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  • Archive for the 'Book Notes' Category

    Nautical Book Review: Two Years Before the Mast

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd July 2014 (All posts by )

    Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.

    —-

    (Review by CB commenter Gary Snodgrass, whose blog is here)

    In 1834 a young Harvard undergrad from the upper class of Boston left school to become a common merchant sailor. Sailing around Cape Horn to California aboard a Yankee Clipper, “Two Years before the Mast” is the memoir of that trip.

    While a student at Harvard, Richard Dana contracted measles and was in danger of losing his sight. Hoping to improve his condition he signed on to the Merchant Vessel “Pilgrim” for a two year trip. I think it was more for the adventure, and chance to prove himself than for the stated “Health” reasons.

    Dana describes in detail the day to day duties of the common sailor and what they went through. In the opening pages he captures the fact that he is an outsider hoping to measure up.

    “… and while I supposed myself to be looking as salt as Neptune himself, I was, no doubt known for a landsman by everyone on board as soon as I hove in sight. A sailor has a peculiar cut to his clothes, and a way of wearing them which a green hand can never get. … doubtless my complexion and hands were enough to distinguished me from the regular salt, who, with a sunburnt cheek, wide step, and rolling gait, swings his bronzed and toughened hands athwart-ships, half open, as though just ready to grasp a rope.”

    His adventure quickly becomes a hard life as he loses a shipmate and friend overboard and two other sailors are viciously flogged for minor offenses. Yet still, he is able to take pride in his new life.

    “… But if you live in the forecastle, you are “As independent as a wood-sawyers clerk, and are a sailor. You hear sailors’ talk, learn their ways, their peculiarities of feeling as well as speaking and acting. … No man can be a sailor, or know what sailors are, unless he has lived in the forecastle with them – turned in and out with them, eaten of their dish and drank of their cup. After I had been a week there, nothing would tempt me to go back to my old berth”

    It was the comradeship he felt and the atrocities he had witnessed that later led the attorney Richard Dana to become a champion of the Common Sailor and a leading abolitionist later in life.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Nautical Book Project, Transportation, USA | 9 Comments »

    The Next 40 years in Twelve Hundred Words

    Posted by T. Greer on 19th July 2014 (All posts by )

    This post was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on 19 July 2014 and has been reposted here without alteration.

    Info-graphic taken from Peter Turchin, “The Double-Helix of Inequality and Well-Being,” Social Evolution Forum (8 February 2013).

    .

    Recently in a discussion at a different venue I wrote the following:

    I am extremely pessimistic about the near term (2015-2035) future of both of the countries I care most about and follow most closely, but very optimistic about the long term (2040+) of both.

    I was asked to give a condensed explanation of why I felt this way. The twelve thousand words or so I wrote in response proved interesting enough that participants in the discussion urged me to re-post my speculations here so that they might receive wider circulation and discussion.

    Below is a slightly edited version of my response:

    The demons that afflict the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China are legion, and every pundit that turns their eye to either country seems to have their own favorite. Some of these difficulties are more alarming than others.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, China, Politics, Predictions, Society, USA | 43 Comments »

    History Friday – American Biowar Preparations in the War with Japan

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 18th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Never trust the American government about weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This a lesson learned about American government behavior with the late 1990′s ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ scandals which eventually turned up the suppressed bombing of a 1991 Saddam Hussein nerve gas depot that trace-poisoned thousands of Gulf War Vets. See CIA analyst Patrick G. Eddington’s 1997 book Gassed in the Gulf: The Inside Story of the Pentagon-CIA Cover-Up of Gulf War Syndrome.

    Little did I know that this thought about official American government WMD narratives applied for decades longer than the first Gulf War. In a past column “History Friday: A Tale of Balloon Bombs, B-29s and Weather Reports” I said the following about the Japanese strategic balloon bombing campaign –

    American authorities — through the Chinese intelligence reports and captured Japanese documents — knew of the Japanese biological weapons program and greatly feared that the Japanese would use these balloons to deliver disease to the American heartland.

    It turns out that the American War Department, and particularly Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, was seriously interested in Japanese biological warfare experiments far earlier than the November 1944 through April 1945 Japanese strategic balloon bombing campaign. In fact, he had instituted a blood screening program of Japanese prisoners of war five months earlier to get an early warning of Japanese biological weapons (AKA bio-weapons).

    See this 1 July 1945 follow War Department letter Ryan Crierie found recently in the US National Archives:

    Biowar July 1945

    Secretary of War Stimpson message to Pacific Theater General MacArthur and China Theater General Albert Wedemeyer requesting blood samples be taken for tests once a month for the 15 most recently captured Japanese prisoners and air freighted to Washington DC for testing to screen for bioweapon exposures.

    This letter was a follow up letter to a 19 July 1944 radio instruction that complained to both Generals MacArthur and Wedemeyer that they were not regularly following the 19 July 1944 War Department directive and directing them how to properly draw package and ship the desired blood samples to the Director of the US Army Medical School in Washington DC.

    Given this recently uncovered background data, plus the dodgy behavior by American military prosecutors at MacArthur’s War Crimes tribunal in Manila to cover up the Japanese biological program from the American public for decades, it is easy to see why diplomatic historians like Gar Alperovitz started talking about great “Atomic Diplomacy” cover ups.

    There _was_ a weapons of mass destruction cover up…just not one dealing with atomic bombs.

    The first act of the Cold War wasn’t President Truman sending arms to stop a Communist takeover of Greece. It was his administration’s cover up of the Japanese biological weapons program. This, just by itself, is a good reason not to trust the American government on the subject of weapons of mass destruction. If they did it once, they will do it again…and have, as Patrick G. Eddington documented.

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    American Spartan

    Posted by Zenpundit on 15th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from Zenpundit.com

    ]

    American Spartan: The Promise, the Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant by Ann Scott Tyson 

    When I first posted that I had received a review copy of American Spartan from Callieit stirred a vigorous debate in the comments section and also a flurry of email offline to me from various parties. Joseph Collins reviewed American Spartan for War on the Rocks , Don Vandergriff posted his review at LESC blog , Blackfive had theirs here,and there was an incisive one in the MSM by former Assistant Secretary of Defense and author Bing West, all of which stirred opinions in the various online forums to which I belong. Then there was the ABC Nightline special which featured Tyson and Gant as well as an appearance by former CIA Director, CENTCOM, Iraq and Afghanistan commander General David Petraeus:

    Major Gant was also a topic here at ZP years ago when he released his widely read and sometimes fiercely debated paper “One Tribe at a Time“, at Steven Pressfield’s site, which launched all of the events chronicled by Tyson in American Spartan.  To be candid, at the time and still today, I remain sympathetic to strategies that enlist “loyalist paramilitaries” to combat insurgencies and other adversarial irregular forces. It should only be done with eyes wide open as to the potential drawbacks (numerous) and it won’t always work but the militia option works often enough historically that it should be carefully considered. With that background in mind, on to the book.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Biography, Book Notes, International Affairs, Islam, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Israel/Mideast History Book Bleg

    Posted by Jonathan on 15th July 2014 (All posts by )

    A friend emails:

    I am becoming very disturbed seeing otherwise intelligent people that I know and respect starting to succumb to the anti-Israel drumbeat in the mainstream press. What books could I recommend to people like this so that they get a more factual picture of the history and evolution of Israel in general, and the evolution of the Israeli- Palestinian (and other Arabs) conflicts in particular?

    Great question. Any recommendations?

    UPDATE: My friend provides additional info in a follow-up email:

    Sir Martin Gilbert has written several good books but I am looking for others. I especially want to turn younger folks onto some good books because they have mostly been force-fed propaganda if they graduated within the last 10-15 years. I will watch the blog to see what your readers recommend. They are a pretty sharp bunch!

    Martin Gilbert’s books are a good start. And I agree about CB readers.

    Posted in Blegs, Book Notes, Current Events, History, Israel, Middle East | 9 Comments »

    Nautical Book Review: The Cruel Coast, by William Gage

    Posted by David Foster on 12th July 2014 (All posts by )

    The Cruel Coast by William Gage

    —-

    In an early morning in May 1944, the German submarine U-234 is cruising on the surface in heavy fog.  The bored lookouts are startled fully awake by the sight of a British corvette heading directly for them at full speed, 4-inch gun crashing and 20-millimeter cannon hammering.  The corvette rams the submarine about 30 feet from the bow, hitting hard and doing major damage.

    The submarine manages to disengage from its British pursuer and find temporary safety in the fog, only because the corvette also has suffered from serious damage.  But the effects of the ramming make it impossible for U-234 to submerge, and Captain Ludtke knows that his expected lifetime on the surface, in an Atlantic dominated by Allied air and naval forces, is quite short.  He resolves to put in at sparsely-populated Spanish Island, off the coast of Ireland, and attempt to repair his U-boat.

    To the people of Spanish Island, U-234′s arrival is like the appearance of a spaceship. The inhabitants are mostly fishermen, all living without much in the way of luxuries or possessions, isolated from the mainland except for the weekly visits of an old steamer, the Kerry Queen.  Ireland is of course neutral in the Second World War, but the people of Spanish have an inherited anger against Britain and hence have pro-German inclinations, carried over from the First World War without much thought.  The only person on Spanish who has a real sense of the issues in the present war is Nora Berkeley, a college graduate who lived for several years on the island after becoming orphaned as a child. She is now on Spanish to visit her grandmother, Lady Maud.  Nora loves the people of Spanish and feels protective toward them;  she does not like the Nazis and does not like submarine warfare—”How can they be honorable, and torpedo defenseless merchant ships?”

    U-234′s captain is Gerhard Ludtke.  He is a very successful submarine commander, holder of the Iron Cross, and his greatest ambition is to add the Oak Leaves…the ultimate award for military valor and success…to this decoration. Ludtke’s father surrendered a battleship to Bolshevik mutineers in the chaotic days following the end of WWI, and Ludtke’s own life has been largely driven by a strong need to redeem this strongly-felt disgrace.

    The submarine’s First Officer is Kurt Riegel—a devout Nazi, and with the kind of personality one might expect of such an individual–Riegel is arrogant, dramatic, quick to cast blame on others when anything goes wrong. The Engineering Officer, Peter Hoffman, is a very different sort of individual–quiet, with a “shy, tilted smile.” Once a violinist and an avid skier, Hoffman was deeply affected by the death of his wife Erika, who was killed in an air raid.  His considerable capacity for loyalty and devotion is now directed toward the crew of U-234;  indeed, his sense of responsibility toward the submarine’s crew parallels Nora Berkeley’s feelings toward the people of Spanish Island.

    Most of the people on Spanish are initially enthusiastic about the submarine’s presence and eagerly volunteer to help with the necessary repair work.  But Peter Hoffman quickly determines that submerged operation will only be possible if they can procure certain electrical parts which are by no means available on the island.  Captain Ludtke initially considers radioing for a Luftwaffe air drop, but realizes that any transmission would probably be intercepted and triangulated by the British.  He resolves to send Hoffman to the mainland by fishing boat to buy or steal the necessary equipment, with two strong islanders to do the rowing and Nora Berkeley as a guide.  Ludtke overcomes Nora’s objections by telling her that if the sub doesn’t get repaired quickly he may be unable to control his men, and some of the island women are likely to be raped… moreover, he warns, if the sub is still there when the Kerry Queen arrives on her weekly trip, he will blow the steamer out of the water.

    Hoffman and Nora Berkeley and the two islanders make their way to the mainland without incident, with Nora harboring a secret intent to slip away and notify the police about the sub’s presence in Irish waters.  They borrow a car and begin a tour of electrical distributors and power stations, with Peter looking for circuit breakers and battery acid that he can acquire and Nora looking for an opportunity to get away and go for the police.

    But as they become acquainted, talking among other things about music and  their childhoods (“Things did not seem to have been greatly different at Wassenburg Akademie and the St Brigid Convent School”), a strong mutual attraction grows up between Nora and Peter.  Nora now has a three-way dilemma: Keep harm from coming to the people of Spanish, keep U-234 from returning to the fight, and keep Peter Hoffman alive until the end of the war.

    The author has done a good job in portraying the two closed worlds of the islanders and the submariners and in building the action of the story around the collision of these worlds.  This book would have made…still could make…an excellent movie, with lots of opportunities for good visuals and good acting.

    Long out of print, but a fair number of used copies are available.

    Posted in Book Notes, Germany, Ireland, Nautical Book Project, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    “Beware of Populist Economics”

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

    John R. Lott’s review of the latest Freakonomics book by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Lott seems to have an ongoing personal quarrel with Levitt and Dubner. However, his critiques of their arguments seem reasonable. His review is worth reading.

    Posted in Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior | 4 Comments »

    Thoughts on the Politicization of Absolutely Everything

    Posted by David Foster on 9th July 2014 (All posts by )

    One reason why American political dialog has become so unpleasant is that increasingly, everything is a political issue.  Matters that are life-and-death to individuals…metaphorically life-and-death, to his financial future or the way he wants to live his life, or quite literally life-and-death…are increasingly grist for the political mill. And where that takes us is that:

    People who disagree with your agenda are “attacking” you or “robbing” you.  How commonly do you hear dissent described in precisely those terms nowadays?

    When the government controls everything, there is no constructive relief valve for all this pent-up tension.  It all boils down to a “historic” election once every couple of years, upon whose outcome everything depends.  They’re all going to be “historic” elections from now on.  That’s not a good thing.   (link)

    I’m reminded of something Arthur Koestler wrote, in his great novel Darkness at Noon.  Rubashov, the protagonist, is a dedicated Communist who has been arrested during the Stalin purges of the 1930s.  (Although Stalin is never named in the novel, he is only referred to as “Number One.”)  During the interval between his arrest and his execution, Rubashov has plenty of time for thought and reflection:

    A short time ago, our leading agriculturist, B., was shot with thirty of his collaborators because he maintained the opinion that nitrate artificial manure was superior to potash. No. 1 is all for potash; therefore B. and the thirty had to be liquidated as saboteurs. In a nationally centralized agriculture, the alternative of nitrate of potash is of enormous importance: it can decide the issue of the next war.  If No. I was in the right, history will absolve him, and the execution of the thirty-one men will be a mere bagatelle. If he was wrong…

    Rubashov of course was incorrect in his assertion that “If No. I was in the right, history will absolve him, and the execution of the thirty-one men will be a mere bagatelle”…even if the dictator had been correct on this specific issue, the system of top-down rule and suppression of dissent absolutely ensured that there would be other issues, with potential for equally or even more disastrous outcomes, on which he would be wrong, and his wrongness would guarantee catastrophe.

    When everything is centralized, the temptation to deal with dissent in a draconian manner becomes overwhelming.  Just as Rubashov (at that stage in his thought process) justified Stalin’s ruthless suppression of dissenters on agricultural policy, so do many American “progressives” today seek the silencing of  those who disagree with their ideas. It will not be surprising if they escalate their demands to insist that dissenters should not only lose their jobs or be imprisoned, but should actually be killed.

    Posted in Book Notes, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 12 Comments »

    “Do doctors understand test results?”

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th July 2014 (All posts by )

    The short answer in many cases is “no”:

    In one session, almost half the group of 160 gynaecologists responded that the woman’s chance of having cancer was nine in 10. Only 21% said that the figure was one in 10 – which is the correct answer. That’s a worse result than if the doctors had been answering at random.
     
    The fact that 90% of women with breast cancer get a positive result from a mammogram doesn’t mean that 90% of women with positive results have breast cancer. The high false alarm rate, combined with the disease’s prevalence of 1%, means that roughly nine out of 10 women with a worrying mammogram don’t actually have breast cancer.
     
    It’s a maths puzzle many of us would struggle with. That’s because, Gigerenzer says, setting probabilities out as percentages, although standard practice, is confusing. He campaigns for risks to be expressed using numbers of people instead, and if possible diagrams.
     
    Graphic showing “false positives” in mammogram tests
    Even so, Gigerenzer says, it’s surprising how few specialists understand the risk a woman with a positive mammogram result is facing – and worrying too. “We can only imagine how much anxiety those innumerate doctors instil in women,” he says. Research suggests that months after a mammogram false alarm, up to a quarter of women are still affected by the process on a daily basis.
     
    Survival rates are another source of confusion for doctors, not to mention journalists, politicians and patients. These are not, as you might assume, simply the opposite of mortality rates – the proportion of the general population who die from a disease. They describe the health outcomes of people who have been diagnosed with a disease, over a period of time – often five years from the point of diagnosis. They don’t tell us about whether patients die from the disease afterwards.

    The linked article is worth reading despite its implicit pro-NHS boosterism. See also this. The poor education in statistical analysis of doctors, lawyers, journalists and members of other influential groups in our society is a significant problem.

    (Via Mangan RT by heartiste on Twitter.)

    UPDATE: Gerd Gigerenzer’s Books

    Posted in Book Notes, Health Care, Human Behavior, Medicine, Statistics | 7 Comments »

    Quote of the Day from Winston Churchill, July 4, 1918

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th July 2014 (All posts by )

    The Declaration of Independence is not only an American document. It follows on the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights as the third great title-deed on which the liberties of the English-speaking peoples are founded…. The political conceptions embodied in the Declaration of Independence are the same as those expressed at that time by Lord Chatham and Mr. Burke and handed down to them by John Hampden and Algernon Sidney. They spring from the same source; they come from the same well of practical truth….

    Winston Churchill, speech given at the Anglo-American rally at the Albert Hall on US Independence Day 1918.

    RTWT.

    (Note that Churchill’s reference to the “Bill of Rights” is to the English Bill of Rights of 1689.)

    Quoted in a review by Andrew Roberts of Mr. Churchill’s Profession: The Statesman as Author and the Book That Defined the “Special Relationship” by Peter Clarke.

    We made a similar argument in America 3.0:

    [T]o fully understand the meaning of the American Founding, and of our Declaration and Constitution, we need to go back even farther, to see where they came from. The Founders were not writing on a blank page. Far from it. They made a Revolution because the American people already held strongly to certain principles that they saw coming under increasing threat. And they wrote our Founding documents as a conscious attempt to preserve a valued way of life, at least as much as to make something entirely new.

    And Daniel Hannan made much the same point in Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World, when he wrote:

    American Patriots didn’t just propose ideas that were inspired by the philosophy of Magna Carta. They saw that document itself as a part of their inheritance. When, as they perceived it, George III violated their patrimony, they too up arms to defend it.

    We rightly celebrate our independence, and the Declaration that proclaimed it.

    And we are right to recognize that the freedom our Founders fought for was ancient and the Declaration was the embodiment of something very old.

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, History, Quotations, Speeches | 10 Comments »

    Julie Burchill on Margaret Thatcher, Newly Timely After Nine Years

    Posted by Lexington Green on 2nd July 2014 (All posts by )

    [A]s some smart-aleck said, we must change or perish. And who should break our long postwar consensual slumber — not with a snog but with a short sharp smack around the head with a handbag and a cry of “Look smart!” — but the Iron Lady herself.
     
    Mrs Thatcher meant, and still means, many things — some of which she is not yet aware of herself, as we are not. Only death brings proper perspective to the triumphs and failures of a political career; it is only with the blank look and full stop of death that that old truism “all political careers end in failure” stops being true. Only a terminally smug liberal would still write her off as an uptight bundle of Little Englandisms, seeking to preserve the old order, however hard she worked that look at first; voting for her was something akin to buying what one thought was a Vera Lynn record, getting it home and finding a Sex Pistols single inside.
     
    She was just as much about revolution as reaction, and part of any revolution is destruction. Some of the things she destroyed seemed like a shame at the time, such as the old industries — though on balance, isn’t there anything good about the fact that thousands of young men who once simply because of who their fathers were would have been condemned to a life spent underground in the darkness, and an early death coughing up bits of lung, now won’t be?

    Here is the original article. RTWT.

    Let’s hear that one more time:

    “She was just as much about revolution as reaction, and part of any revolution is destruction.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Big Government, Book Notes, Britain, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, History, Judaism, Middle East, Politics, Tea Party, USA | 4 Comments »

    Ron Paul reading America 3.0? Apparently so!

    Posted by Lexington Green on 30th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Ron Paul

    According to the Ron Paul Channel he is.

    On their page entitled What Ron’s Reading, there’s America 3.0!

    I hope he gives the book to Rand Paul when he is finished with it. Chapter 9 in particular will help him transcend the misleading and fruitless neocon versus isolationist terminology on foreign policy. Anyone who disputes the type of engagement typified by the protracted engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan should not be subject to the dismissive label “isolationist.”

    The review by David Desrosiers in the Washington Times said “Sen. Rand Paul — and his supporters — should make “America 3.0” their book of ideas.”

    Maybe Sen. Paul is having the old man check it out before he reads it himself?

    As Jim Bennett and I have noted, we are standing by to brief Sen. Paul about the book at his convenience! And we would be happy to autograph Ron Paul’s copy!

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes | Comments Off

    Kevin D. Williamson: “Politics Pays: No society can long thrive by making its innovators subservient to its bureaucrats”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 30th June 2014 (All posts by )

    It is baffling that my progressive friends lament the influence of so-called big money on government while at the same time proposing to expand the very scope and scale of that government that makes influencing it such a good investment. Where government means constables, soldiers, judges, and precious little else, it is not much worth capturing. Where government means somebody whose permission must be sought before you can even begin to earn a living, when it determines the prices of products, the terms of competition, and the interest rates on your competitors’ financing, then it is worth capturing. That much is obvious. Progressives refuse to see the inherent corruption in the new ruling class — and, make no mistake, we now have a ruling class — because it is largely made up of them, their colleagues, and people who are socially and culturally like them and their colleagues.

    Politics Pays: No society can long thrive by making its innovators subservient to its bureaucrats., by Kevin Williamson.

    Williamson is always good. Be sure to check his posts daily.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes | 2 Comments »

    A Summer Day in Bosnia-Herzegovina 100 Years Ago

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 29th June 2014 (All posts by )

    This weekend marks the hundredth anniversary of the incident which was the spark that set off the cataclysm of the First World War. Which wasn’t, strictly speaking, the first world-wide war; it could be argued that the Napoleonic Wars were, and the interminable European war between France and England which spilled over into those colonies in the North American continent could also be considered a world war.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Germany, History, International Affairs | 13 Comments »

    More Science Fiction Fan Follies

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 26th June 2014 (All posts by )

    I don’t know if I can really claim to be a science fiction fan – I am not hard-core, at any rate. I have had my moments with particular authors in the genre, I’ve been to a couple of cons (Salt Lake City and Albuquerque – the con here in San Antonio costs too much at the door for my budget) – I have all of Blake’s 7 on VHS tape (taped from broadcast on Salt Lake City’s public TV station in the early 1990s), most of Babylon 5, and I have purchased every on of Lois McMaster Bujould’s Vorkosigan novels when and if they present themselves in paperback. Oh, and I really enjoy Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, but they’re not really science fiction – more fantasy with a wry twist. I watched Star Trek when it was originally broadcast – but who of the age that I am now didn’t, unless their parents were Luddites who wouldn’t have a TV in the house?
    And Dad worked as a scientific sub-contractor for NASA, now and again. Something to do with circadian rhythms and space travel might possibly affect them, either positively or negatively, so –yes, science!
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Diversions | 27 Comments »

    Book Review: That Hideous Strength, by C S Lewis

    Posted by David Foster on 24th June 2014 (All posts by )

    That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis

    —-

    This was the first thing Mark had been asked to do which he himself, before he did it, clearly knew to be criminal. But the moment of his consent almost escaped his notice; certainly, there was no struggle, no sense of turning a corner. There may have been a time in the world’s history when such moments fully revealed their gravity, with witches prophesying on a blasted heath or visible Rubicons to be crossed. But, for him, it all slipped past in a chatter of laughter, of that intimate laughter between fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are yet, individually, very bad men.

    Mark Studdock is a young on-the-make sociologist, a professor at Bracton College, in an English town called Edgestow. He is is far more interested in university politics than in his research or teaching. and as a member of the “progressive element” at the college, he strongly supports Bracton selling a tract of property to a government-sponsored entity called NICE. The NICE is the National Institute for Coordinated Experimentation,which Lewis describes as “the first fruits of that constructive fusion between the state and the laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes of a better world.”  What excites Mark most about the NICE is this:

    The real thing is that this time we’re going to get science applied to social problems and backed by the whole force of the state, just as war has been backed by the whole force of the state in the past.  One hopes, of course, that it’ll find out more than the old freelance science did, but what’s certain is that it can do more.

    Trigger Warning: There is something in this book to offend almost everybody.  It contains things that will offend technologists and believers in human progress…social scientists…feminists…academic administrators…bioscience researchers…and surely many other categories of people.  It will probably also offend some Christians, for the way in which Christian theology is mixed with non-Christian magic. By the standards now becoming current in American universities, this book, and even this book review, should be read by no one at all.  But for those who do not accept those standards…

    The Basic Story. Mark has recently married Jane, a woman with strong literary interests and with vague plans for getting an advanced degree. She has recently started having disturbing, indeed terrifying, dreams, which suggest that she has a clairvoyant ability to see distant events in real time. Afraid that she is losing her mind, Jane seeks advice, and is told that her dreams are actually visions, they are very real, will not stop, and are of utmost importance:

    “Young lady,” said Miss Ironwood, “You do not at all realize the seriousness of this matter. The things you have seen concern something compared with which the happiness, and even the life, of you and me, is of no importance.”

    Miss Ironwood warns Jane that extremely evil people will seek to use her gift, and that she would do well–both for her own interests and those of the entire human race–to join the community of which Miss Ironwood is a part, located at a place called St Anne’s. Jane responds quite negatively to the invitation, afraid that membership in the St Anne’s group will limit her autonomy. She is not interested in the dreams’ meaning; she just wants them to go away.

    Mark, on the other hand, responds enthusiastically when he is invited to take a position at the NICE, temporarily located at an old manor called Belbury.  One of the first people he meets there is the Head of the Institutional Police, a woman named Miss Hardcastle (picture Janet Napolitano), nicknamed the Fairy, who explains to Mark her theory of crime and punishment:

    “Here in the Institute, we’re backing the crusade against Red Tape.”  Mark gathered that, for the Fairy, the police side of the Institute was the really important side…In general, they had already popularized in the press the idea that the Institute should be allowed to experiment pretty largely in the hope of discovering how far humane, remedial treatment could be substituted for the old notion of “retributive” or “vindictive” punishment…The Fairy pointed out that what had hampered every English police force up to date was precisely the idea of deserved punishment. For desert was always finite; you could do so much to the criminal and no more. Remedial treatment, on the other hand, need have no fixed limit; it could go on till it had effected a cure, and those who were carrying it out would decide when that was.  And if cure were humane and desirable, how much more prevention?  Soon anyone who had ever been in the hands of the police at all would come under the control of the NICE; in the end, every citizen.

    Another person Mark meets in his first days at Belbury is the acclaimed chemist William Hingest…who has also come down to investigate the possibility of a job at Belbury, has decided against it, and strongly advises Mark to do likewise:

    “I came down here because I thought it had something to do with science. Now that I find it’s something more like a political conspiracy, I shall go home. I’m too old for that kind of thing, and if I wanted to join a conspiracy, this one wouldn’t be my choice.”

    “You mean, I suppose, that the element of social planning doesn’t appeal to you? I can quite understand that it doesn’t fit in with your work as it does with sciences like Sociology, but–”

    “There are no sciences like Sociology. And if I found chemistry beginning to fit in with a secret police run by a middle-aged virago who doesn’t wear corsets and a scheme for taking away his farm and his shop and his children from every Englishman, I’d let chemistry go to the devil and take up gardening again…I happen to believe that you can’t study men, you can only get to know them, which is quite a different thing. Because you study them, you want to make the lower orders govern the country and listen to classical music, which is balderdash. You also want to take away from them everything that makes life worth living and not only from them but from everyone except a parcel of prigs and professors.”

    Nevertheless, Mark decides to remain at Belbury, and is drawn ever-deeper into its activities–which, as only those in the innermost circles of that organization realize, are not only consistent with the goals of the 20th-century totalitarianisms, but go considerably beyond them.  The NICE seeks to establish a junction between the powers of modern science and those of ancient magic, accessing the latter by awakening the medieval wizard Merlin and using him for their purposes.  At the same time, Jane–despite her reservations–becomes increasingly involved  with the company at St Anne’s and is entranced with its leader, a Mr Fisher-King. (His name comes from the Wounded King in Arthurian legend.)  The St Anne’s group is aware of the truth about NICE and its ultimate goals, and exists for the primary purpose of opposing and, hopefully, destroying that organization.

    I will not here describe the war between the forces of Belbury and those of St Anne’s (in order to avoid spoilers), but will instead comment on the characters of some of the protagonists and some philosophically-significant events in the novel, with appropriate excerpts. Hopefully this will be enough to give a sense of the worldview that Lewis is presenting in this book.

    Mark Studdock. His character is largely defined by his strong desire to be a member of the Inner Circle, whatever that inner circle may be in a particular context.  The passage at the start of this review where Mark agrees to engage in criminal activity on Belbury’s behalf is proceeded by this:

    After a few evenings Mark ventured to walk into the library on his own; a little uncertain of his reception, yet afraid that if he did not soon assert his right to the entree this modesty might damage him. He knew that the error in either direction is equally fatal.

    It was a success. Before he had closed the door behind him all had turned with welcoming faces and Filostrato had said “Ecco ” and the Fairy, “Here’s the very man.” A glow of pleasure passed over Mark’s whole body.

    That “glow of pleasure” at being accepted by the Belbury’s Inner Circle (what Mark then thinks is Belbury’s Inner Circle) is strong enough to overcome any moral qualms on Mark’s part about the actions he is being requested to perform.  Lewis has written a great deal elsewhere about the lust for the Inner Circle, which in his view never leads to satisfaction but only to a longing for membership in another, still-more-inner circle. In That Hideous Strength, there are concentric Inner Circles at Belbury, which Mark does penetrate–and each is more sinister than the last.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Political Philosophy | 12 Comments »

    Nautical Book Review- Overboard

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 21st June 2014 (All posts by )

    Overboard by Hank Searls

    This is one of several cover designs for this book, written in 1977. Much of the non-sailing information in the book is dated badly. The protagonist is a lawyer who wins a medical malpractice judgement of $1.5 million, “The largest judgement in California history.” Obviously that is dated.

    The novel opens when the wife falls overboard. She gets up to check for traffic in the night and does not fasten her safety belt although she knows she must. A simple moment of carelessness and she is in the water. They are between Tahiti and Bora Bora in the Society Islands. They have been cruising for months. The backstory is told in flash backs.

    Mitch the husband is a sailor who navigates for her father, a racing skipper who is getting old and is too competitive for Mitch. Mitch was a pre-med student in college who switched to pre-law and graduated from Boalt Hall, the UC law school. Lindy, his wife, did not finish college as she became pregnant with their oldest child at age 18. The two children are rather aimless in the way many college age children were in the early 70s.

    Mitch is sailing with her father on San Francisco Bay, the author is rather contemptuous of racing, when he sees a Colin Archer ketch crossing the race course and nearly colliding with them as her father refuses to give way to the right-of-way boat until Mitch forces the helm over. He is entranced with this beautiful cruising ketch and spends considerable time searching for it and the owner.

    A Colin Archer ketch under full sail.

    As a racer myself, I am not enamored of Colin Archer designs as they are very slow sailers. San Francisco with its 25 knot afternoon breeze, would be a good place for one. Mitch searches for the ketch and, finally, Lindy’s father Shawn tells Mitch he knows where the boat is in a yard in Sausalito. Mitch goes to the yard and finds the owner, a salty old boatbuilder who looks like he has lost weight, possible due to illness, and who is very reluctant to sell. The discussion of what a buyer should look for and how a builder might feel about his boat are all authentic. The discussion ends with a tentative decision to sell.

    Mitch is a trial lawyer and is suing a young doctor in a case where the patient suffered catastrophic injury but the doctor may not have been at fault. He is tortured by his conscience as his father was a surgeon (as was Searls’ father) and he dreads the censure of other doctors. The malpractice crisis was just arriving as this book was published. He wins the case but decides to quit and go cruising with his new boat. His wife is a reluctant first mate but is gamely enthusiastic.

    The story alternates flashbacks with the present crisis of the wife overboard. Part of the story is told from her point of view in the water and part from his point of view as he searches desperately for her. There is an undercurrent that she was not enthusiastic about going cruising and she has had a probable affair with a fictional character who is obviously Bernard Moitessier, a famous yachtsman who circumnavigated several times, most notably in a single handed round the world race which he was leading near the finish when he decided to quit and sail to the south Pacific instead of to the finish in England.

    The author, who lived aboard his own yacht for many years, has many novels to his credit and many movies including Jaws2. Searls also wrote the novelizations for the films Jaws 2 (1978) starring Roy Scheider and Murray Hamilton and Jaws: The Revenge (1987) starring Michael Caine and Lorraine Gary.

    His meticulous research is famous among writers. Born in 1922, he is too old to be living aboard although he was when he wrote “Overboard.” In 1988, he was ashore, probably for good.

    The couple now share a cozy, two-bedroom condo overlooking a golf course in Newport Beach. One bedroom serves as Searls’s office, and there he begins work each day shortly after 6:30 a.m. A nearby garage holds cartons of research materials, and a rented storage room several miles away contains 700 cubic feet of carefully labeled files—enough for “five different novelists,” he says. Although Searls is “easy to live with,” says Bunny, “he’s always researching, even if we go away on vacation.”

    The story is authentic in every respect I can find and I have been sailing since the 1950s. I even gave serious thought to taking six months off from my medical practice to go cruising in the late 1970s, about the same time as this story. The story is a bit of a downer compared to “Trustee from the Toolroom” but the details of sailing are excellent and the story is very plausible, which “Trustee” lacks a bit. A view of the movie I made of the 1981 Transpac will show that we were almost completely negligent in the matter of safety harnesses but we were a full crew. A single or double handed boat crew at night is almost suicidally careless to ignore safety gear. When we were in heavy weather, we always wore safety harnesses. In a small hurricane in 1977 off Mexico, we spent the night in swim trunks and safety harnesses with the wind at 60 knots plus like a hot shower.

    The book is an authentic tale of sailing in the days before satellite telephones and GPS.

    Posted in Book Notes, Nautical Book Project | 6 Comments »

    History Friday: The Roosevelt–Rondon Scientific Expedition

    Posted by Lexington Green on 20th June 2014 (All posts by )

    In 1913-14 former president Theodore Roosevelt embarked on an exploratory expedition into the Brazilian wilderness. The expedition was beset by serious difficulties and Roosevelt almost died. The literary fruit of this ordeal was Roosevelt’s book Through the Brazilian Wilderness (1914). I am currently reading it and I recommend it highly.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History | 8 Comments »

    Heroism in America, Then and Now

    Posted by David Foster on 19th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Bookworm posts about America’s cultural journey from an age in which the heroism of Audie Murphy was widely recognized to one in which Bowie Bergdahl is referred to by a senior Administration official as having served with “honor and distinction.”  With references to George MacDonald Fraser’s excellent WWII memoir, Quartered Safe Out Here and thoughts about the Oprah-ization of America.

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, History, Human Behavior, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    The Rule of Credentialed “Experts”

    Posted by David Foster on 14th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Lead and Gold links an article by Noemie Emery:

    They had a dream. For almost a hundred years now, the famed academic-artistic-and-punditry industrial complex has dreamed of a government run by their kind of people (i.e., nature’s noblemen), whose intelligence, wit, and refined sensibilities would bring us a heaven on earth. Their keen intellects would cut through the clutter as mere mortals’ couldn’t. They would lift up the wretched, oppressed by cruel forces. Above all, they would counter the greed of the merchants, the limited views of the business community, and the ignorance of the conformist and dim middle class…Their stock in trade was their belief in themselves, and their contempt for the way the middle class thought, lived, and made and spent money: Commerce was crude, consumption was vulgar, and industry, which employed millions and improved the lives of many more people, too gross and/or grubby for words.

    These attitudes, Emery notes, explain the passionate attraction that so many academics and journalists felt toward Barack Obama:

    Best of all, he was the person whom the two branches of the liberal kingdom—the academics and journalists—wanted to be, a man who shared their sensibilities and their views of the good and the beautiful. This was the chance of a lifetime to shape the world to their measure. He and they were the ones they were waiting for, and with him, they longed for transcendent achievements. But in the event they were undone by the three things (Fred) Siegel had pegged as their signature weaknesses: They had too much belief in the brilliance of experts, they were completely dismissive of public opinion, and they had a contempt for the great middle class.

    Much of the “expertise” asserted by people in the academic-artistic-and-punditry complex is entirely imaginary, as far as the organization and management of social institutions goes.  L&G cites one of my old posts at Photon Courier:

    In university humanities departments, theory is increasingly dominant–not theory in the traditional scholarly and scientific sense of a tentative conceptual model, always subject to revision, but theory in the sense of an almost religious doctrine, accepted on the basis of assertion and authority. To quote Professor “X” once again: “Graduate “education” in a humanities discipline like English seems to be primarily about indoctrination and self-replication.”… 

    Becoming an alcolyte of some all-encompassing theory can spare you from the effort of learning about anything else. For example: if everything is about (for example) power relationships–all literature, all history, all science, even all mathematics–you don’t need to actually learn much about medieval poetry, or about the Second Law of thermodynamics, or about isolationism in the 1930s. You can look smugly down on those poor drudges who do study such things, while enjoying “that intellectual sweep of comprehension known only to adolescents, psychopaths and college professors” (the phrase is from Andrew Klavan’s unusual novel True Crime.)

    See also L&G’s post How We Live Now: The Rule of Inept Experts.

    I  believe that the overemphasis on educational credentials has played a major part in shifting the power balance between Line and Staff in organizations of all types…here, I am using “Line” to refer to people who have decision-making authority and responsibility, and corresponding accountability for outcomes, while “Staff” refers to people who analyze, study, and advise, but are not themselves decision-makers.  It was once pretty well understood that one should not take a person whose entire experience is in Staff positions (however exalted) and put him in a high-level Line position, where the consequences of failure will be very serious, without first having him gain experience and prove his performance in lower-level Line positions where the consequences of failure will be less-devastating to the entire organization.  This seems to be much less well-understood today, the ultimate example of course being the career path of Barack Obama.

    Fred Siegel, mentioned in Noemie Emery’s article, is the author of the very interesting book The Revolt Against the Masses, which is on my (long) list of books that need reviewing.

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Book Notes, Business, Civil Society, Management, Media, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 17 Comments »

    Mike Lotus Presentation to the French Association for American Studies in Paris, France on May 23, 2014 about “America 3.0, Decentralization and the Tenth Amendment”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 13th June 2014 (All posts by )

    I spoke at the AFEA (The French Association for American Studies, Association Française d’Études Américaines) 2014 Conference on May 23, 2014 at the Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle. The title of the conference was The USA: Models, Counter-Models, The End of Models?

    I attended at the invitation of Prof. Jérôme Noirot, of the Ecole Centrale, Lyon. I was initiated due to my coauthorship of America 3.0. My coauthor Jim Bennett was initially invited, but he had a conflict. Fortunately, I was able to attend in his place.

    Heartfelt thanks to Prof. Noirot for the opportunity to participate in the conference.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes | 7 Comments »

    Caroline Glick speaking about “The Israeli Solution” for the David Horowitz Freedom Center

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Caroline Glick, spoke on June 11, 2014 at the Union League Club in Chicago.

    Her columns for the Jerusalem post are here.

    She is promoting her book The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. I purchased a copy and got it autographed, but I have not read it yet. In the book she advocates Israeli sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria, a/k/a the West Bank.

    I find her argument entirely convincing.

    A key piece of education for me was the Israeli birth rates versus Palestinian Arab birth rates. Israeli Jewish women are having more babies than anyone else in the developed world.

    Here is a video of the same speech, given recently in Washington, DC.

    Here is the Q&A from that event, which she says is even more important.

    Quote of the evening: “The only thing in the Middle East that works is Israel.” Right.

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Israel, Middle East, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Nautical Book Review- Trustee from the Toolroom.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Trustee from the Toolroom By Nevil Shute

    This novel tells of a lifetime adventure by a man whose life had avoided adventure thus far. Keith Stewart spent the Second World War working as a “fitter” or machinist in defense industry. There he met his wife Katie and they bought a home in West Ealing, a suburb of London where Shute the author once lived and which he uses often as a setting. After the War, they settled down and Keith eventually quit his job and began a career as a technical writer for a small magazine that catered to hobbyists who made miniature machinery, like small steam engines. The magazine was called “Miniature Mechanic” and developed a world wide circulation and many devoted fans of Keith’s writing.

    Keith had come from an impoverished childhood in Scotland and had one sister named Jo. Jo had raised herself socially by marrying a Royal Navy officer who came from a noble family that was quite wealthy. They had a daughter, Janice, who, at the time of the novel is nine years old. Jo’s husband, John Dermott, has taken early retirement from the Navy and they want to emigrate to Canada. Post-war England is a dreary place, a theme in several of Shute’s novels. One problem of post-war England is that currency controls severely limit funds that may be taken out of the country even on holidays. As late as the 1960s, I remember friends of my in-laws who were dependent on their American friends for travel to the US. Jo and her husband, John, have decided to smuggle their assets out of the country to Canada by converting them to diamonds and secreting the diamonds in the keel of their small sailboat, which they will sail to Canada. Keith helps them, not knowing the purpose, by setting a jewel case into the keel for them. They tell him that this just contains a few of Jo’s jewels they want to take. While they are gone, a matter of six months or so, they will leave Janice with Keith and Katie who have no children of their own. They don’t like the fast life of John’s relatives even for six months and know that Keith and Katie will always be living in the same house and will provide a quiet place for their daughter until they can send for her.

    They leave England a bit later than they had planned because they had to get Janice settled and they want to visit Tahiti on the way. Small boat sailing does not follow a great circle course like a ship and Shute knows about sailing from his own experience with his sailboat before the war. A course from the Panama Canal to Canada could very well include Hawaii on the way. The side trip to Tahiti should add a month or so but is well within the capability of a small sailboat. The problem with the late departure is that they have gotten into hurricane season in the southern hemisphere. They encounter a hurricane in the vicinity of the The Tuamotus archipelago a very large group of small islands and atolls east of Tahiti. The islands are low, just above sea level and were a terrible hazard before GPS made navigation more exact. The description of the hurricane and how they deal with it is quite good. I have sailed a small boat (38 feet) through a small hurricane off Mexico. The one they encounter is much larger and it forces them down onto the lee shore of one of the Tuamotus islands. As they realize their predicament, they reassure themselves that Keith will take care of their daughter but then they also realize that all her inheritance is in the sailboat with them.

    Keith is notified of their loss by the solicitor who also learns that their assets have been sold. Keith discovers from him about the law banning asset emigration and has some serious thinking to do. He is the trustee and, once he gets more detail about the wreck, suspects that the keel and the diamonds are embedded in the reef that destroyed the sailboat. What can he do ? He has only a small salary and Katie has to work in a shop to support their frugal life. If the diamonds cannot be found and returned, Janice will have to go to the council school and get a job at age 15 like other girls in Keith’s circumstances. He discusses his situation with his publisher who offers a small advance on his salary, an inadequate proposal. He is unable to ask for help because the diamonds were smuggled out of the country and would be confiscated.

    He calls on a man he knows through modeling who works for a freight airline. They offer Keith a free trip to Hawaii as an engineer “under instruction.” That will get him half way to his goal and he decides to try it. Once in Hawaii, he finds there are no commercial passages to Tahiti except airline travel which he could not afford. His only possibility is to sail with an illiterate fisherman who has sailed from Oregon in a boat he built himself. Against all the advice of the people he knows, he decides he must do this. What follows is a sailing adventure as the “pasty faced” man with no sailing experience and in the condition one would expect with a sedentary occupation, must learn to sail and navigate while concealing the true purpose of his quixotic quest for his sister’s resting place. From this point it becomes a sailing adventure and then there is more engineering as others come to his aid. It is a very satisfying novel and has been criticized because the characters are unrealistically good and help each other but I find it reassuring when I think I am getting too cynical.

    Posted in Book Notes, Human Behavior | 11 Comments »

    Nautical Book Review “The Shipkiller.”

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 10th June 2014 (All posts by )

    The Shipkiller by Justin Scott.

    This is a great adventure novel that is marred only by the fact that it was written 35 years ago when the Shah of Iran was still in power. The story is of Peter Hardin, a doctor who has invented the digital thermometer. He has retired and he and his wife, Carolyn, have decided to sail their ketch across the Atlantic to England. They are relaxing on a sunny afternoon in the Western Approaches to the Channel when their yacht is run down by a monstrous tanker called “Leviathan” which is enormous and is run recklessly because it carries millions of gallons of crude oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe, which makes it immune to admiralty law. The captain is impervious to criticism because no one else can sail this enormous ship. He and it are above the law.

    Hardin’s wife is lost and he washes up on the beach of southern England where he is found and revived by a beautiful Nigerian woman doctor. He is disconsolate and, after his recovery, decides to try to prosecute the captain for not maintaining a lookout while running his ship too fast in restricted waters. That fails and Hardin eventually tries to physically attack the captain which gets him arrested. He finally comes to the conclusion that he has no alternative but to attack the ship, itself.

    After he has recovered from his injuries he buys a Swan 38, a gorgeous and fast yacht similar to the one I sailed through a hurricane in 1977. It is fast as a witch and will withstand almost any heavy weather. I sailed mine through a small Mexican hurricane, called a “Chubasco.” Wikipedia calls them “violent squalls” but the one we sailed thorough lasted 12 hours and had wind speed above 60 knots where our wind speed indicator pegged.

    He sails it to Europe and buys a Dragon anti-tank missile from an alcoholic soldier in Germany. He conceals the missile in a pod he has constructed and attached to the keel of his yacht. He returns to England where his boat is searched by the authorities who are suspicious of him but the concealment works and it is not found. He plans to follow Leviathan to the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of South Africa where he will kill it with the missile. All ships rounding that Cape must follow the same narrow course and he should be able to find it.

    An Israeli agent learns of his plan and offers to help with the location of the tanker. Hardin has no choice but to accept his help to avoid betrayal. The Nigerian doctor, the daughter of an senior army officer in Nigerian, asks to go with him as far as west Africa and he agrees. They develop a strong attraction during the voyage and she learns of his obsessions with the tanker. His memory of his dead wife prevents him from accepting her love and he goes on with his quest. As they near the point where he must drop her off, she finds the missile and asks to go with him. Again, he is caught between the risks to her and the risk she will turn him in. They continue and she asks him where they are going now. His answer is Winter ! The Cape in winter is a fearsome place, risky even for a ship the size of Leviathan.

    The story is gripping and will hold the attention of anyone familiar with sailing. It is probably the best sailing novel I have read. The detail is excellent and the plot is well done, although dated. The author knows sailing and fast sailboats. It has a bit of the tone of an Alistair MacLean novel where the protagonist overcomes repeated and monumental obstacles. The sailing part is great.

    Posted in Book Notes, Middle East, Nautical Book Project | 6 Comments »

    Picketty’s Introduction

    Posted by TM Lutas on 9th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Thomas Piketty has written a monster of a book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I find myself in strange agreement with Brad DeLong, that the collective conservative response is weak. I had a patch of time that left me twiddling my thumbs waiting for some pretty long database operations to finish over the past four days. So I went and decided to fisk the book. I just finished the introduction. It took four posts, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and overran the spare time I had available from a database import and indexing task by about 12 hours.

    Now I know why the criticism is so weak. Piketty is a target rich environment and doing a line by line analysis is simply exhausting. But it’s the only way to be sure.

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Economics & Finance, Public Finance, Society, Taxes, USA | 18 Comments »