Quick Roundup 249

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Yesterday was Petrov Day. How did you celebrate?

Noumenal Self
links to a blog posting about a narrowly-avoided catastrophe from the Cold War Era and the man who averted it.

On September 26th, 1983, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov was the officer on duty when the warning system reported a US missile launch. Petrov kept calm, suspecting a computer error.


Petrov was first congratulated, then extensively interrogated, then reprimanded for failing to follow procedure. He resigned in poor health from the military several months later. According to Wikipedia, he is spending his retirement in relative poverty in the town of Fryazino, on a pension of $200/month. In 2004, the Association of World Citizens gave Petrov a trophy and $1000. There is also a movie scheduled for release in 2008, entitled The Red Button and the Man Who Saved the World.
Given that the Soviet system punished independent judgement, Petrov's calm independence was all the more remarkable for the strength it took for him to preserve that crucial aspect of his character into adulthood.

Pssst! It's called "individual rights"!

I haven't had the time to consider the full context of the Jena Six story, but found the end of this Clarence Page column about it interesting:
The best legacy for the Jena 6 march would be a new movement, dedicated this time to the reduction and elimination of unequal justice wherever it appears. I don't care who leads it, but it shouldn't be for blacks only.
In other words, the best legacy would be the one that should have been left by the civil rights movement of the 1960's, but wasn't: a respect for the individual rights of all Americans.

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who are involved in this pale imitation of the days when the movement was fighting for what is right, are too busy keeping the government involved in racial discrimination to be the leaders Page is hoping for. (And their involvement smacks of opportunism at best.)

We will not have equal justice for all until everyone becomes willing to put aside the illusory benefits of government favoritism. This will not happen until more people understand the evil unleashed by the premise that it is okay for the government to violate the rights of "others".

And this won't happen until more people understand the vital, personal importance of the government's consistently protecting everyone's freedom to act in accordance to his own best judgement. Government favors and equal justice are mutually-exclusive goals, of which the second is the only legitimate mission for government.

Not only are Jackson and Sharpton too busy making the government everyone's enemy, they do not hold the requisite ideas in political philosophy to effect this cultural revolution. True political revolutions are started by intellectuals, not pull-peddling politicians.

Getting Things Done in Academia

Given that Diana Hsieh already knows about David Allen's productivity techniques and is ABD (all but dissertation) anyway, telling her about this blog now doesn't quite fit the bill of returning the favor of introducing me to Getting Things Done.

But if you are in academia and particularly if you are considering or starting grad school, take a look at Getting Things Done in Academia. It is loaded with excellent advice, including how to adapt Allen's techniques to academic work.

For example, had I grad school to do over again, I wish I could have run across something like this post: "5 Essentials for Your Grad School Survival Kit". Item 4 is particularly relevant, although it was written way back in the '70s.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

My response to the Jena business or, more precisely, the pronouncements from Messrs. Jackson, Sharpton and their ilk, is: "I must have missed the news the day you marched in support of the falsely accused Duke Lacrosse players."

The Jena case and the response to it, following so quickly on the heels of that notorious miscarriage of justice in Durham (notorious because of the prosecutor's transparant election-cycle racial opportunism), exposes the bad faith of its commenting participants.

Gus Van Horn said...

That is a HUGE piece of the context, and you could well ask why we didn't see huge crowds in Durham, for that matter.

As I understand, a gang of black kids beat a white kid badly enough to land him in the hospital. If white kids were slapped on the wrists for similar things, then demand they be punished similarly (not that the black kids be slapped on the wrists, too). If the white kids did not commit similar offenses, then this whole thing is out of line.

In either case -- and I admit not having followed this closely -- the whole thing strikes me as a mockery of the fight against Jim Crow.

Tom Rowland said...

A huge tip of the hat from my wife Juie, who at the age of 62, and with a full-time job teaching "special needs" kids, is into her first 2-course semester as a grad student (Master's in Psychology). Thanks from me, as well. /;-)

Gus Van Horn said...

Wow! That's quite the load!

I'm glad she found that helpful.