Friday, June 29, 2007

96 years is a long time to fix a dumb mistake

The US Supreme Court overruled the 1907 Dr. Miles decision which had made resale price maintenance illegal. It took them long enough. The arguments about resale price maintenance are reviewed fairly well here and here.

The full decision is here. I have not had a chance to read the full decision, although I skimmed Justice Breyer's dissent, and was disappointed and a little surprised. Breyer and the three justices who signed on to his dissent (Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens) had agreed, in State Oil v. Khan [522 US 3 (1997)], to overturn the idiotic ban on maximum price fixing. Moreover, when on the DC Court, Ginsburg had signed on to Robert Bork's opinion in Rothery Storage and Van Co. v. Atlas Van Lines [792 F.2D 210 (D.C. Cir. 1986)] that put the nail in the coffin of bans on territorial restrictions. In short, these justices are not incapable of antitrust sophistication. Breyer admits that there has been a lot written about resale price maintenance, but then writes as if he is unaware of what has been written in the last quarter century. The most disappointing line I found in the dissent came here:

In doing so, they can prevent dealers from offering customers the lower prices that many customers prefer; they can prevent dealers from responding to changes in demand, say falling demand, by cutting prices; they can encourage dealers to substitute service, for price,competition, thereby threatening wastefully to attract too many resources into that portion of the industry; they can inhibit expansion by more efficient dealers whose lower prices might otherwise attract more customers, stifling the development of new, more efficient modes of retailing; and so forth.
In short, resale price maintenance might be a really bad idea for the manufacturer, and we need to protect him against his bad judgment. Sigh. I thought Breyer was smarter than this.

  posted at 07:03 AM | permalink | (0)

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Beatles, again

Norm Geras' has released the results of his Beatles poll. My unordered choices, with their ranks in Geras' results in parentheses, were:

(6) While my guitar gently weeps (Harrison, The Beatles [White Album], 1968)
(7) In my life (Lennon & McCartney, Rubber Soul, 1965)
(8) Let it be (Lennon & McCartney, Let it Be, 1970)
(10) Something (Harrison, Abbey Road, 1969)
(18) Norwegian wood (Lennon & McCartney, Rubber Soul, 1965)
I suppose my preferences are not too different from the Norm poll, except that the top pollers are A Day in the Life and Eleanor Rigby, which strike me as the Beatles at their sanctimonious worst.

  posted at 08:09 AM | permalink | (0)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Father's Day disaster

To my family, I beg you, on Father's Day, ignore the day, insist I spend it washing dishes and cutting the grass, whatever, but please, please, please, don't give me this sort of sanctimonious rot.

  posted at 11:03 AM | permalink | (0)
My son, the nurse

Tim Blair has bought himself a near infinite number of indulgences by finding online the great Mike Nichols and Elaine May routine, "My Son, the Nurse".

  posted at 10:58 AM | permalink | (0)
Relative body counts

One of the tiresome claims from the Israel haters is that far more Palestinians than Israelis have died. The body counts usually include Palestinians who were murdered by their compatriots. Now that Hamas and Fatah are trying their hardest to kill each other, how long before Israel gets blamed for these twelve deaths.

Gunmen also fought for control of high-rise buildings in Gaza City that serve as sniper positions. Six militants died in clashes near the besieged house of a senior Fatah commander in Gaza City, in addition to four killed there on Tuesday, Hamas said. Two other people died of wounds sustained in earlier fighting.

  posted at 10:43 AM | permalink | (0)
And the earth isn't flat either

A psychologist at St. Lawrence University has discovered something that will shock generations of college students.

A common practice among many college students involves "pulling all-nighters", or a single night of total sleep deprivation, a practice associated with lower grade-point averages compared to those who make time for sleep, according to a research abstract that will be presented Wednesday at SLEEP 2007, the 21st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

"Sleep in college students is generally inadequate, irregular and of poor quality. As sleep quality and quantity decrease, academic performance worsens. The data collected in this study indicate that the use of a single night of total sleep deprivation is not an effective practice for achieving academic goals," said Pamela Thacher, PhD, of St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, who authored the study.

(Link via Inside Higher Ed) I am not, by the way, trying to make fun of the paper, which I have not read (and have failed to find online). Sleep is perfectly good subject for study, and I am sure people in the field have to put up with repeated lame jokes about students only passing if they fall asleep in class, blah, blah, blah. It does, however, amuse me that there is systematic evidence for what every student knows is true, but ignores anyway.

  posted at 10:13 AM | permalink | (0)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Good riddance, Norman

I have known quite a few talented academics who lost ugly and corrupt tenure battles because they did not suck up enough, or because the tenured deadwood did not like losing students to someone who had published. And in some of those cases, with a bad job market and potential employers unsure what happened, they got driven out of academic life, at no small cost to the profession. Since my capacity for sympathy is finite, I have none left to spare for Norman Finkelstein, whose failure to get tenure at DePaul University is the most overblown stories I have seen about the academic racket. As of this posting, Google News has 170 press stories on DePaul University's decision to deny Norman Finkelstein tenure, while the more important story about the closure of Antioch University, with forty academics out of work, gets only 134. The scandal for DePaul is why they ever hired the little creep in the first place, whose career is based on pissing bigotry on Jews while proclaiming that because his parents are Holocaust survivors, he is entitled to a free pass on bigotry charges.

My favorite bit was this line from Finkelstein in Inside Higher Ed: "I'm unemployed and unemployable at 53". Yeah, right. Two options for him. One is some rich crazy like George Soros putting him up in some "We love Jews but Israelis drink the blood of gentile children and we can say that without being bigots because we said Israelis, not Jews, nah, nah" think tank. The other option is some propaganda outfit calling itself a university giving him a job. I suspect that the crowd at, say, Evergreen State are wetting their pants in anticipation of being able to bring Finkelstein on board.

UPDATE: Maybe St. Lawrence University in New York wants him. They hired this clown and let him run a propaganda session.

  posted at 05:27 AM | permalink | (0)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Zee and Zed

In the Irish Independent (registration required), Kevin Myers bemoans Americanization. After a long-winded discourse on the Sgt. Pepper album and how English it is, Myers starts moaning.

Last Saturday, BBC2 broadcast a re-recording of some 'Sergeant Pepper' tracks by modern groups, under the guidance of Geoff Emerick, who had worked on the original album.

A British band, The Magic Numbers, covered 'She's Leaving Home', but in bogus American accents, transforming Lennon's Liverpudlian 'cahn't' to a Nashville 'cain't'.

Worse still, even Geoff Emerick seems to have been unaware of the cultural vandalism of what they were all doing: in Irish terms, this was 'The Fields of Athenry' being sung by an Irish singer in an English accent.

So - is that it? Has one of the great British cultural artefacts of the 20th century been Americanised, not by Americans, but even more tragically, and more treacherously, by Britons, the BBC and by Abbey Road engineers? And did no-one even notice, care or complain?

If so, this is a historic and probably irreversible cultural shift: in which case, my term "ASP" has no meaning whatever, and 'Sergeant Pepper' now truly stands as part of the great American cultural imperium, in which abject natives obligingly complete the process of intellectual colonisation.

And if Britain today, why not Ireland tomorrow? For who here already says zee for zed?

Well, I say zee, but I don't get distressed by people who say zed. Myers is atypically overwrought here. How about a little enjoyment of diversity? Think of the childhood rhyme.
A was an Apple pie;
B bit it;
C cut it;
D dealt it;
E eat it;
F fought for it;
G got it;
H had it;
J joined it;
K kept it;
L longed for it;
M mourned for it;
N nodded at it;
O opened it;
P peeped in it;
Q quartered it;
R ran for it;
S stole it;
T took it;
V viewed it;
W wanted it;
X, Y, and Z all had a large slice,
and went off to bed.

That rhyme does not work with Z pronounced "zee". It needs "zed".

But then there is the child's alphabet song:

W, X, Y and Z.
Now I know my ABCs.
Next time won't you sing with me?

The song does not work with Z pronounced "zed". It needs "zee". And yet Irish and British children's shows say the unworkable "zed", without inducing any hysteria. Kevin Myers needs to relax a bit.

  posted at 08:28 AM | permalink | (0)
Cruel and unusual

Paris Hilton has been released from jail after serving only three days of her twenty three day sentence. My first though is that she was let go because her presence constituted cruel and unusual punishment of the other prisoners. It seems, though, that she was released to serve the rest of her sentence in house arrest. That strikes me as remarkably sensible. Outside of a car, Paris Hilton is a threat only to good taste, and there is no reason to make the taxpayer pick up the tab for a pointless jail sentence.

No sane parent with a daughter would want her picking Paris Hilton as a role model, but heck, a girl could do worse. She could pick, say, Brad DeLong. You know, the blogger and Berkeley professor who gets giddy with joy when an 80 year old man falls and hits his head, who denounces the Bush administration over the firing of US attorneys without mentioning that he happily went to work for the Clinton administration after Clinton had fired all but one US attorney, including the one investigating Bill Clinton, and who, citing American slavery, criticizes the manhood of affirmative action proponents while happily working in a department that is devoid of the descendants of any of those slaves.

Drunken twit or nasty, hypocritical Clinton stooge. Ick.

  posted at 03:49 AM | permalink | (0)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Six Day War

Debbie Schlussel rounds up a series of links on the fortieth anniversary of the Six Days War. And although normally I would not like the language, this deserves to be put up as the t-shirt I want to have, although it is apparently unavailable.


How it would offend the people who richly deserve to be offended.

  posted at 08:03 AM | permalink | (0)
Boycotting Jews

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East has organized a petition drive in response to the attempted boycott of Israel by UCU, asking academics to declare themselves Israeli academics for purposes of the boycott, and refuse to participate in any activity that excludes Israeli academics. This is the text:

We are academics, scholars, researchers and professionals of differing religious and political perspectives. We all agree that singling out Israelis for an academic boycott is wrong. To show our solidarity with our Israeli academics in this matter, we, the undersigned, hereby declare ourselves to be Israeli academics for purposes of any academic boycott. We will regard ourselves as Israeli academics and decline to participate in any activity from which Israeli academics are excluded.
You can sign the petition here, and the full list of signers is here. At the time of posting, it had 680 signatures. I was delighted to see a large number coming from British universities, and from a number of other European universities as well. There may be hope for this continent yet. There is, however, a worrying absence of academics from Ireland. So get moving, people. This country has suffered enough from bigots.

As a side note, the SPME site has a piece by Benny Avni from the New York Sun on the execrable Louise Arbour, the UN human rights commissioner.

People in "academic communities" should "examine the situation of the world and participate in airing their views" in a public forum, Ms. Arbour told The New York Sun yesterday, when asked about the ban on cooperation with Israeli academics. "Public debate, particularly coming from informed communities, is, from a human rights perspective, a good thing."

However, Ms. Arbour added, she would "neither support nor denounce" the boycott drive, and she declined to answer a question on whether academic boycotts violate the right to free speech, which is enshrined in the U.N. charter.
.        .        .

Like the British unions, the one-year-old U.N. Human Rights Council has failed to denounce human-rights violations anywhere in the world except Israel. Ms. Arbour, nevertheless, said yesterday the council, which last year replaced the discredited Human Rights Commission, was "not a failure."

I am curious. Is Arbour's little game of no comment just her way of trying to dodge publicly admitting her complete lack of credibility on this issue by screaming "I hate Jews"?

UPDATE: There is another petition against the boycott here.

  posted at 04:57 AM | permalink | (0)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Oh goody, a free pass

The problem with Catholics is that they are all child molesters. Okay, not THE problem, because they are all loyal to the pope, who as we all know is the anti-Christ.

Are you one of the unenlightened who thinks those remarks scream bigotry? Well, you are wrong. Because, you see, although I did not have any choice in the matter, I was baptized a Catholic at a very young age. And I am therefore immunized forever from the charge of anti-Catholic bigotry, no matter what I say. After all, the crowd of British academics trying to generate a boycott of Israel has argued:

The movement for boycott is in no way anti-semitic. It includes Jews and non-Jews . . .
So if a Jew cannot be anti-Semitic, then it follows that a Catholic cannot be anti-Catholic. Isn't it fun to get a free pass on bigotry?

  posted at 05:06 AM | permalink | (0)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Rock star status

Once upon a time, Jeffrey Sachs was a capable, albeit unexciting, macroeconomist. Now he is a rock star. Now, no question, being a rock star has to be a lot of fun when your alternative is being a colorless academic. (My one television appearance, I must admit, was not merely intellectually exciting, it was something of a rush.) Instead of having a bunch of dull academics listen to you in a hotel conference room, half of whom are from Podunk Valley Technical College, for god's sake, you sit in a room with movers and shakers, and then you get to mention afterwards. Or, as Sachs says in today's Guardian:

I had the chance to participate in high-level meetings between Chinese and African officials at the ADB [African Development Bank] meetings.
Granted, the Chinese kleptocracy is not exactly the same as hanging with Sachs' buddy Bono, but still, it means he gets to be a moving and shaking rock star. And is he grateful. He heaps praise on the Chinese way of doing business.
Of course, the African leaders were most appreciative of the next message: China is prepared to help Africa in substantial ways in agriculture, roads, power, health, and education. And the African leaders already know that this is not an empty boast. All over Africa, China is financing and constructing basic infrastructure. During the meeting, the Chinese leaders emphasised their readiness to support agricultural research as well. They described new high-yield rice varieties, which they are prepared to share with their African counterparts.
This is in comparison, of course, to the World Bank and the wicked, wicked, Wolfowitz.
The China Daily recently ran a front-page story recounting how Paul Wolfowitz used threats and vulgarities to pressure senior World Bank staff. The newspaper noted that Wolfowitz sounded like a character out of the mafia television show The Sopranos.
.        .        .
Unlike the Chinese, the bank has too often forgotten the most basic lessons of development, preferring to lecture the poor and force them to privatise basic infrastructure, rather than to help the poor to invest in infrastructure and other crucial sectors.
Funny thing, though. In Sach's 864 words, he had space to mention a Chinese paper's attack on Wolfowitz for using crude language, but no space mention China's role in bankrolling genocide in the Sudan. Sebastian Mallaby pointed out in February:
Last week China's leader, Hu Jintao, provided Sudan with an interest-free loan to build a presidential palace.
.        .        .
China is not financing a presidential palace by mistake; it is doing so deliberately. It is not financing just any presidential palace; it has chosen a president so odious that his fellow African leaders hold their noses at him.
No mention from Sachs about China's role in supplying Sudan with the weapons to carry out its genocide. Perhaps Sachs does not believe the reports, coming as they do from Amnesty International, that well know lackey of the Bush administration.

Perhaps Sachs is so busy being a rock star and hanging with Bono and really, really important meetings that he has not had time to notice a little Chinese assisted genocide. Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution recently remarked of Sachs that "[h]is reputation is worth a great deal to him". No doubt true, but his reputation for what, and with whom?

  posted at 04:30 AM | permalink | (0)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Al Gore bloviates

Al Gore, neo-con warrior so long as the Democrats were in the White House, says something truly breathtaking in the Guardian.

Our moral authority is our greatest source of strength.
No doubt he is right. That is why, when America had its only living saint in the White House, Jimmy Carter, the Soviets, in view of his vast saintliness, refrained from invading Afghanistan. Or something like that.

  posted at 07:28 AM | permalink | (0)
An academic boycott I can live with

Normally, I would not favor academic boycotts, but this one I can live with.

An Israeli academic and Nobel laureate has cancelled a planned visit to a London university because of what he perceives to be "a widespread anti-Israel and anti-semitic current in British opinion".

Steven Weinberg, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, had been invited to Imperial College in July to speak in honour of a Pakistani physicist, Abdus Salam, and to deliver a talk at a conference on particle physics.

Okay, so it isn't exactly a boycott, but it cheered me up on this awful election day.

  posted at 07:24 AM | permalink | (0)

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