Random thoughts of a random mind

Too much business! Aargh. But there are things out there that interest me, so I’ll throw them your way, and try to get in with more substance later.

If you’re going to play with the big boys, you have to play like a boy. I find it worrisome that, the moment the going gets tough, Hillary starts squealing about identity politics unfairness. Is this how she’s going to deal with it when Putin, or Kim Jong-Il, or Sarkozy, or any male leader criticizes her? I therefore much appreciated Peggy Noonan’s article comparing Maggie Thatcher to Hillary (and loved the anecdote with which she opened the column). It seems to me that, while I’m lukewarm about Noonan’s writing generally, I “get her” when she writes about Hillary. Of course, when Noonan jumped the shark and started swooning over Obama at the article’s end, I lost her, but I still give her credit for understanding Hillary.

Speaking of Obama, Dean Barnett has one of the most interesting articles I’ve seen about the man, since it manages to recognize his undoubted charm and intelligence, while still having serious doubts about his leadership abilities — abilities that he’s never had to prove in the real world. As for me, nothing impresses me less than a Harvard Law degree. This is not merely the knee jerk reaction of someone educated at public universities when confronted with someone from the Ivies. Nope. This is a specific Harvard animus, based on 20 years of practicing law. What I’ve seen is that Harvard law grads from the 70s and before are as good as any other lawyers. Harvard grads from the 80s and after are, generally speaking, not. The ones I’ve known (and this is just my personal experience speaking here) have been, in a word, ineffectual. Yale grads, on the other hand, consistently overawe me, being some of the most incisive legal thinkers I come across. This means that, applying my own personal biases and experiences about Harvard grads, I’m perfectly willing to concede Barnett’s analysis: Obama is intelligent, but impractical and ineffectual.

(To any Harvard law grads who are reading this, my apologies if I’ve offended you. As I reiterated above, I can only talk about the Harvard grads I’ve known, and by sheer bad luck, I may just have run across Harvard grads who weren’t very good lawyers, and wouldn’t have been very good no matter their law school. In any event, Harvard grads have the deck stacked against them from the get-go, because my medium long experience has has taught me that, while grads from the top 20 law schools — and my law school was in those ranks the year I graduated — write very well, and can analyze things to death, they tend to be less effective lawyers than lawyers from the less high and mighty institutions. These differences tend to even out within 5 or 10 years of graduation, but are pretty apparent in the beginning. We write well, but we lack the smarts and practical skills to win cases!)

As you may know, there’s been a big oil spill in the San Francisco Bay, fouling beaches and putting wildlife at risk. The spill left me with a question, and I wonder if any of you have an answer. It’s been a fairly long time since the last oil spill in America (something I assume can be attributed to better built oil tankers). That means a lot of years have passed since the last big spills, especially the Exxon Valdez. What I’d like to know is how the wildlife has (or if it has) recovered since those spills. Do the spills create toxic nightmares going into the next millennium, or at least the next century, or does nature repair herself fairly quickly? I have no knowledge at all about this; just the question. I do have one article that says that, after a horrible oil spill in the Bay in 1971, it took 5 years for the wildlife to recover. Incidentally, I’m asking this question because, while I’m stridently in favor of preventing spills, it’s nice to know that nature is resilient should one happen. (Here’s a heartrending picture of one of those poor birds mired in toxic goop.)

One more thing: I’ve been hearing a lot of Gilligan’s Island in the car lately, ’cause that’s the video du jour (or make that the video du week) in the car for the endless carpooling. I’d forgotten what a stupid show it is, but the kids love it, as I did when I was a kid. One of the moments that sticks in my head, because I have to listen to all this, is Gilligan auditing a debate amongst the other castaways. At the end of each argument, he sagely opines, “You know, he’s right.” Eventually, Skipper turns on him and insists “Gilligan, they can’t all be right,” to which Gilligan, of course, replies “You know, you’re right too.”

I mention this anecdote because I felt exactly like Gilligan when I read Commentary Magazine’s symposium about the war in which we currently find ourselves engaged. Although the contributors sometimes contradict each other, I find myself in agreement with each of them, on both major points and minor nuances. I guess I can do this because their unifying theme is that there is as clash of cultures going on here, with Islamists on the one side and the West on the other side. Each contributor takes that issue seriously, and by not dismissing it, comes up with reasoned, rational arguments and insights with which I agree.

And that’s it this morning from the great randomizer in my brain.

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  • Ellie

    It’s interesting that you find Havard law grads ineffective. I’ve found the same is true of their MBAs. I once heard a CEO gripe of the typical Harvard MBA : “they couldn’t organize a three-car funeral!”

  • Ophiuchus

    The environmental effects of oil spills have been heavily researched. There is wide agreement that the most spectacular effects are short term. Birds are particularly hard-hit, but the bird populations rebound within five or ten years because birds are highly mobile and they have a rapid reproduction rate. In general, environments are not badly damaged if you go in and wipe out a bunch of critters — the unaffected neighbors move in and repopulate. Of course, there can be severe short-term damage to fisheries and other industries affected by the spill.

    For the longer term, the effects can stretch out for decades as the system clears out the oil. Fortunately, oil is biodegradable, so if you give the ecosystem enough time, it will clean itself up. Moreover, these long-term effects show up as reduced population densities, not mass biosphere destruction. Nevertheless, the magnitude of the long-term effects remains controversial.

  • http://soccerdad.baltiblogs.com soccer dad

    Yes it’s a silly show. (You’re right too, is an old Jewish joke.)
    Still I find it interesting that they did an episode based on the Most Dangerous Game (Get Smart did too, and recently Criminal Minds did a variation.)

    Whereas in the short story (which I read) and the movie (that I didn’t see) the hero’s name is Kincaid; in Gilligan’s Island the hunter’s name is Kincaid.

  • Allen L.

    A sound ecosystem can recover in as quickly as 2 to 5 years. A stressed system may take much longer. It also is determined by where the spill occurs.

    Just as an aside. The largest source of oil in the coastal regions comes from on shore sources. Something like 40%. People need to make sure to dispose of used oil properly, and that businesses they frequent do to.

  • Mark Loegering

    Bookworm,
    Whenever I hear opposition to more oil drilling based on environmental concerns, I can’t help wonder what happened to all the oil on ships sunk during World War II, both in the middle of the oceans and in harbors. Much of it sank to the bottom to be consumed by bacteria, much evaporated and much burned. There doesn’t seem to be any lasting effect.
    Also, technology has advanced to such a degree that even two devastating hurricane seasons in a row in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in no significant spills despite the damage to and destruction of hundreds of offshore rigs. The worst damage since the Santa Barbara spill seems to have been ships breaking up or getting holed and leaking fuel or crude into the water. If San Francisco Bay can survive the loss of water to Southern California, it can certainly handle a spill from one ship.
    Mark

  • Al

    Hi BW,
    My father graduated both Harvard College and Law, in the 1930s. In the 1980s he began noticing that the products of his beloved Cambridge were not making the cut.
    As far as MBAs are concerned, when I was working on mine, I ran across an interesting study. Harvard MBAs were hired at higher salaries upon graduation than graduates of other MBA programs. Five years after graduation, they were all making the same.
    Al

  • expat

    Since this is a random thoughts post, I hope it’s OK to go OT. Your friend Naomi Wolf gave an interview to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung elaborating on the themes from “The End of America.” She talked about reading Goebbels on tactics for taking over a country. One was to get rid of civil servants and replace them wih loyal followers. She then goes to the attorney firings by Bush and says that the NYT didn’t followup on the Harriet Meiers memo questioning whetther all federal prosecuters should be fired. Obviously the interviewer didn’t know enought to as an intelligent question, so this “information” will become part of the common knowlege of Germans, most of whom couldn’t begin to tell you how their own prosecutorsand judges are selected to say nothing of the arcane justice system of the EU. The message is out: America is just as bad as Nazi Germany.

    I thought you might like to know what she has been up to.

  • Ellie

    Another random thought: have you noticed how all the Bastions of Liberalism (NPR, NYT, NARAL etc) are “piling on” Hilliary? What’s up with THAT?

  • Danny Lemieux

    Ellie…they like Obama and, I suspect, are a little bit afraid of Hillary’s demonstrated heavy-handedness with the media. Just a hunch, though.

  • Ellie

    My own thought (as a confessed moderate) is that they sense Hill — like Bill — is a moderate and that is seen as a huge problem with the Libs.

    As a moderate, I am thoroughly disgusted by the pro-lifers who do indeed seem to be saying I will support you if you support me, otherwise I am saying home.

    The “Republican” brand is in trouble. It IS a 3-legged stool — fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and libertarians. If the social conservatives (did I say I also have no problem with gays?) take a hike, so will I.

    No, I won’t vote for Hill and I won’t stay home. I will vote Liberatrian — most likely Ron Paul!