An Aside on Iran

The Federation of American Scientists have offered a little push-back in recent days to the idea that Stuxnet bought us oodles of time for diplomacy.

Of course, if you’ve been following the Tech religiously, you might note that I already said all of this in a September article.

You know.  Just saying.

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If You Read One Thought Piece This Week…

A combination of the Mystery Hunt, EC’s Bad Ideas competition, my research, and a revival of my squash playing habit have conspired to keep me off the blog for the past ten days.  As amends, I bring to you one of the most thought-provoking pieces I’ve read this week, from the latest edition of The Atlantic.  Tim Kane (not Tim Kaine) discusses personnel policies in the U.S. military, and finds them depressingly sclerotic.  I have the suspicion that if Tim looked at personnel in our educational system, or in our federal bureaucracies, or in any of the failing state governments across America, he’d find a similar problem: our government is not a meritocracy. It advances workers on a tenure system; sit long enough in a chair, and they’ll move you to a better chair.

If there is a single issue that Republicans should tackle in this Congress, it is bringing free market principles and meritocracy into our public services.

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Anna Tang is free

As of 3:30 p.m. today, Judge Bruce R. Henry dismissed the Commonwealth’s petition to commit Anna L. Tang to a locked mental facility, and ordered Ms. Tang discharged from custody.

Her ankle bracelet will be removed this afternoon, and her movements will no longer be restricted.

She is still under psychiatric care, having by all accounts improved dramatically since the Oct. 2007 incident where she, then a Wellesley student, stabbed Wolfe B. Styke, now a graduate student at MIT.

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Senator Scott Brown will visit MIT tomorrow

Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown will tour MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies with President Susan J. Hockfield tomorrow. After the tour, Analog Devices Chairman Ray Stata and Massachusetts High Tech Council President Chris Anderson will join them to discuss Brown’s legislative proposal to boost Massachusetts jobs.

His proposal is “targeted toward empowering businesses, reducing regulation, and helping companies put people back to work in the Commonwealth.”

Brown was elected in January 2010 to fill the seat of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. He defeated Democratic candidate and state Attorney General Martha Coakley.

For more information about Brown’s proposed legislation, visit

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Anna Tang still in limbo

At 2 p.m. today in Middlesex Superior Court, the defense and prosecution continued to spar over Anna L. Tang, the former Wellesley college student who stabbed MIT student Wolfe B. Styke ’10 in October of 2007. Tang was found not guilty by reason of mental illness in December of last year.

At issue was whether Tang should be committed to a mental institution, or could be allowed to resume her life. Tang is currently confined to her home, with exceptions for church, doctor’s appointments, and exercise.

The judge indicated he had hoped to rule today, but had not had time to review the lengthy treatment plan filed.

The next court date is tentatively set for February 9, but that date is expected to move because of scheduling constraints.

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I Scream!

There’s a new made-to-order ice cream machine in La Verde’s.  $3 for a scoop of fresh ice cream, plus some toppings. In just 40 seconds! Have you tried it?


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Olbermann is Out… Will Other Hyperpartisans Follow?

John Avlon at DailyBeast has an interesting thesis, which is that Olbermann’s departure from MSNBC marks the beginning of the end for several rancorous partisans, including Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and presumably many others (my list includes Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, Ed Schultz, Dylan Ratigan, Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity).

I’m skeptical.  When I look at the landscape of cable news opinion, I see few islands of hope among a sea of reflexive partisanship.  On MSNBC, Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough are fairly reasonable, Fox News has an occasional strong host (my favorite, Brit Hume, departed), and CNN hits a sweet spot on Sundays with Fareed Zakaria (KPR: +2.7) and Howard Kurtz.  But that’s pretty much it.  John Avlon may think Team Centrist has the big mo, but we’ve got to face up to facts: the blowhards are still running up the score against us.  The time slot that Olbermann has opened up is likely to go to Cenk Ugyur, a long-time YouTube crank.  Meanwhile, CNN has visited Parker/Spitzer and Piers Morgan upon us, and Fox continues to hand its soapbox to seemingly every failed Republican presidential candidate it can find.

I’d like to believe that Avlon is right, but I’m not holding my breath.

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Next UMass president will not be Clay

Towson University President Robert L. Caret was named the president of the University of Massachusetts this evening by its Board of Trustees. MIT Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75, who will be stepping down as Chancellor this spring, was one of three finalists selected by UMass’s Presidential Search Committee.

For more information, see the UMass Press Release.

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Tuscon Roundup

For those of you interested in reading more than two articles on the Loughner-Giffords shooting, here you go, ranked roughly in order from articles I like the most to articles I like the least:

  1. Jacob Sullum at Reason says not to give up essential liberty amid hysteria.
  2. Jack Shafer at Slate offers his defense of impassioned rhetoric.
  3. Gene Healy at the Washington Examiner looks at the response from politicians and finds it gravely wanting.
  4. Harsanyi (KPR +1.6) at the Denver Post says the left-wing calls for civil discourse are an attempt at quashing libertarian ideology.
  5. Peter Wehner at Commentary points out that you can either politicize the death of a 9-year old girl or un-hypocritically bemoan the breakdown of civil discourse, but you can’t do both at once.
  6. Steve Kornacki at Salon thanks the American people for not yielding to the idea that Loughner and Palin are linked.
  7. Megan McArdle (KPR +2.3) says there is simply nothing to be learned from some tragedies.
  8. George Will (KPR +1.0) at WashPo makes the case that progressives are particularly prone to politicizing tragedy.
  9. Josh Kraushaar at National Journal says the media’s response to the shooting has been abominable, but that of politicians has been on the level.
  10. Michael Moynihan at Reason picks apart the pundits who used the shooting to advance political points on “eliminationist rhetoric.”
  11. Chait (KPR +0.4) at The New Republic argues that including Loughner in the case against eliminationist rhetoric will critically weaken the message.
  12. Andrew Malcolm at the L.A. Times takes Sheriff Dupnik to task.
  13. Brooks (KPR +0.3) at the NYT discusses the insanity of Jared Lee Loughner and the irrationality of using him to advance a political agenda.
  14. Jeffrey Birnbaum at the Washington Times says federal protection of congressmen is unnecessary and cost-prohibitive.
  15. K-Hammer (KPR +0.3) at WashPo gives the safe conservative position.
  16. Howard Kurtz at the Daily Beast bemoans the blame game.
  17. Pat Buchannan at RCP says the left has a long history of using tragedies to fuel smear campaigns like those against Sarah Palin.
  18. James Fallows at the Atlantic free-associates on the nature of political shootings.
  19. Dahlia Lithwick at Slate says we need to reform our mental health policies.
  20. Debra Saunders at the San Francisco Chronicle says we need to stop politicizing tragedies like Tuscon.
  21. David Corn at Politics Daily says he doesn’t think the shooting has anything to do with politics, but wants to set the record straight that Republicans are more vitriolic than Democrats.
  22. Joe Scarborough at Politico manages to hold two conflicting ideas in his head at once: that we have no idea what motivated the shooting, and that right wing hate speech is to blame.
  23. Jacob Weisberg at Slate lays out the typical liberal case.
  24. Bob Herbert (KPR: -3.0) blames society! and guns! and the culture! and so on, saying we need to change everything.
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Blizzard triggers falling branches on campus, one woman injured

A 23-year old woman, unaffiliated with MIT, walking along Main Street was struck on the back of her neck and pinned by a falling branch at the corner of Main Street and Vassar Street around 3:50 p.m. today. According to Lieutenant Kenneth J. Albert of East Cambridge Fire Department’s Engine 3, she never lost consciousness.

A woman was struck by a tree branch while wallking along Main Street just before 4 p.m. on Wednesday, January 12.

“She was pretty banged up,” said Albert.

She was taken on a backboard to Massachusetts General Hospital by the MIT Ambulance around 4:10 p.m.

Earlier, a large branch of a tree between the east parallel of East Campus and the Saxon Tennis Courts fell towards the east at 1:30 p.m. today, most likely due to the blizzard conditions. Seven students were in the vicinity, but no students were hurt in the incident.

Several other tree branches are down around campus, including one on the sidewalk outside of Burton Conner. Also, a glass globe on top of a lamppost near the southwest corner of the west parallel of East Campus fell and broke.

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