, by Capt Chris Willi and Hank Hewitt, On July 18th, this column included an item on the lure of the week.

A client of Capt. Chris "hook into an Atlantic bonito, not a rarity, but definitely a little early in the summer for them to be around" using something known as the Hurley's sand eel lure, "made up of a soft rubbery plastic and ... impregnated with sand eel oil for scent."

I quote this so that I will, in this blog, employ the tag "sand eel oil" at least once.

Block Island Events

I'm looking (not for any good reason) at THE BLOCK ISLAND TIMES for July 18th, 2015. Block Island, as many of my readers surely know, is a summer tourist haven off the southern coast of Rhode Island, with wonderful beaches and fishing, and some fascinating Native history/archaeology.

Because I'm feeling lazy, I'll let you know what events there were advertised in the newspaper above referenced.

A four week discussion series is underway there of a new theological work entitled DID GOD KILL JESUS? SEARCHING FOR LOVE IN HISTORY'S MOIST FAMOUS EXECUTION by Tony Jones. The book is to be discussed every Thursday beginning with July 18th at Harbor Church.

Also, there was an opening reception at the Spring Street Gallery showing the work of Kate Bird. I've included a photo of that artist here.

There is a summer concert series underway, featuring such musicians as Martin Soderberg, vocalist Megan Bisceglia, singer/songwriter Kevin Briody, and pianist/cellist Jonathan Torto…

A New Plagiarism scandal

The always-unpleasant spotlight on public exposure of plagiarism falls now on Matthew Whitaker, formerly a professor at Arizona State University. No, that isn't Whitaker pictured here. That's Sherman Helmsley as George Jefferson. More on Jefferson in a bit.

An anonymous blogger, one with a laser-like focus on the issue of plagiarism, brought the matter of the plagiarized passages in a book 'authored' by Whitaker to the public's attention and, now that Whitaker has been demoted from full professor to associate professor, that blogger is taking a bow.

One neat twist on this case: Whitaker had parlayed his academic prominence into a role with the City of Phoenix, AZ. He was supposed to help train that city's police officers to be culturally sensitive as they do their jobs. That con

President Trump? Please

Donald Trump can't even run a profitable casino. The itch to gamble may be the most powerful known addiction, and in cities where casinos are allowed, there is no such thing as the free entry of potential competitors: the established players have their safe niche. An inability to make a profit in this circumstances should be, well ... suspicious as to one's chief-executive cred.

Yet Trump's Atlantic City casinos filed for bankruptcy protection twice.

A very perceptive observer of the financial scene, Gary Weiss, has explained some of the background:

He sold junk bonds to finance his casinos and, by 1991, was so overleveraged that he was seeing his empire stripped by the banks. "Already more than $3.8 billion in the hole and sliding perilously close to a mammoth personal bankruptcy, the brash New York developer had no choice but to accept the dismantling of his vast holdings," Time magazine reported. Leave it to Trump to fail in a business that became a money ma…

Mark Faille, R.I.P.

The world recently lost my younger brother (younger by a mere 13 months), Mark Henry Faille.

The manner of his death was shocking to some of us, but is not something into which I wish to go here. This blog is not for gossip, or even for intensely personal reactions to family events. It consists chiefly of my reflections on the universe at large. 
I was honored by the decision of Mark's widow that I deliver the eulogy at the service. I discussed there, and so in effect I discussed with family and friends, some philosophical considerations tangential to Mark's death. 
Adapting a bit the words of the Desiderata, I'll say only here that I spoke my truth quietly and clearly, conscious that others may well think my words dull and ignorant, but hoping that they will see a story worthy of their attention there nonetheless. 
Mark was extraordinary in his combination of skills, his lack of ambition in connection with any of these skills, and his utter lack of affectations of any so…

Gustav Fechner

Random quotation:


On a certain sunny spring morning I went out to walk. The fields were green, the birds sang, the dew glistened, the smoke was rising,here and there a man appeared : a light as of transfiguration lay on all things. It was only a little bit of the earth; it wasonly one moment of her existence, and yet as my look embracedher more and more it seemed to me not only so beautiful an idea, but so clear and true a fact, that she is an angel, an angel so rich and fresh and flower-like, and yet going her round in the skies so firmly and so at one with herself, turning her whole living face to Heaven, and carrying me along with her into that Heaven, that I asked myself how the opinions of men could ever have so spun themselves away from life so far as to deem the earth only a dry clod, and to seek for angels above it or about it in the emptiness of the sky, -- only to find them nowhere … :

Social Contract Theory

"Why should I obey the laws?"

"Because you'll be punished if you don't."

"Assume for the moment that I expect to get away with a particular violation. Or that the odds are fairly good and I am willing to run the risk of capture. Should I obey the law anyway? And, if so, why?"

"You should obey the law, because in doing so you abide by the social contract."

"Show me that contract and my signature thereon."

"If your signature were on it, it would be a contract without adjective. The social contract is only implicit."

"From what is it implied?"

"From the fact that you use the roads."

"Roads could be privately constructed and run."

"Yes, but they usually aren't, and you use them."

"So a government deserves my allegiance because it can create and in fact monopolize certain necessary avenues of transportation and because I am so unfortunate as to use them? I'm not sure…

Grace Under Pressure

I often see Ernest Hemingway quoted for a definition of courage, or "guts," as "grace under pressure." Too lazy to research the specific source, I asked Yahoo!Answers, and received the following.

Hemingway used it in a profile piece written by Dorothy Parker. 

Parker asked Hemingway: "Exactly what do you mean by 'guts'?" Hemingway replied: "I mean, grace under pressure."

The profile is titled, "The Artist's Reward" and it appeared in The New Yorker on November 30, 1929. 

The first published use of the phrase, however, was in an April 20, 1926 letter Hemingway wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald. The letter is reprinted in Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917-1961 edited by Carlos Baker, pages 199-201.

Thank you, Yahoo!

Latest on the I-91 Viaduct

Last year at about this time I wrote about the prospect of disruptive repairs to a stretch of the highway I-91 as it passes through Springfield, MA, just a short ways north of the border of the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut. This is a vital piece of infrastructure in my neck of the woods, so I'd like to keep readers of this blog up to date on it.

On June 25th, the Mass. Department of Transportation hosted a hearing on the project updating the community of those who drive there regularly, warning said community that preliminary construction work will begin any day now. J.F. White Contracting Co., of Framingham, won the bid and will serve as general contractor for the expected three year duration of the work.

The MassDOT is funding 20% of this work, the Federal Highway Administration will pick up the rest of the tab.

Finally, the project has become enmeshed over the last year with another timetable: that of casino construction. In the fullness of time, it has been decreed…

What's Up With Bernie Sanders?

Is Senator Sanders actually on to something, or is his campaign, and the fire it seems to be catching at the moment, just a transitory phenomenon?

I don't see Sanders becoming President, nor do I see him becoming the next nominee of the Democratic Party. But he does seem to have become a vehicle for something important, for the dissatisfaction with the Clinton machine that has built up within that party.

Faced with the notion of Secretary Clinton's inevitability as the nominee, many turned first to Senator Warren. She declined to serve as a vessel, and they have turned now to Bernie.

How far will the rebellion go? I don't know, but it could make matters interesting from a poli-sci point of view.

Six Names Behind the Oil Glut

If you wanted to write the recent history of global oil markets, and you wanted to take a Carlylean (or Jamesian) view thereof, who are the outstanding individuals on whose work you might focus?

Working from a recent WSJ feature, here are six:

Nikolay Buynov: Russian entrepreneur

Mohammad al-Sabban: Saudi economist/consultant

Gary C. Evans: US/Texas based CEO

Yin Shenping: China, entrepreneur on the oil/IT interface

Scott Saxberg: Canadian CEO involved in oil sands

Adnan al-Janabi: Business & political figure in post-war Iraq.

Because I'm feeling lazy, I'll leave you with the list, and a photo of Janabi, above. He's the one on the right.

Concluding a discussion of the Supreme Court's term

What else may be said about the Supreme Court term newly concluded? From the two Big Ones near the end and from the wailing that has followed them, some might infer that we now have a "liberal" court (meaning one that is at least somewhat to the left of the center of the US political spectrum, whatever exactly that in turn means). But that would be a superficial reading. This is after all almost the same configuration of justices that decided CITIZENS UNITED (2010). [Though Kagan has arrived and Stevens has departed since then.]

Looking at the three cases with which I began this discussion, last Saturday, it isn't obvious what chalk marks one would make on a left/right score board anyway. The energy-policy preemption case was a federal-state matter. Phrases such as "state's rights" are more part of the lexicon of the right than of the left. But in this case, it was Scalia who wrote the dissent, and who thus took the broader view of federal responsibility. …

Continuing a discussion of the Supreme Court's term

So now for the two Big Ones.

1) The Supreme Court's third big Obamacare case came down this June.

The Court's response to the first Obamacare challenge, you will remember, the NFIB decision of 2012, upheld the health-insurance mandate against the charge that it did not come within any one of the federal government's "enumerated" powers under the constitution. The decision, in the law's favor, held that it didn't come within the meaning of "commerce among the states" but that this doesn't matter all that much because it did come within the meaning of the taxing power. This vote came down 5 to 4.

The second challenge involved religious objections to the provision of certain types of health insurance. The opponents of the law won that one at the high court, 5 to 4, carving out a religion-based exception to the scope of the employer mandate. The winning bloc of five consisted of Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas. This left Gi…

Beginning a discussion of the Supreme Court's term

Another term of the U.S. Supreme Court has come and gone. This year, the one case that is THE ONE, destined for the history books, not just the law books, is clearly ... well, there are at least two, and they were both decided very near the end of the term. The court addressed the latest challenge to a pillar of Obamacare, and it offered constitutional protection to the institution of marriage between homosexuals. 

I'll discuss each of those opinions in the second part of this three-part review. Today, I'll say a few words about each of three second-tier decisions, so to speak.  In increasing order of importance as I quite subjectively determine that, I've decided to include here Oneok v.Learjet (on preemption in the US energy markets); Brumfield v. Cain (on the death penalty and the mentally handicapped); Zivotofsky v. Kerry (separation of powers and recognition of the boundaries of foreign countries). They each raise questions foundational enough to make this an appropria…