Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | June 14, 2013

Friday Links: Bears, Paul Revere, Metadata, and so on

Lexington Concord Siege of Boston

1. Using metadata to find Paul Revere.

2. Dana Stevens at Slate reviews Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Note that many regulars from Whedon shows like Buffy and Firefly are members of the cast — including Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Nathan Fillion, and Sean Maher.

3. A 73-year-old Japanese artist, Tatsuo Horiuchi, creates some pretty outstanding pictures in Excel. (H/T: Marginal Revolution.)

4. Why does Dante’s Divine Comedy endure? “You’d think that a fourteenth-century allegorical poem on sin and redemption, written in a medieval Italian vernacular and in accord with the Scholastic theology of that period, would have been turned over, long ago, to the scholars in the back carrels. But no. By my count there have been something like a hundred English-language translations, and not just by scholars but by blue-chip poets: in the past half century, John Ciardi, Allen Mandelbaum, Robert Pinsky, W. S. Merwin. Liszt and Tchaikovsky have composed music about the poem; Chaucer, Balzac, and Borges have written about it. In other words, the Divine Comedy is more than a text that professors feel has to be brushed up periodically for students. It’s one of the reasons there are professors and students.” (H/T: 3 Quarks Daily.)

5. “The Life Cycle of the Grad School Graduate’s job hunt for something in the mental health field.”

6. Bear Species in Order of Quality. (H/T: Althouse.)

Polar bear female with young cubs ursus maritimus

7. Professor Bainbridge looks at a Wall Street Journal article that reports a trend of declining entrepreneurialism — “Americans start fewer businesses and are less inclined to change jobs or move for new opportunities.” He then comments:

Personally, I think the trend has other causes. First, the dearth of US citizens pursuing careers in science and engineering. Second, the impact of law and regulation.

In my essay, Corporate Governance and U.S. Capital Market Competitiveness, I discuss how “the massive growth in corporate and securities litigation risk and the increasing complexity and cost of the U.S. regulatory scheme” adversely affected risk taking in the capital markets. Instead of choosing to go public via an IPO, start ups took the safer route of merging with established companies. This reduced both the cash and psychic rewards to entrepreneurship, which inevitably had a negative impact on the volume of entreprenurial activity.

8. More on Scalia and Constitutional interpretation: here and here.

9. Via Duck of Minerva: Ten Reasons Not To Write Your Master’s Thesis on Sexual Violence in War. (Some material at the link may be NSFW.)

10. To understand terrorism and threat assessment, Freddie deBoer recommends looking at the case of Aum Shinrikyo, “the cult responsible for the terrible sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.” A small taste: “In the years following the subway attack in 1995, Japan did not live in a post-Aum world. They did not allow their day-to-day lives to be defined by those attacks.” Compare with this: “London kept the dance halls open during the Blitz, but Boston shut Fenway because of a pipe bomb.”

11. On the general subject of Edward Snowden and the NSA, Ethan Gach at the League has a thorough take-down of a New Yorker column by Jeffrey Toobin (“the worst kind of concern-trolling”) and a New York Times column by David Brooks. Also at the League, Jason Kuznicki has this rebuttal to Richard Cohen.

The Brooks column in particular has received a lot of attention — almost all of it duly negative. Core Robin has a response (“David Brooks: the last Stalinist”). Jacob Bacharach has this response.

This blogger has a post looking at the story from a legal perspective. (H/T: Ethan Gach, who says, “I don’t agree with the entire take, but it’s measured and hits all of the basic issues.” Ditto.)

Daniel Nexon at Duck of Minerva has some disparate thoughts and a short roundup of links on this subject. Dan Drezner has this post.

Jack Shafer at Reuters has a good take on the selective outrage of the national politicians and establishment pundits: “keep in mind that Snowden’s leak has more in common with the standard Washington leak than should make the likes of Brooks, Simon and Cohen comfortable. … he’s only done in the macro what the national security establishment does in the micro every day of the week to manage, manipulate and influence ongoing policy debates.” And Ron Fournier has this excellent piece in the National Journal (H/T: Prof. Drezner), which includes this bit:

Elites in the White House, Congress, and the national security media need to stop whispering to (and covering for) each other. Tell us what our government is doing, and why.

The response is predictable: Don’t be naive! Discussing secret national security programs will tip off the terrorists and make the United States vulnerable!

I don’t buy it. There must be a way to shed a modicum of light on how far Presidents Bush and Obama stretched the Patriot Act. Surely, it’s possible to start an open and honest conversation about drone warfare, domestic surveillance, and big data in general terms that don’t expose cherished “sources and methods.”

How do I know this? Because it’s done all the time, usually when transparency suits a White House’s political agenda. The Bush administration declassified (bad) intelligence about Iraq to sell the war to a skeptical public. The Obama White House opened intelligence files on the assassination of Osama bin Laden to promote the president’s reelection bid.

And there is this Orwellian habit: Virtually every unauthorized leak, including the most recent ones about the prying eyes and ears at the National Security Agency, is followed by the release of classified information (an authorized leak) that supports the administration’s case against leaks.

Most Americans want to give the president the benefit of the doubt on national security. They want to believe their elected representatives are fully briefed, as Obama dubiously claims, and committed to intensive oversight. They’d like the media to be a backstop against abuse.

But these institutions keep failing Americans. Why should we trust them?

They do not deserve the benefit of the doubt.

See also this post by Megan McArdle. (“We may well end up grateful to Edward Snowden, and also find that we don’t like him very much.”) Also this and this from Professor Bainbridge.

And this.

12. Sales of George Orwell’s 1984 apparently have skyrocketed in the wake of the NSA news, according to NBC.

Image Credit: (1) 1775 Map of the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Siege of Boston. Source: Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.
(2) Photo of mother Polar Bear and her cubs by Susanne Miller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Source: Wikimedia Commons.



  1. Glad the news is positive about the Whedon flick – it’s the only movie I’ve been waiting to see this summer that doesn’t have spaceships or superheroes in it.

    • doesn’t have spaceships or superheroes in it

      Which, given that this is Whedon, is a bit surprising. 🙂

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