Back to Work Links

The first day back from a two-week vacation. Back to the grind. Some links:

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about habits, with New Years resolutions and all. Aristotle famously said that excellence is not an act, but a habit. A cool Brain Pickings post about the subject:

What this research suggests is that 21 days to form a habit is probably right, as long as all you want to do is drink a glass of water after breakfast. Anything harder is likely to take longer to become a really strong habit, and, in the case of some activities, much longer.

Jay Root previews the 2014 Texas campaign between Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott:

Texas was and is a Republican state, and for those who like to handicap political races, this one leans rather heavily in favor of Perry’s heir apparent. Like Perry, Abbott can draw on the GOP’s well-oiled turnout machine, a long list of supportive officeholders and the deep pockets of dozens of pro-business donors.

But as Democratic consultant Glenn Smith likes to point out, weird and unexpected things can happen in elections — as they did in 1978, when Democrats ruled Texas similar to the way the GOP does now.

“Wendy is an underdog,” said Smith, a former aide to Gov. Ann Richards. “So were the Republicans when Bill Clements got in. And he won.”

Edward Luttwak expresses bewilderment at China’s increasingly aggressive military posture, and contrasts Beijing’s current attitude with the Kremlin’s Cold War perspective:

In spite of countless encounters between American and Soviet aircraft and warships, as well as the famous set-to between the U.S. and Soviet armies at “Checkpoint Charlie” in the heart of Berlin, there were very few dangerous incidents. Soviet officers knew that “adventurism” was a career-ending offense.

Yet in the Chinese case, Communist Party leaders apparently encourage it. The state media vigorously endorse each act of military adventurism. Why should this be? After all, the risks of escalation are enormous.

kliff-kingsbury-charlie-weis Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury started his first season with high hopes but, once again, my Red Raiders disappointed from mid-October to mid-December. A Kingsbury doubter recants his skepticism after Tech’s Holiday Bowl upset over Arizona State:

Kingsbury just won eight games in his first year, and did it with players that weren’t recruited to his system, and did it with basically two true freshmen taking virtually every snap at quarterback. What happens when he gets a few recruiting classes under his belt? Or an experienced quarterback? Or just more experience himself as a head coach all the time?

With Bill de Blasio’s inauguration, a new era of progressive politics in Gotham. The libertarians at Reason are skeptical and liken the new mayor with the socialist French President Francois Hollande, who’s been a disappointment:

Hollande’s approval rating is lower than that of any president in the history of the Fifth Republic. Moody’s has downgraded France’s credit rating for the second time in two years. A “lost generation” of young French people have migrated to countries that actually provide opportunities for work. So ineffective has been Hollande’s recipe of taxes and spending that he announced in his New Year’s address a new program of tax and spending cuts.

The ruling in the “sequel to Citizens United will be released any day now. I wrote my law school thesis about campaign finance, before which I harbored some misconceptions. The Supreme Court has recognized a distinction between contributions to candidates and expenditures made on their behalf. Here is a discussion of expenditures articulated in Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 landmark case:

Advocacy of the election or defeat of candidates for federal office is no less entitled to protection under the First Amendment than the discussion of political policy generally or advocacy of the passage or defeat of legislation. It is argued, however, that the ancillary governmental interest in equalizing the relative ability of individuals and groups to influence the outcome of elections serves to justify the limitation on express advocacy of the election or defeat of candidates imposed by…[an] expenditure ceiling. But the concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment, which was designed “to secure `the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources,'” and “`to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people.'” The First Amendment’s protection against governmental abridgment of free expression cannot properly be made to depend on a person’s financial ability to engage in public discussion.

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