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  • Technology and Offshoring

    Posted by David Foster on December 9th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Thought question: If Henry Ford had been able to have the Model T manufactured in Mexico by people making 50 cents a day…and with no need for the assembly line and related productivity-improving technology…would that have been equivalent, in terms of its economic, social, and political consequences, to making it in Detroit on the assembly line with workers making $5.00/day and a 10:1 reduction in unit labor content?

     

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Tech | 28 Comments »

    MacArthur’s Pearl Harbor, December 8th 1941 – Plus 75 Years

    Posted by Trent Telenko on December 8th, 2016 (All posts by )

    One of the important things to know about General Douglas MacArthur was that almost nothing said or written about him can be trusted without extensive research to validate its truthfulness. There were a lot of reasons for this. Bureaucratic infighting inside the US Army, inside the War Department, and between the War and Naval Departments all played a role from MacArthur’s attaining flag rank in World War 1 (WW1) through his firing by President Truman during the Korean War. His overwhelming need to create what amounts to a cult of personality around himself was another.

    However, the biggest reason for this research problem was that, if the Clinton era political concept of “The Politics of Personal Destruction” had been around in the 1930s through 1950s, General Douglas MacArthur’s face would have been its poster boy. Everything the man did was personal, and that made everything everyone else did in opposition to him, “personal” to them. Thus followed rounds of name calling, selective reporting and political partisanship that have utterly polluted the historical record and require research over decades to untangle.

    A case in point is the December 8th 1941 attack on Clark Field and the massacre of the American B-17 force.  This 2007 article by Michael Gough titled “Failure and Destruction, Clark Field, the Philippines, December 8, 1941″ is a good example of the accepted narrative of the Clark Field attack.

    The real reason we lost those planes on Dec 8th 1941 was American bad luck, delusion and political ghost dancing meeting a very well prepared Japanese enemy.  Luzon was too close to the center of Japanese air power for the Far Eastern Air Force (FEAF) to survive.  Nothing MacArthur did or didn’t do would have made a real difference in that outcome.

     

    Destroyed P-35 Fighters in the aftermath of the December 8th 1941 attack

    Destroyed P-35 Fighters in the aftermath of the December 8th 1941 attack. (Source: USAF Photo via Hyperwar web site)

     

    The following was posted to the Academic H-War listserve back in late May 2012 and addresses the timing of the raid on Clark and Iba fields Dec 8th 1941 —

    “Hi Gang

    I’ve refrained from commenting on this thread because of the subject’s
    complexity, the dearth of primary documents, and a desire to avoid
    replying to endless questions, but I will make a bit of an effort here:

    From 0330 until 1014, HQ USAFFE specifically denied Brereton permission to
    launch his bomber force at
    Clark (19 B-17s) against the Japanese
    facilities on
    Formosa and did not allow him to speak directly with
    MacArthur either in person or on the telephone.

    FEAF dispersed the bombers to holding positions in the air at about 0800
    to avoid an attack expected that morning. Most of the bombers were in the air
    most of that morning.

    MacArthur gave Brereton permission to attack Formosa during a telephone
    call at 1014, and Brereton recalled the dispersed force which began landing
    about 1100.

    It took two to two and a half hours to refuel, load bombs, and prepare an attack,
    thus FEAF’s aircraft were on the ground at about 1220 when the Japanese air
    forces, delayed by fog on
    Formosa for roughly five hours, reached Clark.

    USAFFE persistently denied Brereton’s efforts to conduct reconnaissance of
    Formosa prior to 8 December, but the 19th Bomb Group’s target files
    apparently contained enough information that, although dated, made an
    attack on
    Formosa more than just a thrust into the unknown.

    Who ignored MacArthur’s chain of command and in what way?

    I am still working on my biography of Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton.

    Hopefully, it will get done.

    Cheers,

    Roger G. Miller, Ph.D., GS-14
    Deputy Director
    Air Force Historical Studies Office
    HQ USAF/HOH
    Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling
    Washington, D.C. 20373-5899”

    So the Far Eastern Air Force (FEAF) took precautions to protect their B-17s from a dawn Japanese strike on Dec 8, 1941, but as Dr. Miller mentioned, they landed out of fuel just in time for the delayed-by-fog Japanese naval air force strike from Tainan Airfield, Formosa.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    Shadows

    Posted by Jonathan on December 8th, 2016 (All posts by )

    blue shadow blue

     

    Posted in Photos | No Comments »

    Pearl Harbor, December 7th 1941 — Plus 75 Years

    Posted by Trent Telenko on December 7th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Today is the 75th anniversary of the December 7th, 1941 Imperial Japanese Navy’s (IJN) surprise aerial attack on the American Pacific Fleet’s “Battleship Row” at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  With this air attack, and air attacks in the following weeks on Clark Field in the Philippines, and on the British fleet off Malaya — sinking the new British battleship Prince of Wales and the WW1 era battlecruiser Repulse — the Japanese established unchallenged air and naval superiority across the Pacific and ran wild for six months.

    The key failure that day leading up to the attack —  A final point falure in a years long list of failures starting with the US Army Air Corps purge of fighter advocate Claire Chennault for his all too successful telephone-equipped ground observer air warning network that threatened the budget of the B-17 heavy bomber —  was the ignored warning from the US Army SCR-270B radar at Opana Point, Hawaii as the IJN Strike Force flew in.

    Chennault's 1933 Ft. Knox Air Defense Observer Network

    Then-Captain Claire Chennault’s 1933 Ft. Knox Air Defense Observer Network. It was so successful in catching bombardment formations that Chennault was black balled by the “Bomber Mafia” of two air chiefs of staff. This telephone based surveillance network was both effective and cheap…and a threat to the B-17 heavy bomber’s development budget.  Photo Source: Coast Artillery Journal Mar-Apr 1934, pg. 39

    In 2012 I discovered the book ECHOES OVER THE PACIFIC: An overview of Allied Air Warning Radar in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines Campaign by Ed Simmonds and Norm Smith that explained some of the reasons for that last failure. ECHOS is the story of Australian and wider Anglosphere efforts to field radar in the Pacific during WW2.  This year I also found John Bennet’s “SIGNAL COMPANY, AIRCRAFT WARNING, HAWAII ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY” which expanded on and clarified the background to those failures further.

    US Army SCR-270 Radar used at Pearl Harbor and throughout the Pacific War by Army, Navy and Marine Radar detachments.

    US Army SCR-270 Radar used at Pearl Harbor and throughout the Pacific War by US Army, US Navy and Marine Radar detachments.

     

    ECHOS has these passages regarding the bureaucratic and political failings of radar deployment at Pearl Harbor:

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, National Security, War and Peace | 23 Comments »

    Overdrawn

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on December 6th, 2016 (All posts by )

    I was kind of intrigued by last week’s Buzzfeed article, attempting to whip up the internet mob for the purpose of going after Chip and Joanna Gaines, who have a hugely popular home renovation show on the HGTV channel, and cannily have never said a word on the show regarding their more or less mainstream Christian beliefs, or their attendance at a mega-church where the pastor apparently is on the record as having expressed disapproval of the concept of the institution of formal marriage being anything other than that of a man and a woman. (Note: I’ve never watched the show myself, although my daughter has. Blondie avers that Joanna Gaines is a one-note designer; her thing is shabby chic. All to the good, since that is my own preference, well-mixed with Laura Ashley comfortable country antique seasoned with a splash of William Morris/Craftsman. And … well, most people have items of décor and large furniture of which they are fond … who the heck clears the deck and redecorates every year or so, in response to the fashion of the moment? Only the very wealthy and socially insecure, I surmise.)

    More power to them – the Gainses and their redecorating business; not the internet lynch mob, always ready to be whipped up to a fine frothing frenzy. Really, this early 21st century is increasingly resembling the 16th, in the ruthless search for the ritual burning at stake by officials or by the annoyingly self-appointed for individuals who refuse to give lip-service to the prevailing social/political orthodoxies. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Business, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Diversions, Human Behavior | 13 Comments »

    An Interesting Story About Government Funding

    Posted by David Foster on December 5th, 2016 (All posts by )

    If the government wants to give money to your organization, that’s a good thing, right?

    Here’s a letter to the editor that recently appeared in the Financial Times:

    Sir, I was raised in a Catholic orphanage, along with 800 boys and girls, pre-kindergarten through high school. It was established in 1883. I experienced none of the “abuse, neglect and trafficking” JK Rowling talks about (“Rowling shines a light on the false incentives distorting aid”, Gillian Tett, November 19). That is, until the orphanage began accepting funds from the state rather than via charitable donations from religious organisations.

    Once government money began flowing in, the orphanage had to adhere to all the latest politically correct modalities then in vogue: no more dormitories, only small “cottages” of 10 with live-in grievance counsellors rather than nuns; no more in-residence classrooms — the kids now had to be bussed to the nearest school; no more football and basketball teams — everybody had to get a trophy; and no more need to work on that 850-acre farm, or to work in the kitchen, in the bakery, in the dairy, in the powerhouse shovelling coal, or in the shoe and carpenter shops — these things would be provided by state subsidies.

    Knock on the door of any one of its graduates and you would find that person a veteran of the second world war, the Korean war, Vietnam, the Gulf war, simply working in the corporate world as a productive member of our society. Now, its graduates are wards of the state.

    In time, the orphanage dwindled from 800 children to 80 — the rapacious after-effects of public funding. Most recently it became entangled in equal rights abuses, the legal costs absorbing scare funds for upkeep and maintenance, before finally sinking into insolvency and closure. That orphanage out on the Illinois prairie is now surely one of Rowling’s “fairy tales”.

    Jeremiah Norris (Hudson Institute)

    As Rose Wilder Lane wrote, a long time ago:

    Nobody can plan the actions of even a thousand living persons, separately. Anyone attempting to control millions must divide them into classes, and make a plan applying to these classes. But these classes do not exist. No two persons are alike. No two are in the same circumstances; no two have the same abilities; beyond getting the barest necessities of life, no two have the same desires.

    She was talking about individuals, but a similar point could be made about organizations.

    The people who talk so much about ‘diversity’ rarely seem to understand (or at least to care) that top-down government management is a destroyer, not an enabler, of true diversity.

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Political Philosophy | 8 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – Experience

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on December 1st, 2016 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    Chicago, 1990s through today

    I just finished reading the book “Disrupted” by Dan Lyons about a journalist from Newsweek who takes a job at a start up which eventually goes public called Hubspot.  Mr. Lyons is out of place from day one as he describes how the company acts without much oversight, firing workers on a whim (they ‘graduate’) and rapidly turning over employees as the company attempts to get to the public markets before the money runs out.  To make this even stranger, the author also writes for the HBO sitcom “Silicon Valley” and Hubspot allegedly goes after him to stop this book from being published, and the board finds out about it and fires / sanctions some (but not all) of the managers that he portrayed in the book.

    All that aside, the purpose of this post is to talk about experience, and how it changes you over the decades, and its value and detriments.  Reading that book caused (not “inspired”) me to think about my own views and how they’ve evolved over the years.

    It is strange when you go from being the “new kid” to being the grey-ish haired “experienced” one.  Recently I was at 1871, the incubator in Chicago for new start-ups at the Merchandise Mart in River North where I used to live.  As I walked around I noted all the fresh faces, the beer on tap, and the grown men riding around on razor scooters to get from meeting to meeting.  Then I realized – hey I am just an old guy here.  I’m not one of them, although I could probably be a boss of some sort in one of these companies (depending on what they are looking for).


    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Book Notes | No Comments »

    The American Virtual Civil War

    Posted by David Foster on November 29th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Musings on Cirque des Crazi, at Ricochet, was inspired by two long-time (since childhood) friends of the author and his wife…one a senior nun and the other a retired IRS manager…who have “been looney, angry, mean and distempered crazies before, during and since the election”…”Yes, they are Hilaryites. They are the scourge of (his wife’s) Facebook, showing no mercy or measure of humanity. Both use language that would make Trump blush.  Many people on Ricochet have reported similar insanity and we all watch the media created Cirque Des Crazi on the streets of blue cities and the academic child care centers formerly known as Higher Education.

    Read and discuss.

     

    Posted in Leftism, Politics, Trump, USA | 40 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: How The Recounts Pose A Risk To Mike Pence

    Posted by Jonathan on November 28th, 2016 (All posts by )

    What are the Democrats up to in pursuing election recounts?

    Still if all 3 states fail to make a timely recount and fail to appoint their slate of Trump-Pence electors…then the presidential race will be thrown into the House where each State has one vote. Under Article II and the Twelfth Amendment, Trump has to carry a majority of state delegations (26 of 50). There is a separate quorum requirement: 2/3 of the States (34 of 50) must have one or more members present. Trump can probably meet this bar: 32 of the state delegations in the 115th Congress will have Republican majorities (albeit some are narrow majorities), and 11 other state delegations have 1 or more Republican members. So the Republicans should be able to reach a quorum of 34 States with one or more members present.
     
    However, if all three 3 states fail to make a timely recount and fail to appoint their slate of Trump-Pence electors…then the vice presidential race will be thrown into the Senate. Under Article II and the Twelfth Amendment, Pence will need a majority of the “whole number” of senators. The Republicans have such a majority. But the Twelfth Amendment also has a quorum requirement: “two-thirds of the whole number of Senators.” [2/3 is 67 of 100 senators, assuming all elected Senators are alive and sworn during the proceedings to select a Vice President.] The Republicans cannot meet this bar, at least not absent Democratic participation. By absenting themselves, the Democrats can block the narrow Senate Republican majority from selecting Pence.

    Read the rest.

     

    Posted in Current Events, Elections, Leftism, Politics, Trump, USA | 8 Comments »

    Castro Dies

    Posted by Ginny on November 26th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Many of you with closer ties to either diplomacy or Cuba/ns will have much more enlightened observations; here is Kimball’s.

    Personal: I was talking to my brother when he saw the caption on his quieted television; we thought about our youths: when we were growing up, my parents hosted a wise older man, a Cuban psychiatrist who was in the process of certifying himself at the local hospital. He’d known Castro (their plantations had neighbored). He spoke to my mother’s reading club of why he had fled, foreseeing the future. But 50 years have passed; Dr. Jones is either very old or gone. I doubt he saw that far into the future – I can’t imagine his despair if he had.

     

    Posted in Cuba, Current Events, Obits | 30 Comments »

    A Week of Thanksgiving

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on November 24th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Today is Thanksgiving Day; my daughter and I will share a feast of delightfully orange-flavored brined turkey breast (a recipe lifted from the current issue of Cuisine at Home) plus some sides; as a small dish of baked stuffing using some heels of pumpernickel bread from the bounteously-stuffed garage deep-freeze, oven-roasted Brussel sprouts, garlic mashed potatoes, all served with a dash of the lingonberry sauce from the jar I purchased last weekend from the Ikea grocery department – it tastes very much like cranberry sauce anyway — and finished off with a slice of pumpkin pie, baked this week. The enduring trouble that I have with Thanksgiving is that I don’t much like most of the traditional dishes. Of those that I do, I don’t want to eat leftovers of them from now until past mid-December. Seriously, in many years, I was so tired of sorting out the remainders of a whole turkey I would choose anything else vaguely birdlike for the main entrée, and for Christmas, practically anything else. On some years when it would be just me, I threw tradition to the winds and did a tiny half-pound frozen poulet from HEB Central Market, or a rock Cornish game hen, accompanied by the traditional autumnal dishes that I did like. (These solitary dinners were a treat for me; single servings of exotic and/or expensive dishes that I would never have sampled otherwise.)

    Yes, I did some Thanksgiving days with just me, myself, and I, contra every existing holiday tradition. I experienced some uncomfortable Thanksgiving Day dinners at the houses of acquaintances, but the worst of them was an excruciating dinner wherein I with preschool daughter in tow had been invited by my military supervisor to share his familial table … except that he had somehow forgotten to tell his spouse until the very last minute that he had invited us. Her resentment was a palpable thing, hovering over the table like a fog and curdling every bite that I took. That was the year that I resolved to break no bread on Thanksgiving with any but blood family; if it meant only the two of us or myself alone, then so be it. I did manage to get home for that traditional dinner with blood relatives now and again – which varied the solitary meal program to some degree.

    Besides, sometimes the Thanksgiving holiday was an opportunity to do serious work – the year that I replaced the back fence myself, and ate my supper mid-project from a tray (the tiny poulet year) sitting in the living room and regarding the fence in mid-project. This year is no different, with substantial projects in mid-accomplishment: we have the three-day market event in Johnson City to prepare for; the full-on display of the pavilion, with Christmas lights, special displays and three days’ worth of stock; my books, her earrings. This is a huge event – justifying some preparations above and beyond the usual. Christmas dinner will mark the real end and celebration for us – another year, well-done.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Americas, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Business, Culture, Current Events, Diversions | 9 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – Getting a Review and Thinking Like Your Boss

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on November 22nd, 2016 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    Chicago, 1990s through today

    If you are ever looking for a great book to read, I would recommend High Output Management by Andy Grove, the late former founder of Intel. I picked up a hard copy on the internet for just a few dollars including shipping and although it was written in the mid 1980s (and updated in the early 1990s) much of the book is completely relevant for both new entrants to the work force and those that have been engaged for decades.

    Andy Grove had a passion for getting the most out of his employees, since he was focused on productivity and his staff represented a large cost (and opportunity) for his organization. He approached productivity in two main ways 1) by leveraging process and eliminating bureaucracy he could move faster at lower cost 2) by training and motivating his staff, he could achieve greater outputs. For the purpose of this post we will focus on #2, although it should be remembered that Andy Grove also essentially popularized key elements of the “open office” plan where executives sit amongst their staff which I will cover in a future post.

    For his employees, he defined motivation as getting the maximum that he could achieve. His motivation would broadly be considered “engagement” in the modern definition. “Engaged” employees go the extra mile and are passionate and drive for results, while “dis-engaged” employees are an active drag on the business and your company would frankly be better off if they just stayed home. Most employees are in the middle of the spectrum, neither actively engaged nor disengaged.

    Training and feedback are the key elements of this post. Andy pushed training in his business and held his executives to a standard that they needed to teach and be part of the process of investing in employees. I remember when I was starting out in my master’s program many case studies held up Motorola as ahead of their time with the “Motorola University” of classes to train and advance their employees. All of this was done before the internet with papers, books and physical classes and it represented a significant investment for the company. Today, these programs have mostly been minimized at large corporations, although many service firms (financial and technology) still invest heavily in training and grooming their own staff, and most large internet / technology firms have more extensive orientation and learning methodologies.

    For feedback, there is a template for an annual review in this book from the 1980s which contains all of the key elements of an employee review that you might receive today. The employee is supposed to do a self-review prior to the meeting, and the manager goes through the strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement and seeks out feedback from peers in order to develop a thorough analysis. Andy Grove mentioned how important employee development and feedback was to him and how he forced other top executives to be part of and even care about the process although many of them did it in a perfunctory manner (complying with the process but not the “spirit”).

    From my personal experience and from those of my work acquaintances across many industries, the formal personnel appraisal has been dying for many years and is usually done in a perfunctory manner if it happens at all. If you are in a services business (consulting, law, finance), your personnel review is essentially done for you in the course of your engagements, since “good” staff are selected for teams and “poor” staff are shuffled around and / or “ride the bench”. Leaders have an incentive to collect (and shield) the best staff because they make the most money for their groups by pleasing clients and billing lots of hours while the poorer performers are not selected and (mostly) find their way out of the organization (or into the back office bureaucracy where they don’t face clients). While the service firms’ HR departments would vehemently deny this statement, it is the “broad” truth.

    But if you are in a corporation or smaller business that is not service facing, you will be most impacted by a poor or minimalistic review process (as an employee), because you won’t get valuable and direct feedback that will help you grow and improve. In today’s corporate environment, re-organizations are frequent and managers rotate through departments (or are thrown into direct work), so supervision routinely moves to the back burner. There is little incentive to groom and work on staff (as a manager) if you aren’t going to be around for 2-3 years in the same job because it takes time to invest in staff and improving processes and behaviors and there is no purpose in putting in this sort of investment if you are just going to move on to the next job anyways.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Book Notes, Management | 12 Comments »

    And the Trumpapocalypse Rolls On

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on November 21st, 2016 (All posts by )

    It has been an education, watching the mass public meltdown on the part of the not-Trump faction over the last week and a half. OK – I get the shock and denial, said to be the first stages of grief. Hillary was supposed to become the first woman elected president of the USA! (Yay, vagina!) It was her turn, per the Ruling Uni-party and a whole lot of people who should have known better. And she was supposed to be qualified – the most qualified woman evah! – although specifics about those qualifications are somewhat thin on the ground and mostly to do with her grabbing in marriage an attractive, promising professional pol on his way up, and sticking with him no matter what personal humiliations that entailed for decades.

    I’d interject a personal note here: I once had a security clearance, and handled classified material for a couple of years. If I had been so damned careless with those documents as the Dowager Queen of Chappaqua was as Secretary of State, I’d still be in a cell in Leavenworth, instead of blissfully retired from the Big Blue Machine for two decades. Too, she had the establishment national media in her pocket, slavering to be of obedient service to the Queen, and a whole lineup of celebrities, likewise dropping to their knees and elbowing each other out of the way in their haste to swear fealty. Her campaign spent a bomb on pollsters, advertising, and whatever else presidential campaigns are supposed to spend megabucks on – which until now was always supposed to signal victory. It was in the bag for her, without a doubt! And yet … the dominoes dropped, one after one, after one. And the coronation was off. No wonder the Dowager Queen is reported to have had a particularly horrific tantrum on Election Night, and vanished from the eyes of her adoring public for more than a week, reappearing looking like a side dish of Death indifferently warmed over.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Leftism, Politics, The Press, Trump | 22 Comments »

    Book Review: The Road Back, by Erich Maria Remarque (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on November 20th, 2016 (All posts by )

    The Road Back by Erich Maria Remarque

    —-

    (I had intended to rerun this post during the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, which took place from July 1 to November 18, 1916…missed that window, but of course the war lasted for two more years after the Somme)

    The narrator is a young German who served in the First World War. The war is finally over, and Ernst, together with his surviving comrades, has returned to the high school from which they departed in 1914. The Principal is delivering a “welcome home” speech, and it is a speech in the old oratorical style:

    “But especially we would remember those fallen sons of our foundation, who hastened joyfully to the defence of their homeland and who have remained upon the field of honour. Twenty-one comrades are with us no more; twenty-one warriors have met the glorious death of arms; twenty-one heroes have found rest from the clamour of battle under foreign soil and sleep the long sleep beneath the green grasses..”

    There is suddden, booming laughter. The Principal stops short in pained perplexity. The laughter comes from Willy standing there, big and gaunt, like an immense wardrobe. His face is red as a turkey’s, he is so furious.

    “Green grasses!–green grasses!” he stutters, “long sleep?” In the mud of shell-holes they are lying, knocked rotten. ripped in pieces, gone down into the bog–Green grasses! This is not a singing lesson!” His arms are whirling like a windmill in a gale. “Hero’s death! And what sort of thing do you suppose that was, I wonder?–Would you like to know how young Hoyer died? All day long he lay in the wire screaming. and his guts hanging out of his belly like macaroni. Then a bit of shell took off his fingers and a couple of hours later another chunk off his leg; and still he lived; and with his other hand he kept trying to pack back his intestines, and when night fell at last he was done. And when it was dark we went out to get him and he was as full of holes as a nutmeg grater.—Now, you go and tell his mother how he died–if you have so much courage.”

    Not only Willy, but several other student/soldiers rise to challenge the tone of the Principal’s speech:

    “But gentlemen,” cries the Old Man almost imploringly, “there is a misunderstanding–a most painful misunderstanding—”

    But he does not finish. He is interrupted by Helmuth Reinersmann, who carried his brother back through a bombardment on the Yser, only to put him down dead at the dressing-station.

    “Killed,” he says savagely, “They were not killed for you to make speeches about them. They were our comrades. Enough! Let’s have no more wind-bagging about it.”

    The assembly dissolves into angry confusion.

    Then suddenly comes a lull in the tumult. Ludwig Breyer has stepped out to the front. “Mr Principal,” says Ludwig in a clear voice. “You have seen the war after your fashion—with flying banners, martial music, and with glamour. But you saw it only to the railway station from which we set off. We do not mean to blame you. We, too, thought as you did. But we have seen the other side since then, and against that the heroics of 1914 soon wilted to nothing. Yet we went through with it–we went through with it because here was something deeper that held us together, something that only showed up out there, a responsibility perhaps, but at any rate something of which you know nothing and of which there can be no speeches.”

    Ludwig pauses a moment, gazing vacantly ahead. He passes a hand over his forehead and continues. “We have not come to ask a reckoning–that would be foolish; nobody knew then what was coming.–But we do require that you shall not again try to prescribe what we shall think of these things. We went out full of enthusiasm, the name of the ‘Fatherland’ on our lips–and we have returned in silence,. but with the thing, the Fatherland, in our hearts. And now we ask you to be silent too. Have done with fine phrases. They are not fitting. Nor are they fitting to our dead comrades. We saw them die. And the memory of it is still too near that we can abide to hear them talked of as you are doing. They died for more than that.”

    Now everywhere it is quiet. The Principal has his hands clasped together. “But Breyer,” he says gently. “I–I did not mean it so.”

    Ludwig Breyer’s words: “We do require that you shall not again try to prescribe what we shall think of these things…Have done with fine phrases” capture well the break which the Great War caused in the relationship between generations, and even in the use of language. It is a disconnect with which we are still living.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Europe, Germany, History, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Trump and Conflicts of Interest.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on November 19th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Trump is organizing his administration but he is facing another crisis.

    The Wall Street Journal is giving him painful and unwelcome but good advice.

    He must liquidate the family business.

    One reason 60 million voters elected Donald Trump is because he promised to change Washington’s culture of self-dealing, and if he wants to succeed he’s going to have to make a sacrifice and lead by example. Mr. Trump has so far indicated that he will keep his business empire but turn over management to his children, and therein lies political danger.

    Mr. Trump has for decades run the Trump Organization and during the campaign said if he won the Presidency he’d turn over the keys to Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, all of whom are now serving on the Trump transition. A company spokesperson says the family business is “in the process of vetting various structures” and that the ultimate arrangement “will comply with all applicable rules and regulations.”

    Some of Mr. Trump’s lawyers have called the plan a “blind trust,” which past Presidents have used to protect their assets from the appearance of conflicts-of-interest. But that set-up typically involves liquid assets like bonds and stocks, not buildings or a branding empire. Mr. Trump will know how any given decision will affect, say, the old post office property in Washington, D.C. that he’s leasing from the federal government (another conflict). By law blind trusts are overseen by an independent manager, not family members.

    The Journal is correct. I don’t know how Trump is going to do this but he has to.

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    Posted in Big Government, Capitalism, Current Events, Elections, Taxes, Trump | 23 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Room for Debate: Constitutional Restrictions on Foreign Gifts Don’t Apply to Presidents

    Posted by Jonathan on November 19th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth makes the New York Times:

    Still the Constitution does not always demand that we and our government act wisely. And that is the situation here. The Foreign Gifts Clause provides that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under them (i.e., the United States) shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
     
    Does the Foreign Gifts Clause and its office under the United States language apply to the presidency? There are three good reasons to believe that it does not.

    Worth reading in full.

     

    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump | No Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: National Conference Of State Legislatures: Number Of State Legislative Seats Held By Each Party

    Posted by Jonathan on November 16th, 2016 (All posts by )

    The shift to the Rs represents just over 1/2 of 1% of all state legislative seats (i.e., (44) / (7,297)). Interesting, 12 House state legislative chambers and 2 Senate state legislative chambers are controlled by 5 or fewer seats. Small changes in seat distribution can have highly significant effects.

    Read the details.

     

    Posted in Elections, Politics, Systems Analysis | 2 Comments »

    Attack of the Job-Killing Robots, Part 2

    Posted by David Foster on November 15th, 2016 (All posts by )

    In my previous post of this series, I remarked that most discussion of the employment effects of robotics/artificial intelligence/etc seems to be lacking in historical perspective…quite a few people seem to believe that the replacement of human labor by machinery is a new thing.

    This post will attempt to provide some historical perspective on today’s automation technologies by sketching out some of the past innovations in the mechanization of work,  focusing on “robots,” broadly-defined…ie, on technologies which to some degree involve the replacement or augmentation of human mind/eye/hand, rather than those that are primarily concerned with the replacement of human and animal muscular energy…and will discuss some of the political debate that took place on mechanization & jobs in the 1920s through 1940s.

    Throughout most of history, the production of yarn for cloth was an extremely labor-intensive process, done with a device called a distaff, almost always employed by women, and requiring many hours per day to generate a little bit of product.  (There even exists a medieval miniature of a woman spinning with the distaff while having sex…whether this is a comment on the burdensomeness of the yarn-making process, or a slam at the love-making skills of medieval men, I’m not sure—-probably both.)  Eventually, probably around 1400-1500 in most places in Europe, the spinning wheel came into use, improving the productivity of yarn-making by a factor estimated from 3:1 to as much as ten or more to one.

    Gutenberg’s printing press was invented somewhere around 1440.  I haven’t seen any estimates of its effect on labor productivity, compared with the then-prevailing method of hand copying of manuscripts, but surely it was at least 1000 to 1 or more.

    The era from 1700-1850 was marked by tremendous increases in the productivity of the textile trades.  The flying shuttle and other advances greatly improved the weaving process; this created a bottleneck in the supply of yarn, which was partly addressed by the invention of the Spinning Jenny–a foot-powered device that could improve the yarn production of one person by 5:1 or better. Power spinning and power looms yielded considerable additional productivity improvements.

    An especially interesting device was the Jacquard Loom (1802), which used punched cards to direct the weaving of patterned fabrics.  In its initial incarnation, the Jacquard was a hand loom: its productivity did not come from the application of mechanical power but rather from the automation of the complex thread-selection operations previously carried out by a “Draw Boy.”

    Turning now to woodworking:  in 1818, Blanchard’s Copying Lathe automated the production of complex shape–a prototype was automatically traced and copied. It was originally intended for making gunstocks, but also served in producing lasts for shoemakers, and I believe also chair and table legs.

    Another major advancement in the clothing field was the sewing machine.  French inventory Barthelemy Thimonnier invented a machine in 1830, but was driven out of the country by enraged tailors and political instability.  The first commercially-successful machines were invented/marketed by Americans Walter Hunt, Elias Howe, and Isaac Singer, and were in common use by the 1850s.

    By the late Victorian period the sewing machine had been hailed as the most useful invention of the century releasing women from the drudgery of endless hours of sewing by hand. Factories sprung up in almost every country in the world to feed the insatiable demand for the sewing machine. Germany had over 300 factories some working 24 hours a day producing countless numbers of sewing machines. 

    The beginnings of data communications could be seen in gold ticker and stock ticker systems created by Edison and others (circa 1870) , which relayed prices almost instantaneously and eliminated the jobs of the messenger boys who had previously been the distribution channel for this information.  Practical calculating machines also appeared in the 1870s.  But the big step forward in mechanized calculation was Hollerith’s punched card system (quite likely inspired in part by the Jacquard), introduced in 1890 and used for the tabulation of that year’s census.  These systems were quickly adopted for accounting and record keeping purposes in a whole range of industries and government functions.

    Professor Amy Sue Bix, in her book Inventing Ourselves out of Jobs?, describes the fear of technological unemployment as silent movies were replaced by the ‘talkies’. “Through the early 1920s…local theaters had employed live musicians to provide accompaniment for silent pictures.  Small houses featured only a pianist or violinist, but glamorous ‘movie places’ engaged full orchestras.”  All these jobs were threatened when Warner Brothers introduced its Vitaphone technology, with prerecorded disks synchronized to projectors.  “Unlike other big studios, Warner did not operate its own theater chains and so had to convince local owners to screen their productions. Theater managers would be eager to show sound movies, Harry Warner hoped, since they could save the expense of hiring musicians.”

    The American Federation of Musicians mounted a major PR campaign in an attempt to convince the public that ‘living music’ was better than ‘canned sound.’  A Music Defense League was established, with membership reaching 3 million…but the ‘talkies’ remained popular, and the AFM had to admit defeat.  A lot of musicians did lose their jobs.

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    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Capitalism, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, History, Tech, USA | 44 Comments »

    The Trumpapocalypse

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on November 14th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Count me among those who were astounded and relieved – somewhat – to wake up on Wednesday morning, to the sweet sound of my daughter saying, “He won it!” She had stayed up to all hours watching the returns on streaming video, becoming hypnotized by watching the dominoes begin to cascade. I just didn’t have the endurance in me. I thought all day Tuesday (and for a week or so in advance of Election Day) that while he might possibly have an excellent chance, based on the sense that his various, wall-to-wall-scheduled rallies had standing room only crowds, while Her Inevitableness, the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua basically had to bus in Dem Party stalwarts and lock the doors to keep them from leaving. Just the comparative pictures of the crowds … well, that lent hope. The cascade of revelations from Wikileaks also gave hope that perhaps a larger audience would see the Clintons for the grasping, corrupt plutocrats that they have become, and perhaps have always been. But – seeing the major national news media were so neatly pocketed by her campaign, and knowing that 18-wheel trailer-truckloads of fraudulent ballots were likely being packed and loaded – I could not bear to watch our America fall into the status of a banana republic in a single awful night. I believed that at best – Republicans would hold on to the Senate and House and to a preponderance of the state legislatures and governorships. After all, the Dowager Queen of Chappaqua, AKA Her Inevitableness, is not Evita, and we are not Argentina – and what a pure relief it is to know that millions of Americans of all colors, genders and political persuasions agree with me. “There is a Providence,” as Chancellor Bismarck is believed to have remarked (although likely he didn’t) more than a century ago, “that protects idiots, drunkards, children, and the United States of America.”
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    Posted in Americas, Current Events, Media, Personal Narrative, Politics, Tea Party, The Press | 35 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman’s Pre- and Post-Election Coverage on Irish TV & Radio

    Posted by Jonathan on November 13th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Links here.

     

    Posted in Elections, Europe, Politics, Trump | 4 Comments »

    Attack of the Job-Killing Robots

    Posted by David Foster on November 12th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Here’s a new factory for making automobile frames, specifically designed to minimize the need for human labor.  The CEO of the company that built it actually said, “We set out to build automobile frames without people.”

    At the start of the process, rough steel plates are inspected by electronic sensors, automatically pushing aside any that deviate from tolerances.  Conveyors take the plates through punching, pressing, assembling, and nailing machines, as well as a machine that can insert 60 rivets simultaneously in each frame.  A set of finishing machines then rinse, dry, spray-paint, and cool the frames.  Aside from a few men moving frames between conveyor belts, the floor routine of the plant requires almost no hand labor.

    And today’s robotics and artificial-intelligence advances go far beyond automating routine manufacturing labor and take over the kind of cognitive functions once thought to be exclusive to human beings. Here, for example, is a new AI-based system that displaces much of the thought-work which has been required of the people operating railway switch and signal installations:

    The NX control machine is in effect the “brain” of the system. It automatically selects the best optional route if the preferred route is occupied.  It will allow no conflicting routes to be set up. It eliminates individual lever control of each switch and signal.

    Pretty scary from the standpoint of maintaining anything like full employment, don’t you think?

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    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Tech | 12 Comments »

    Portland “Riots”

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on November 12th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Recently I moved to Portland, Oregon. Portland is a very clean and safe city, albeit one with a lot of homeless people allowed to camp out on the street. Crime here is miniscule by the standards of Chicago – rather than seeing murders every day (with multiple murders and shootings compressed into one story since it isn’t “news”), you can actually see leading news stories about a guy who got his bike stolen, with a picture of the thief from a security camera.

    Now Portland is in the national news for a different reason. After the election, protestors have been taking to the streets. I was in a cab back from the airport Thursday night and my twenty minute ride became a 1 1/2 hour ride since the protestors were blocking bridges and highways. It was a bit unnerving because you were just sitting in traffic with no information and it could go on indefinitely.

    The protestors have been walking through neighborhoods and shopping areas and blocking bridges and the police have mostly left them alone. They did break business windows in an area less than a mile from where I live such as this Bank of America ATM bank branch. They set a couple of fires in dumpsters too. But generally they were pretty calm and the police followed them and didn’t bust their heads, Chicago-style.
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    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Oregonia, Politics | 27 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Armistice/Veterans Day Post and Summary of State & Local Election Results

    Posted by Jonathan on November 11th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Staff of the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) who fell in World War I and World War II

    A Summary of the 2016 Governors Races, State Legislative Races, and State-level Death Penalty Referenda

     

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Society, Culture, Elections, History, Holidays, Politics, USA | No Comments »

    Don Beaudreaux Supports Government by Experts

    Posted by David Foster on November 10th, 2016 (All posts by )

    …which doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means

    Similar points are made in Sarah Hoyt’s post makeup, mate choice, and political philosophy

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Political Philosophy | No Comments »

    A few comments in response to Charles Lipson regarding Donald Trump

    Posted by Lexington Green on November 10th, 2016 (All posts by )

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    Professor Charles Lipson published a good article entitled What Happens After the Electoral Earthquake?.

    I have a few disagreements with it, however.

    Prof. Lipson assumes that the published position papers, policy speeches and the content of the stadium speeches Trump has been giving for months are irrelevant. This is incorrect. Contrary to what everybody says, Trump has been comparatively specific about what his policy positions are. The best-founded prediction is that Trump will try to do what he repeatedly and firmly said he would do in all the various policy areas.

    Prof Lipson says: “… Republicans couldn’t simply say they would repeal Obamacare. They had to promise to replace it with some kind of health-care policy, probably one featuring nationwide insurance markets, health-care savings accounts, medical liability limits, and subsidies for the sick and poor.”

    This is exactly what Trump ran on. Universal health care with a large competitive market component. This is actually the optimum position under current circumstances. Trump’s position on this was published early, and it is a top-line blueprint for what he will try to get through Congress, with elbow room for negotiation.

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    Posted in Politics, Predictions, Trump | 18 Comments »