Romeo and Juliet, by Shakespeare

The most interesting part is the very first line: “Two households, both alike in dignity…”

Why are the Montagues and the Capulets fighting? It’s never made clear. Perhaps they fight not because there are irreconcilable differences between them, but because they’re the same. Their struggle is Girardian, not Marxist.

Few people appreciate the point. So many love stories claim to be based on Romeo and Juliet, e.g. the vampire boy or zombie boy and the human girl. Romeo and Juliet doesn’t depict a rational conflict, only an ancient one.

The Red and the Black, by Stendhal

It’s hard to write about your favorite book. I’ll just say that I re-read this nearly every year, and each time I find it a delight.

There are so many beautiful phrases written very simply. It feels so freshly written, not as something published in 1830.

I don’t like the Moncrieff translation. Burton Raffel’s translation is pretty good. My favorite is the one by Robert Adams.

Radicals for Capitalism, by Brian Doherty

An editor at Reason has written comprehensive overview of the American libertarian movement. It’s really, really good if you’re interested in this stuff. There are so many things that I learned. For example, for most of the century few of the people who advocated for limited government were for the most part isolated, unaware that there might be at all people like them. There’s nowhere near the level of infrastructure of today to be more familiar with these ideas.

Radicals for Capitalism is also really good at explaining the theories behind the major figures. It has actually a really good discussion of Hayek’s thoughts on capital. I didn’t expect that. You can learn a lot about libertarian ideas here, including those of Mises, Rothbard, and Nozick.

There’s a lot of stuff on libertarians and psychedelics in the ‘60s. Really fun to read.

The best part of the book is the characters. There are amazingly colorful and eccentric people. My favorite is Karl Hess, a man who after working on the Goldwater campaign got pursued by the IRS for withholding federal income taxes, and eventually ended up living off the grid in West Virginia using his welding skills to barter for goods. There are lots of other fun personalities.



Dao de jing, by Laozi

A lot of it is strange and obscure, but there are some very striking passages. This is the translation by Robert Brookes. Good reading for a reminder of humility.

The physical path cannot be the eternal way, just as the spoken word cannot be the eternal truth.

The good person is the bad person’s teacher, and the bad person is the good person’s lesson.

The wise person lives without effort in his daily life. He practices a wordless doctrine. Good and bad come to him and he refuses neither.

Act without contrivance, and everything will be harmonious.

The greatest leader is unknown to the people, a good leader is known and beloved, an adequate leader is treated with respect, a poor leader is treated with disdain.

Only when intelligence and cleverness appear is there a need for pretense.

Forsake academic knowledge, relinquish propriety and the people will lose their anxieties. Disavow cunning, renounce greed and there will be no theft. These lessons are superficial, and could go on forever. Even then they would still not be sufficient. One need only rely upon this: Manifest simplicity, like an undyed silk.

Be righteous and you will not be distinguished, boast of your abilities and you will not have merit, be conceited and you will not endure. People who act in such ways are likely to be detested, and their path will be burdensome.

The adept traveler leaves no tracks, the adept speaker reveals no opportunity for reproach.

Those who know others have wisdom, but those who know themselves have enlightenment.

Those with excessive desires incur great cost. Those who guard wealth surely suffer great loss. To avoid disappointment, know what is sufficient.

There is no greater misfortune than not knowing what is enough. There is no greater fault than the desire to possess.

Therefore the wise person is sharp and yet does not injure, is pointed but does not penetrate, is true to the path but does not bully, is bright but does not blind.

He who possesses virtue keeps his promises. He who does not possess virtue insists on payment.

Gonzales v. Raich and the commerce clause

Californians are authorized by state law to use marijuana under a doctor’s relief for certain symptoms. Respondent Raich had a brain tumor and was recommended by her doctor to use marijuana for personal use. She and respondent Monson grew it their home for medical use. In 2002, federal agents seized and destroyed their plants to enforce the Controlled Substances Act. So Raich and Monson brought suit. They claimed that the CSA exceeded Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause, because their possession was wholly intrastate and did not affect the market for pot.

It made its way to the Supreme Court, to be called Gonzales v. Raich. Randy Barnett argued for the respondents, and Paul Clement argued for the government.

The Court issued a 6-3 ruling by Stevens that held that yes, the Commerce Clause does give Congress the authority to to prohibit possession.

It seems inhumane and absurd. First, a woman with an inoperable brain tumor can’t use the pot that doctors say are keeping her alive. Second, the pot was consumed only in the home and never crossed state lines. How much can Raich’s possession affect interstate commerce?

Here’s how Ilya Somin summed this decision up in a Brookings talk:

“The broadest ever Commerce Clause decision was Gonzales v. Raich, where the Court said that Congress has the power to forbid the possession and growth of medical marijuana even if it was never sold anywhere… because it was economic activity.”

And Somin elaborates a bit differently here:

“The Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Gonzales v. Raich ruled that Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce gives it the power to ban possession of medical marijuana that had never crossed state lines or been sold in any market anywhere.”

Radley Balko has a summary:

In that case the high court said the Feds could regulate home-grown marijuana that was grown and consumed entirely in California because that activity might still affect prices in other states (presumably because Californians could have smoked imported weed if they had not grown their own).

We’ll wrap up with with the dissent by Justice Thomas:

Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.


The World as I Found It, by Bruce Duffy

It’s weird thinking of what a novel based on the interactions of Wittgenstein, Russell, and G.E. Moore would look like. But it’s actually really good; you can’t go wrong with NYRB Classics. I read it straight through over winter break of sophomore year, when I was getting really into logic and the philosophy of language.

I don’t recall a great deal of philosophy in The World as I Found It. It’s useful as a way to learn about the main characters, Wittgenstein and Russell. They’re described in such vivid terms. If you want to be polite you can call them eccentrics. Both are tremendously insecure, socially awkward, and mathematically brilliant people.

Keynes makes an appearance, and so does Frank Ramsey.

My school once wrote a press release about me

Here’s the link. Full piece below.

Dan Wang ’14 Named Rochester’s Student Employee of the Year

University of Rochester student Dan Wang has been named the 2012-2013 University of Rochester Student Employee of the Year. The award, given annually by the Student Employment Office, recognizes an outstanding student employee who has made valuable contributions to the department in which he or she works. Wang, who works for University Communications as a news assistant, was nominated by Larry Arbeiter, associate vice president of communications.

As a news assistant for communications, Wang’s work often included weekend work to keep track of University news, and 7 a.m.-work days to prepare daily news reports. In addition to supporting staff in the office with press lists and news pitches, he also wrote press releases, news stories, and blog posts relating to University news.

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