Political Animal


CELL PHONE UPDATE….Hey, New York City has banned cell phone use at “public performances, including plays, movies and concerts, and in galleries and museums.” Is this sort of trivial? Is it unenforcable? Maybe even a little silly?

Sure, but good for them anyway. Even if it’s just a PR effort, it’s about time someone stood up and officially told these all-too-numerous yo-yos that in the adult world there’s a time and a place for everything. Movie theaters and cell phones just don’t mix.

And in other cell phone news, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is moving out of his house because his cell phone doesn’t work there. Really.

IT’S FILIBUSTER TIME!….Jay Caruso thinks

IT’S FILIBUSTER TIME!….Jay Caruso thinks that “Democrats are going to shoot themselves in the foot by filibustering the nomination of Miguel Estrada.”

I think not, Jay. The Democrats have finally learned that compromising with George W. Bush gets them nothing. Bush plays an unusually mean game of hardball, and even if you work with him, even if you refrain from harsh criticism of him, even if you vote for his programs ? even then, he is a partisan animal who does everything in his power to screw you and backs down only in the face of overwhelming force. The 2002 elections removed any lingering doubts on that score.

But hey, that’s OK! Just don’t go complaining when the Dems finally figure it out and decide to play hardball back. Estrada himself is probably not all that important, but the fact that the Senate Democrats have finally developed some backbone is.

So sit back and enjoy the ride. But fasten your seat belt, because it might start to get a little bumpy.

ADVISE AND CONSENT….Matt Yglesias points

ADVISE AND CONSENT….Matt Yglesias points to a document from Pat Leahy’s office that lays out the raw number of judicial confirmations by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here’s a good excerpt, simple enough even for Rush Limbaugh to understand:


Republican Control, 1995-2000:

1995: 56 confirmed (45 district, 11 circuit)
1996: 17 (17 district, 0 circuit)
1997: 36 (29 district, 7 circuit)
1998: 64 (51 district, 13 circuit)
1999: 33 (26 district, 7 circuit)
2000: 39 (31 district, 8 circuit)

Democratic Control: (half of 2001, all of 2002)

2001 (July-Dec.): 28 (23 district, 5 circuit)
2002: 72 (60 district, 12 circuit)

Yep, those Democrats sure were obstructionist, weren’t they?

And of course, let’s not forget all that principled conservative fiddling around with the blue slip process, either….

C.P. SNOW LIVES!….Ah, memories….. Jeanne

C.P. SNOW LIVES!….Ah, memories…..

Jeanne d’Arc links today to a Los Angeles Times feature story about the dreaded humanities requirement at Caltech, ground zero for geekdom here in sunny Southern California. As you can see from the fine sample of student journalism reproduced at the right, the Humanities Division (no “colleges” at Caltech!) has long occupied a sort of no man’s land at Caltech, striving for respect but, as I wrote 26 years ago, always in fear that it will be reduced to “that most dreaded of entities: the service department.”

Now, I never minded the humanities requirement myself, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who reads the copious output of this blog, but even back in 1977, when the male-female ratio was more like 10:1 (the Times says it’s now about 2:1, which is actually pretty impressive progress) I don’t recall that it was the subject of all that much complaining. That “20%” number the Times mentions amounts to a requirement that you take one humanities class per term, which most of us thought was not really all that onerous.

As Jeanne notes, her interest in this subject was piqued by a “dumb post insulting engineers” from last September. It wasn’t dumb, in fact, but it was the post that first got me reading her blog and I wrote her an email agreeing that “An awful lot of engineers think that the hyper-rationality that works in science can also solve problems outside of science.”

However, I then immediately took her to task for one-sidedness, and I stand by that. Grumble though they might, most Caltech students recognize the value of humanities classes, but the same cannot be said for their opposite numbers. In fact, I’d venture to say that most English Lit majors, for example, take the bare minimum number of math and science classes mandated by their university’s breadth requirements ? usually not more than two or three “physics for poets” style classes ? and never set foot in a technically oriented class again. In an increasingly technical world, I think this is every bit as myopic and misguided as a belief that iambic pentameter is “useless” and therefore not worth studying.

Of course, we’re not exactly breaking new ground with this discussion. After all, 1959 was 44 years ago, and how many of you reading this can describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Better get cracking!

POSTSCRIPT: And for those interested in geek terminology, a quick lesson:

  • As mentioned already, there are no “colleges” at Caltech, just “divisions.”

  • No “dorms” either; they’re called “houses.” I was in Ruddock House (i.e., I was a “Rudd”).

  • The salisbury steak patties served in the cafeteria are called “hockey pucks.”

  • The famous Caltech pranks are called “RFs,” short for “room fuck.” The LA Times is too sensitive to tell you stuff like that.

  • It’s “Caltech,” not “Cal Tech.”

  • As the Times correctly notes, students refer to themselves at “Techers,” not “Techies.”

UPDATE: On the other hand, Chad Orzel reminds us that there’s also “Poetry for Physicists”….