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  • Archive for the 'Deep Thoughts' Category

    “Charles Krauthammer on his distinguished career in writing and ideas”

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th July 2015 (All posts by )

    This is a delightful interview of Krauthammer by William Kristol from earlier this year. It’s quite long but the whole thing is worth watching.
     

    In this conversation, Charles Krauthammer reflects on his upbringing in a politically-tumultuous Quebec, his work in medicine, and his views on Zionism, Judaism, and religion. Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol also discuss some of the key ideas, questions, and themes of his writing—including the “Reagan Doctrine,” an idea he coined, the role of America in a new post-Cold War world, and whether the America of 2015 is in decline.

     
    (A timeline of the interview appears on the interview’s YouTube page.)
     


     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Biography, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, History, Israel, Judaism, Media, Political Philosophy, Politics, Reagan Centenary, Religion, Video | No Comments »

    “Dear Young Social Justice Warrior,”

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th July 2015 (All posts by )

    From an open letter by Seth Barrett Tillman:

    To sum up, if you decide to publish an article, and your article gives rise to a response or responses taking issue with your ideas, that is cause for genuine pride and congratulations, as most ideas are never even noticed. But, if instead, your reaction to such responses is to claim that you have been injured (i.e., your feelings are hurt because you have become aware that others see the world differently from you), then it seems to me that your purported injury is not meaningful or cognizable. If mere hurt feelings were a recognized injury, then no one could possibly disagree with anyone else, and all intellectual inquiry, in law and in other fields, would be at an end. You do see that, right? At a time when free speech is in decline all over the world, when free speech is threatened by government monitoring, by ever expanding legal liability, and by criminals who respond with violence to speech with which they disagree, are you sure you are on the right side of this issue? Exactly whose side are you on?

    Worth reading in full.

    (SSRN link.)

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Law, Leftism, Lit Crit, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Rhetoric, Society | 6 Comments »

    Unintended Consequences

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th July 2015 (All posts by )

    The Obama administration has directly or indirectly caused several gun-control panics beginning in late 2008. With each successive panic the high-water price level for popular weapons has declined, because manufacturers ramped up production in response to price incentives and because panic is difficult to sustain. There is more market competition and improved manufacturing technology, so supply and quality have improved despite executive orders curbing imports. In 2015 you can buy a US-made budget AR-15 from a good manufacturer for around $600. Back in the early ’90s when these panics started a similar gun would have cost $2k+ in more-expensive dollars.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Markets and Trading, Obama, RKBA | 33 Comments »

    HOWTO: improve a historic document via committee (classic rerun)

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 4th July 2015 (All posts by )

    How the Declaration of Independence evolved from its first draft by Thomas Jefferson (blue) to the revised draft by the Committee of Five (John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman (red) to the final changes made by the Continental Congress as a committee of the whole (bold black) (source):

    A Declaration of the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress assembled. In Congress, July 4,1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.
     
    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for a People to advance from that Subordination, in which they have hitherto remained, one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the Ppowers of the Eearth the equal and independant Station the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Rrespect to the opinions of Mmankind requires that they should declare the Ccauses which impel them to the Change separation.
     
    We hold these truths to be selfevident, that all men are created equal and independant, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which that among these are the Preservation of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. tThat to secure these Ends rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the Cconsent of the governed; t.—That whenever any Form of gGovernment shall become becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Rright of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Ffoundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Ccauses; and accordingly all Eexperience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to Ssuffer, while Eevils are Ssufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of Aabuses and Uusurpations, begun at a distinguish’d Period and, pursuing invariably the same oObject, evinces a Ddesign to reduce them under absolute Power dDespotism, it is their Rright, it is their Dduty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient Ssufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Nnecessity which constrains them to expunge alter their former systems of government. The history of his present Majesty, the present king of Great Britain is a history of unremitting repeated injuries and usurpations, among which no one Fact stands Single or Solitary to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest, all of which have having in direct object the Eestablishment of an absolute Ttyranny over these Sstates. To prove this let Ffacts be Ssubmitted to a candid Wworld., for the Truth of which We pledge a Faith, as yet unsullied by falsehood.
     
    He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
     
    He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and, when so suspended, he has neglected utterly to attend to them.
     
    He has refused to pass other Laws for the accomodation of large Ddistricts of Ppeople unless those Ppeople would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a Rright inestimable to them, and formidable to Ttyrants only.
     
    He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public rRecords, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
     
    He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly and continually,for opposing with manly Ffirmness his Iinvasions on the Rrights of the Ppeople;
     
    He has refused, for a long Space of Ttime after such Ddissolutions to cause others to be elected, whereby the lLegislative Ppowers, incapable of aAnnihilation have returned to the People at large for their Eexercise, the sState remaining, in the mean Ttime meantime, exposed to all the Ddangers of Iinvasion from without, and Convulsions within.
     
    He has endeavoured to prevent the Ppopulation of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for nNaturalization of fForeigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Mmigrations hither, and raising the Cconditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
     
    He has suffered obstructed the Administration of Justice totally to cease in some of these Colonies, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
     
    He has made our Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Ttenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their Ssalaries.
     
    He has created a Mmultitude of nNew oOffices by a Self-assumed Power, and sent hither swarms of oOfficers to harass our Ppeople, and eat out their Ssubstance.
     
    He has kept among us, in Ttimes of Ppeace, Standing Armies and Ships of War without the cConsent of our legislatures..
     
    He has affected to render the mMilitary independent of and Superiour superior to the cCivil Ppower.
     
    He has combined with others to subject us to a Jjurisdiction foreign to our Cconstitution, and unacknowledged by our Llaws; giving his Assent to their pretended Acts of pretended Legislation:
     
    fFor quartering large Bbodies of armed Ttroops among us:
     
    fFor protecting them, by a Mmock Tryal Ttrial from Ppunishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
     
    fFor cutting off our Ttrade with all Pparts of the Wworld;
     
    fFor imposing Taxes on as without our Consent—fFor depriving Uus in many cases of the Bbenefits of Trial by Jjury;
     
    fFor transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
     
    fFor abolishing the free sSystem of English Llaws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an aArbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these cColonies:
     
    fFor taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable lLaws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Government:
     
    fFor suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Ppower to legislate for us in all Ccases whatsoever.
     
    He has abdicated Government here withdrawing his Governors, and by declaring us out of his Allegiance and pProtection, and waging war against us.
     
    He has plundered our Sseas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the Lives of our Ppeople.
     
    He is at this Ttime transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete compleat the Wworks of death, Ddesolation, andTtyranny, already begun with Ccircumstances of Ccruelty and Pperfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nnation.
     
    He has excited domestic insurrection among us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Iinhabitants of our Ffrontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rrule of Wwarfare is an undistinguished Ddestruction of all Aages, Ssexes, and Cconditionsof existence.
     
    He has incited treasonable Insurrections of our Fellow Citizens, with the allurement of Forfeiture and Confiscation of our Property.
     
    He has constrained others our fellow citizens taken cCaptive on the high sSeas, to bear arms against their cCountry, to become the executioners of their friends and bBrethren, or to fall themselves by their hHands:
     
    He has waged cruel War against human Nature itself, violating its most sacred Rights of Life and Liberty in the Persons of a distant People who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into Slavery in another Hemisphere, or to incur miserable Death, in their Transportation thither. This piratical Warfare, the opprobrium of infidel Powers, is the Warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.
     
    He has prostituted his Negative for Suppressing every legislative Attempt to prohibit or to restrain an execrable Commerce, determined to keep open a Market where Men should be bought and sold, and that this assemblage of Horrors might want no Fact of distinguished Die.
     
    He is now exciting those very People to rise in Arms among us, and to purchase their Liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the People upon whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off, former Crimes committed against the Liberties of one People, with Crimes which he urges them to commit against the Lives of another.
     
    In every stage of these oOppressions wWe have pPetitioned for rRedress, in the most humble tTerms: oOur repeated Petitions have been answered by repeated Iinjury.
     
    A Prince whose Ccharacter is thus marked by every Aact which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Rruler of a People who mean to be free people. future ages will scarce believe, that the Hardiness of one Man, adventured, within the Short Compass of twelve years only, on so many Acts of Tyranny, without a Mask, over a People, fostered and fixed in the Principles of Liberty.
     
    Nor have wWe been wanting in Aattentions to our British Bbrethren. We have warned them from Ttime to Ttime of attempts of by their Llegislature to extend a an unwarranted Jjurisdiction over these our States us. We have reminded them of the Ccircumstances of our Eemigration and Ssettlement here no one of which could warrant so strange a Pretension. That these were effected at the expense of our own Blood and Treasure, unassisted by the Wealth or the Strength of Great Britain; that in constituting indeed, our Several Forms of Government, we had adopted one common King, thereby laying a Foundation for Perpetual League and Amity with them; but that Submission to their Parliament, was no Part of our Constitution, nor ever in Idea, if History may be credited; and wWe have appealed to their Nature, native Jjustice and Mmagnanimity and we have conjured them by as well as to the Tties of our common Kkindred to disavow these usurpations which were likely to would inevitably interrupt our Correspondence and Connection connection and correspondance. They too have been deaf to the Vvoice of Jjustice and of Cconsanguinity. and when occasions have been given them by the regular Course of their Laws of removing from their Councils, the Disturbers of our Harmony, they have by their free Election, re-established them in Power. At this very Time too, they are permitting their Chief Magistrate to send over not only soldiers of our common Blood, but Scotch and foreign Mercenaries, to invade and deluge us in Blood. These Facts have given the last Stab to agonizing affection, and manly Spirit bids us to renounce forever these unfeeling Brethren. We must endeavour to forget our former Love for them, and to hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, enemies in War, in Peace Friends. We might have been a free and a great People together but a Communication of Grandeur and of Freedom it seems is below their Dignity. Be it so, since they will have it: The Road to Happiness and to Glory is open to us too; we will climb it, apart from them We must therefore and acquiesce in the Nnecessity which denounces our eternal Sseparation and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
     
    We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress aAssembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these States Colonies, reject and renounce all Allegiance and Subjection to the Kings of Great Britain, and all others, who may hereafter claim by, through, or under them; We utterly dissolve and break off, all political Connection which may have heretofore subsisted between us and the People or Parliament of Great Britain, and finally we do assert solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be fFree and iIndependent States; that they are Absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as fFree and iIndependent States, they shall hereafter have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which independent States may of Right do. And for the Ssupport of this Declaration, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honour Honor.

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Deep Thoughts, History, Holidays, Rhetoric, Systems Analysis, Tradeoffs, USA | 5 Comments »

    Random Thought

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th June 2015 (All posts by )

    The Supreme Court and Federal Reserve are corrupt in the same way. Both institutions defer excessively to legislative and regulatory agendas instead of sticking to their respective mandates.

    (Re: Judicial Restraint.)

    Posted in Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Law, Organizational Analysis, Political Philosophy, Politics, Public Finance, Tea Party | 6 Comments »

    Pep Talk

    Posted by Lexington Green on 9th June 2015 (All posts by )

    US Flag

    One of my Conservative activist friends was getting depressed, so I rattled off the following. (I hope I am right.)

    ***

    Reagan used to tell jokes about how Communism didn’t work. Reagan understood that stupidity ultimately destroys itself. All the people around him assumed the evil would last forever. Hardcore Conservatives, like me, thought he was naive. Turns out we were naive. The modern welfare state really got started in the 1960s. It lasted about two generations and it is totally dysfunctional. The first Conservative movement gave us Reagan, who did some good but did not reverse the trends. The new reform movement has barely gotten started. But this movement looks to be broader and deeper than the first Conservative movement. The Tea Party started around the turn of the year 2008/09. That is 5.5 years. Major reform movements usually take a generation to start winning lots of elections. The GOP has just taken over more elected offices than any time since the 1920s, and the reformers are driving it, and the RINOs have to at least talk the talk or they can’t get elected. We are moving along very well. We are in the process of taking over the GOP, and in the process of taking over the government. I thought Obamacare would be embedded and unmovable by now, and it would take us decades to dismantle it. It may go much better and quicker than that. People on the Right have lots of competing ideas of what to do. The internal conflicts are a sign of vitality. The Democrats have NO IDEAS. Zero. All they do is attack and lie and say their opponents are racists. That’s it. That is all the cards they are holding. They nakedly abuse power to insulate themselves. They cannot tell the truth about who they are or what they want to do or they will lose. They are like the Soviet Communists under Brezhnev. Hillary even looks like an old, corrupt, smug Communist bloc apparatchik. Their day is over and they are clinging to power. The worst menace is crony capitalism, but even there people are increasingly aware of the problem and starting to push back.

    This is going to be a long struggle, and we will lose battles, and there will be betrayals, and people will get exhausted and give up.

    But the deep trends are in our favor.

    We are right, factually and morally.

    They are wrong, factually and morally.

    They will lose.

    We will win.

    Be happy.

    Posted in America 3.0, Deep Thoughts, History, Political Philosophy, Politics | 45 Comments »

    How shall “in the box” people think “outside the box”?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 3rd June 2015 (All posts by )

    [ a gadfly question ]
    .

    We have seen various conversations online in which its is plausibly suggested that YESness leads to upward mobility across an array of silos and disciplines, specifically including the intelligence community and the military — the end result being risk-averse group-think that is pretty much “inside the box” by definition.

    Similarly, we have noted that serious and nuanced issues are frequently debated in the media by those who are known for their general-purpose punditry or seniority, rather than by those with specific knowledge of and insight into the particular issues of concern.

    Question: How shall we get outside the box thinking from inside the box thinkers?

    **

    When I originally posted this on Zenpundit, I almost just posted the title by itself. As one of the commenters there suggested, and I tend to agree, it’s a million dollar question — and one I’d like to see widely cross-posted and debated.

    What say you all?

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 22 Comments »

    The Hastert Indictment

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th May 2015 (All posts by )

    Things have gotten so bad that one’s first thought on reading about Hastert is that he probably either 1) did something that conflicted with the interests of prominent Obama adminstration constituents or 2) was singled out to intimidate Republicans before the 2016 elections.

    UPDATE: This post from Glenn Greenwald makes important points. (Via Lex.)

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Obama, Politics, USA | 29 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th May 2015 (All posts by )

    Mollie Hemingway:

    The fact is that America is now run by people who profit from keeping everyone else from taking risks.

    This is an exaggeration but there is enough truth in it to make a serious point. We live in the safest society in history, yet many people in this society are obsessed with risk. What is going on?

    (Via Instapundit.)

    Posted in Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Political Philosophy, Society, Tradeoffs, USA | 23 Comments »

    Introducing: Asabiyah

    Posted by T. Greer on 2nd May 2015 (All posts by )

    This post was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on 2 May 2015. It has been re-posted here without alteration.

    If mankind is, as has been claimed since ancient days, a species driven by the narrow passions of self interest, what holds human society together as one cohesive whole? How can a community of egoists, each devoted to nothing but his or her own ambition, thrive? Or for that matter, long exist?


    Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury thought he knew the answer.

    John Michael Wright, Thomas Hobbes (17th c).

    Image Source

    Hobbes is famous for his dismal view of human nature. But contrary to the way he is often portrayed, Hobbes did not think man was an inherently evil being, defiled by sin or defined by vileness ingrained in his nature. He preferred instead to dispense with all ideas of good and evil altogether, claiming “these words of good, evil, and contemptible, are ever used with relation to the person that useth them, there being nothing simply and absolutely so; nor any common rule of good and evil, to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves; but from the person of the man.” [1] Only a superior power,  “an arbitrator of judge, whom men disagreeing shall by consent set up” might have the coercive force to make one meaning of right the meaning used by all. Absent such a “common power”, the world is left in a condition that Hobbes famously described as “war of every man against every man” where they can be no right, no law, no justice, and “no propriety, no dominion, no ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ distinct, but only that to be every man’s that he can get, and for so long as he can keep it.” [2]

    This description of the wretched State of Nature is familiar to most who have studied in the human sciences at any length. Also well known is Hobbes’s  solution to the challenge posed by anarchy:

    [Those in this state will] appoint one man, or assembly of men, to bear their person; and every one to own and acknowledge himself to be author of whatsoever he that so beareth their person shall act, or cause to be acted, in those things which concern the common peace and safety; and therein to submit their wills, every one to his will, and their judgements to his judgement. This is more than consent, or concord; it is a real unity of them all in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up, thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a COMMONWEALTH; in Latin, CIVITAS. [3]

    What is most striking in Hobbes’ vision of this State of Nature and the path by which humanity escapes it is his complete dismissal of any form of cooperation before sovereign authority is established. Neither love nor religious zeal holds sway in the world Hobbes describes, and he has no more use for ties of blood or oaths of brotherhood than he does for the words right and wrong. He does concede that if faced with large enough of an outside threat fear may drive many “small families” to band together in one body for defense. However, the solidarity created by an attack or invasion is ephemeral–once the threat fades away so will the peace. “When there is no common enemy, they make war upon each other for their particular interests” just as before. [4] Hobbes allows for either a society dominated by a sovereign state or for a loose collection of isolated individuals pursuing private aims.
     
    Hobbes’ dichotomy is not presented merely as a thought experiment, but as a description of how human society actually works. Herein lies Hobbes’ greatest fault. Today we know a great deal about the inner workings of non-state societies, and they are not as Hobbes described them. The man without a state is not a man without a place; he is almost always part of a village, a tribe, a band, or a large extended family. He has friends, compatriots, and fellows that he trusts and is willing to sacrifice for. His behavior is constrained by the customs and mores of his community; he shares with this community ideas of right and wrong and is often bound quite strictly by the oaths he makes. He does cooperate with others. When he and his fellows have been mobilized in great enough numbers their strength has often shattered the more civilized societies arrayed before them.

    The social contract of Hobbes’ imagination was premised on a flawed State of Nature. The truth is that there never has been a time when men and women lived without ties of kin and community to guide their deeds and restrain their excess, and thus there never  could be a time when atomized individuals gathered together to surrender their liberty to a sovereign power. Hobbes mistake is understandable; both he and the social contract theorists that followed in his footsteps (as well as the Chinese philosophers who proposed something close to a state of nature several thousand years earlier) lived in an age where Leviathan was not only ascendent but long established. They were centuries removed from societies that thrived and conquered without a state. [5]

    To answer the riddle of how individuals “continually in competition for honour and dignity” could form cohesive communities without a “a visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants,” [6] or why such communities might eventually create a “common power” nonetheless, we must turn to those observers of mankind more familiar with lives spent outside the confines of the state.  Many worthies have attempted to address this question since Hobbes’ say, but there is only one observer of human affairs who can claim to have solved the matter before Hobbes ever put pen to paper. Centuries before Hobbes’s birth he scribbled away, explaining to all who would hear that there was one aspect of humanity that explained not only how barbarians could live proudly without commonwealth and the origin of the kingly authority that ruled civilized climes, but also the rise and fall of peoples, kingdoms, and entire civilizations across the entirety of human history. He would call this asabiyah. 
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, History, Human Behavior, Middle East, Political Philosophy, War and Peace | 12 Comments »

    Shawyer Space Drive…Arriving.

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 1st May 2015 (All posts by )

    A science fiction writer acquaintance of mine, John Ringo, is already going nuts about this “Shawyer Drive” on his Facebook page, because he
    is friends with one of the scientists involved.

    See power point page and the links below:

    Magnetron driven, reaction massless, "Shawyer Drive"

    Magnetron driven, reaction massless, “Shawyer Drive”

    Magnetron powered EM-drive construction expected to take two months
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/04/magnetron-powered-em-drive-construction.html

    Emdrive Roger Shawyer believes midterm EMdrive interstellar probe could flyby Alpha Centauri
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/04/emdrive-roger-shawyer-believes-midterm.html

    The drive seems to be a quantum “zero-point energy” phenomena that you put electricity into and get reaction massless thrust out of.

    _AND_ it looks to be both scalable and improvable with better magnetrons.

    This is also dovetailing nicely with a Lockheed Martin compact fusion reactor that

    1. Generates more power than it uses and
    2. Produces something on the order of 7.4 megawatts

    See:

    http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/compact-fusion.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_beta_fusion_reactor

    Given the reality of Space X’s and Blue Origin’s reusable rocket successes, and it seems that Mankind is about to burst out from this planet in a very big way.

    See:

    http://www.spacex.com/news
    http://www.wired.com/2015/04/jeff-bezos-blue-origin-just-launched-flagship-rocket/

    And all of the above is driving John Ringo to despair on his science fiction writing career.

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Miscellaneous, Science, Society, Space | 13 Comments »

    I Am Woman …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st March 2015 (All posts by )

    … hear me roar … and then turn around and whine because some cis-male said something, or looked something, and I feel so … so threatened! Look, girls…ladies … possessor of a vagina or whatever you want to be addressed as this week in vernacular fashion; can you just please pick one attitude and stick too it? Frankly, this inconsistency is embarrassing the hell out of me (sixty-ish, small-f feminist in the long-ago dark days when there was genuine no-s*it gender inequality in education, job opportunities and pay-scales to complain about and campaign for redress thereof). This is also annoying to my daughter, the thirtyish Marine Corps veteran of two hitches. The Daughter Unit is actually is very close to losing patience entirely with those of the sisterhood who are doing this “Woman Powerful!-Woman Poor Downtrodden Perpetual Victim!” bait and switch game. So am I, actually, but I have thirty years experience in biting my tongue when it comes to the antics of the Establishment Professional Capital-F Feminist crowd.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Feminism, Personal Narrative | 11 Comments »

    The End of the World?

    Posted by David Foster on 4th March 2015 (All posts by )

    Sarah Hoyt thinks not.

    When I was thirty one, I sat on my back porch on a lovely summer day, reading Reason magazine.  The issue was devoted to debunking global warming.  And suddenly, like a weight lifting, I realized there really wasn’t proof.  That it wasn’t preordained that my generation would be the last to have a decent life on Earth.  That my kids and grandkids (I only had one kid at the time, and he was still nursing) wouldn’t necessarily be doomed.  That the future wasn’t all doom and gloom.

    And I realized my entire life I’d lived in the shadow of the fear of decay and death.  First there was the cold war, and sooner or later, the bombs would fly.  We’d die screaming.  Then there was overpopulation.  If we escaped the bomb, we’d all starve to death.  Or thirst to death (thank you, Paul Ehrlich!)  Then there was global cooling.  We were all going to freeze in the ice age.  Then there was global warming.  Amid all these threats, how could we escape.  To watch the thing debunked and to see it pointed out that even the proponents of AGW don’t live like they believe in it lifted a weight from my heart.


    Since then I’ve been skeptical of the end of the world prophecies.

    RTWT

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Environment, Human Behavior, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    The Liquidation of Markets

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 22nd February 2015 (All posts by )

    Every weekend I read Barry Ritholtz’s recommended reading and there are a lot of gems in there. Recently he posted this Credit Suisse graphic about markets at the turn of the 20th Century by market share and compared it with 2014 on the topic of global equity investing.

    US_stocks

    In his article he mentioned the fallacy one might fall into as a UK equity investor in 1899… why bother investing in the USA when the UK market is so much larger? And then this line of thought ends up missing the huge growth in US market share over the next century.

    However, the real issue here isn’t the relative change in market share by the different countries; it is the fact that almost all of these markets were entirely extinguished at one time or another by political, economic or military events that wiped out the investors.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Investment Journal | 11 Comments »

    Middle-Aged Ruminations About Mid-Life Crises, Self-Esteem, and Too Much Rumination

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th February 2015 (All posts by )

    Generalizing from his own experience, Jonathan Rauch finds evidence of a U-shaped happiness curve in life:

    I was about 50 when I discovered the U-curve and began poking through the growing research on it. What I wish I had known in my 40s (or, even better, in my late 30s) is that happiness may be affected by age, and the hard part in middle age, whether you call it a midlife crisis or something else, is for many people a transition to something much better—something, there is reason to hope, like wisdom. I wish someone had told me what I was able to tell my worried friend: nothing was wrong with him, and he wasn’t alone.

    I’m skeptical.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Tradeoffs | 13 Comments »

    Book Reviews – 2014 Summary

    Posted by David Foster on 12th January 2015 (All posts by )

    Last year I reviewed quite a few books, including several that IMO are extremely important and well-written.  Here’s the list:

    The Caine Mutiny.  The movie, which just about everyone has seen, is very good.  The book is even better.  I cited the 1952 Commentary review, which has interesting thoughts on intellectuals and the responsibilities of power.

    To the Last Salute.  Captain von Trapp, best known as the father in “The Sound of Music,” wrote this memoir of his service as an Austrian submarine commander in the First World War–Austria of course being one of the Central Powers and hence an enemy to Britain, France, and the United States.  An interesting and pretty well-written book, and a useful reminder that there are enemies, and then there are enemies.

    That Hideous Strength.  An important and intriguing novel by C S Lewis. As I said in the review, there is something in this book to offend almost everybody.  So, by the standards now becoming current in most American universities, the book–and even my review of it–should by read by no one at all.

    The Cruel Coast.  A German submarine, damaged after an encounter with a British destroyer, puts in at a remote Irish island for repairs.  Most of the islanders, with inherited anti-British attitudes, tend toward sympathy with the German:  one woman, though, has a clearer understanding of the real issues in the war.

    Nice Work.  At Chicago Boyz, we’ve often discussed the shortage of novels that deal realistically with work.  This is such a novel: an expert in 19th-century British industrial novels–who is a professor, a feminist, and a deconstructionist–finds herself in an actual factory.  Very well done.

    Menace in Europe.  Now more than ever, Claire Berlinski’s analysis of the problems in today’s Europe needs to be widely read.

    A Time of Gifts.  In late 1933, Patrick Fermor–then 18 years old–undertook to travel from the Holland to Istanbul, on foot. The story of his journey is told in three books, of which this is the first.  This is not just travel writing, it is the record of what was still to a considerable extent the Old Europe–with horsedrawn wagons, woodcutters, barons and castles, Gypsies and Jews in considerable numbers–shortly before it was to largely disappear.

    The Year of the French.  The writer, commentator, and former soldier Ralph Peters calls this book “the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century.”

    Posted in Academia, Biography, Book Notes, Britain, Business, Christianity, Deep Thoughts, Europe, Germany, Ireland, Islam, Management, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Terrorism | 7 Comments »

    Dear Microsoft, Google and Other Retail Software Developers…

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th January 2015 (All posts by )

    [Update: These ideas apply to Web pages as well.]

    A few suggestions from a mere user:

    -Stop using script-based popup menus. Go back to old-style Microsoft-standard (c. 2003) clickable nested menus emanating from a static menu bar, with standard headings (FILE, EDIT, etc.) plus the unique headings needed for each piece of software. If you are using script menus as a workaround for complexity you should redesign your user interface. If you are using script menus for any other reason you should stop.

    -Knock it off with the icons. Use text buttons instead. The point of software it to economize on human effort, not to appear stylish. A trash-can icon is probably OK, but much more than that and users are forced to waste time mouse-hovering over your icons or (worse) looking things up in the online help.

    -Hire focus groups of 75-85 year-old occasional computer users and turn them loose on your products. They may not understand the fine points but they will tell you quickly if your products have any gross UI deficiencies that people like you who use software all day may be overlooking.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Customer Service, Deep Thoughts, Systems Analysis, Tech | 14 Comments »

    The Dark of the Year

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

    The longest night, the shortest day, the turn of the year – and I think likely the oldest of our human celebrations, once our remotest ancestors began to pay attention to things. They would have noticed, and in the fullness of time, erected monumental stones to mark the progression of the sun, the moon, the stars, the seasons, the light and the dark and all of it. The farther north and south you go from the equator, the more marked are the seasonal differences in the length of day and night. Just north of the Arctic Circle in the year I spent at Sondrestrom Greenland, those mid-summer nights were a pale grey twilight – and the midwinter days a mere half-hour-long lessening of constant dark at about midday. It was an awesome experience, and exactly how awesome I only realized in retrospect. How my ancestors, in Europe, or even perhaps in the Middle East, would have looked to the longer days which would come after the turning of the year; the darkness lessening, sunlight and warmth returning for yet another season of growing things in the ground, and in the blessed trees, when the oxen and sheep, and other domesticated critters would bear offspring. And the great primitive cycle of the year would turn and turn again, with the birth of the Christ added into it in due time.
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    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Christianity, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Europe, Germany, Holidays, Human Behavior, Islam, Religion | 6 Comments »

    Autocomplete: Threat or Menace?

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th December 2014 (All posts by )

    “I’m losing my house.”

    A friend of mine sent me this text message when I was on my way to meet her. Fearing the worst, I called her. She told me she had just left her house and was on her way. Her fancy new cellphone’s predictive-text feature had changed “leaving” to “losing”.

    This kind of thing seems to happen a lot these days.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Personal Narrative | 6 Comments »

    Sympathy for the Devil

    Posted by David Foster on 16th December 2014 (All posts by )

    The Sydney Morning Herald called for “empathy” for the terrorist who committed the recent hostage-taking in a cafe.  Hillary Clinton, too, has recently called for empathy for our enemies.

    I’m reminded of something G K Chesterton wrote:

    The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful. For example, Mr. Blatchford attacks Christianity because he is mad on one Christian virtue: the merely mystical and almost irrational virtue of charity. He has a strange idea that he will make it easier to forgive sins by saying that there are no sins to forgive. Mr. Blatchford is not only an early Christian, he is the only early Christian who ought really to have been eaten by lions. For in his case the pagan accusation is really true: his mercy would mean mere anarchy. He really is the enemy of the human race– because he is so human.

    (Orthodoxy, 1908)

    Posted in Christianity, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Media, Terrorism, The Press | 16 Comments »

    Narratives, Scenarios, and Strategies

    Posted by Grurray on 22nd November 2014 (All posts by )

    “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful”

    -George E.P. Box

    Models, predictions, and forecasts are always wrong, or, more accurately, they’re never completely right. That’s obvious since the map can never truly be the territory. Some are better than others, but no matter how hard we try and how much information that we gather, we’ll never construct a representation of reality better than the real thing. That being the case, forecasts therefore reveal more about ourselves and our present state of mind than anything about the future.

    The Research Feature in the fall issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review, “Beyond Forecasting: Creating New Strategic Narratives” (link here – requires a one time registration – or purchase Kindle article here for a few dollars), concerns a certain type of forecasting called scenario planning. The authors studied a tech company that was being hit hard during the 2001 economic crash and needed to find new strategies to navigate the rough seas ahead.

    Their research revealed that

    “future projections are intimately tied to interpretations of the past and the present. Strategy making amid volatility thus involves constructing and reconstructing strategic narratives that reimagine the past and present in ways that allow the organization to explore multiple possible futures.”

    These explorations of possible futures, more commonly referred to as scenarios, are stories intended to describe possible futures, identify some significant events, main actors, and motivations, and convey how the world functions.

    The authors note that constructing forecasts based on these methods usually doesn’t work very well because the future is uncertain and often unfolds in a way that is very different from current trajectories. The current paths are comfortable and familiar, so they are difficult to deviate from. Constructing scenarios of the future actually first requires constructing paths that connect the past, present, and future. The narratives are those paths.

    ”In comparing strategy projects within CommCorp, we found that the more work managers do to create novel strategic narratives, the more likely they are to explore alternatives that break with the status quo. In other words, to get to an alternative future, you have to create a story about the past that connects to it.”

    Predicting, prognosticating, and prophesying have been around since time immemorial. The modern version of strategic scenario planning can be attributed to Herman Kahn at the Hudson Institute and his “thinking the unthinkable” about nuclear war by taking into account non-linear, disruptive changes that lead to an uncertain future. The first to bring scenarios into the business world was the pioneering strategy guru Pierre Wack at Shell Oil who coined the term. Wack was a colorful and imaginative individual who took Kahn’s insights and repurposed them to affect the quality of judgment rather than quality of predictions.

    Among the many books, case studies, and articles on the Shell planning department, I just completed The Essence of Scenarios: Learning from the Shell Experience, a history of the scenario group culled from interviews of former members. Pierre Wack helped found it and headed it throughout the 1970s. The book concerns the entire history from then until the present, but it devotes a large part to Wack’s work and legacy.

    In contrast to Kahn’s theories, Wack was less concerned about decoding uncertainty or getting predictions right and more concerned with making future uncertainty more relevant to the present situation.

    “Wack was interested in scenarios as a way to ‘see’ the present situation more clearly, rather than as a basis for knowing about the future. The value of the scenarios is not in better forecasting what ‘the’ future will be, but in encouraging already smart people to learn by ‘seeing’ the present situation afresh, from the perspective offered by plausible, alternative futures , in a process that Wack termed ‘disciplined imagination’.”

    With an emphasis on present adaptation instead of future clarity, their first attempts happened to be nicely prescient. Their November 1971 scenarios covering “Producer Government Take/World Economic Development” and their January 1973 scenarios for “Impending Energy Scarcity” presented different tracks for oil prices including: a low slow growth scenario based on the continuation of past agreements with producer countries, a track that the corporate leadership expected; and a high price growth scenario which factored into concerns that producer countries were reaching limits to how much more capital inflows they could absorb.

    These scenarios involved explorations for prices through the late ’70s into the early ’80s. It’s important to keep in mind that, in keeping with the notion that they weren’t meant to be exact predictions, the high price track scenario still ended up being off by a factor of 20 as oil embargoes and inflation pushed prices higher than anyone could have imagined. Despite the fuzziness of the numbers, however, presenting a possible future far off from what was expected shifted thinking outside the company’s comfort zone.

    There was some initial skepticism from top executives, but the scenario planning helped the company to think differently and conditioned them to adjust in flexible ways that they wouldn’t have considered previously. Consideration of the high price track eventually led to Shell investing in nuclear and coal which helped offset the political turmoil and price shock that would arrive in the mid ’70s.

    “In October 1973, the first oil crisis began to unfold, and the entire organization became aware of the possibilities that scenarios offered. The 1973 scenarios report had provided a new frame of reference – the mindset of the oil producer countries. This new frame was significantly different from the usual analytical frame – the mindset of an oil company. The scenarios had enabled Shell executives to rehearse the future as a thought experiment rather than a crisis exercise. When the crisis actually occurred, Shell was able to collectively re-interpret the turbulent situation and to respond much faster than its competitors.”

    In order to be taken seriously, the Shell scenario team had to relate to top management how the oil producers’ situation related to their own situation.

    “In September 1972, Wack gave what those present remember as a three-hour, enthralling performance that was based on an image of the six scenarios as a river forking into two streams, each of which divided into three tributaries. The insight about hither oil prices and possible energy crisis… were integrated into one of these scenarios.”

    This technique demonstrated the narrative of how the high price scenario was linked to Shell’s operations and how it could have sprung forth from Shell’s past. The key was teasing out the culture, values, and qualities of the past that could make that future plausible.

    Similar re-interpretations of the past are what the MIT researchers found were most successful for their tech company. It wasn’t that they provided better predictions, but it helped provide a unifying vision and get everyone to buy into course changes that didn’t seem to fit before.

    “the crash in the market for its existing products had forced everyone at CommCorp to reevaluate the company’s historical strategic trajectory. This questioning enabled one manager to reinterpret CommCorp’s history, not only as a provider of big-ticket hardware for the backbone of the Internet but also as a provider of communications technologies across the whole network. By seeing the company as all about “communications,” the manager was able to propose a project for improving access at the “last mile” of the network. This reinterpretation made a radical shift in a future vision possible: CommCorp could provide small-ticket, standardized products as well as customized, high-end technologies.

    The narratives and scenarios became a way to define the company as it was today and illustrate a more coherent organizational structure. This is possible because of the rich potential of examining the past.

    “strategy making is not about getting the ‘right’ narrative. It’s about getting a narrative that is good enough for now, so that the organization can move forward and take action in uncertain times. This recognizes that strategy will in some ways always be evolving and “emergent.”

    Everyone loves to try to make predictions, but the real value lies in re-evaluating the past and restructuring past trajectories to provide for a launching point to navigate into the future. This “re-programming” the past is the way to deal with an uncertain future. Instead of forecasting futures that merely extrapolate from the status quo or futilely fighting future models that conflict with conventional mental maps, the use of narratives, scenarios, and strategies provides ways to create stronger and more harmonious models of the present.

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Management, Predictions | 16 Comments »

    The Continuing Mystery of Jewish Leftism

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th November 2014 (All posts by )

    Many of the comments on this post by Glenn Reynolds are quite good. Worth a read.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Jewish Leftism | 17 Comments »

    “Why Partyism Is Wrong”

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th October 2014 (All posts by )

    This is one of David Brooks’s better columns.

    Politics is obviously a passionate activity, in which moral values clash. Debates over Obamacare, charter schools or whether the United States should intervene in Syria stir serious disagreement. But these studies are measuring something different. People’s essential worth is being measured by a political label: whether they should be hired, married, trusted or discriminated against.
     
    The broad social phenomenon is that as personal life is being de-moralized, political life is being hyper-moralized. People are less judgmental about different lifestyles, but they are more judgmental about policy labels.
     
    The features of the hyper-moralized mind-set are all around. More people are building their communal and social identities around political labels. Your political label becomes the prerequisite for membership in your social set.

    There is much to this, though I would disagree that “people’s essential worth is being measured” by their politics. It would be more accurate to say that among nonreligious people politics is becoming a substitute for religion, an idea not unfamiliar to readers of this blog.

    Where Brooks falls flat is in eliding the easily observable fact that the social politicization he discusses is much more characteristic of the American Left than of the Right. But there’s an election coming and the Democrats are set to lose big, so it’s time to anticipatorily attribute the outcome to societal problems rather than the policies of the losing party. Still, he makes good points and his column is worth reading.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society | 8 Comments »

    Received Cynicism is a Bigger Problem than Anti-Americanism

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th October 2014 (All posts by )

    Rush Limbaugh was speculating today about the causes of anti-American sentiment in disaffected young people like the NYC hatchet jihadi. He attributes the anti-Americanism to leftist ideas and historical ignorance endemic to our schools. I think this is correct to some extent.

    However, the jihadis and other violent anti-American Americans are extreme outliers. The vast majority of people on the Left are not nearly so hostile to American institutions and culture, though they tend to hold grievances against this country and its political system and culture that conservatives do not. Limbaugh makes the typical culturally tone-deaf conservative error of attributing to anti-Americanism that which could better be attributed to cynicism and ignorance.

    The USA is a political, economic and cultural wonder, but you need some history to appreciate this fact and our schools no longer teach it. If you don’t know much history, facile cynicism and the tendentious explanations of people who really don’t like the country become plausible. It’s difficult for someone who understands the origins of this country’s institutions and traditions to become a jihadi. It’s even more difficult to become a jihadi if you also understand the intellectually convoluted roots of modern Islamism.

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Education, History, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Rhetoric, Terrorism | 28 Comments »

    Women, Islam, and the West’s Loss of Cultural Self-Confidence

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

    Young European women, as well as young European men, are joining ISIS, in numbers which–while not huge–are still large enough to raise concern.

    And in the United States,  more Hispanics are turning towards Islam, and  more than half of Miami’s 3,000 Hispanic Muslims are female.  One converted-Muslim Latina, who holds a masters degree, explained the appeal of the religion partly as follows:

    It defines their world on a clear grid of what’s permitted or ‘halal,’ and what’s prohibited which is ‘haram’. So they know exactly where they stand. So the Qur’an becomes this guidebook that tells you exactly what to wear, what to eat, how to wash, how to behave, when to pray.

    From the above-linked article about European girls converting to Islam and joining ISIS:

    The girls sought out IS fighters because the West seems weak and unmanly and they pine for real men who are willing to kill and die for what they believe in.

    Why? Europe’s got great health care, welfare, and lots of attractive young men and attractive women who, unlike the vast majority of women in the Middle East outside of Israel, are sexually available. So, why given a choice between a comfortable, if somewhat boring, life as a pharmacist in Hamburg, or fighting and dying in the desert, are thousands of Western Muslims opting for the latter?

    Because, for all the awesome social services and consumer goods it can offer, Europe has become incapable of endowing the lives of its citizens, Muslim or not, with meaning. A generation of young European Muslims are giving up their relatively easy lives in Malmö, Marseilles, and Manchester for the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, because Europe is devoid of values worth living—or dying—for. They are leaving for the same reason that Europe’s Jews are moving to Israel: Strength and a sense of purpose can be found elsewhere, whether it’s ISIS, Vladimir Putin, Ali Khameni, or the IDF.

    Karim Pakzad, of the French Institute of International and Strategic Relations, said some young women had “an almost romantic idea of war and warriors.  I think this has been true in many if not most places throughout the world and many if not most times throughout history…but today’s West, in many if not most of its subcultures, does not honor its own warriors very much these days.

    The motivations of the women referenced in these articles are similar though not identical to the motivations of Arthur Koestler’s protagonist Hydie Anderson, in the 1950 novel The Age of Longing.  (My review of the book is here.)  Hydie is a young American woman living in Paris, a former Catholic who has lost her faith.  She is not attracted to any of the American or European men she knows, but falls hard for a committed Russian Communist. Koestler makes it clear that Fedya’s sexual appeal to Hydie is due in large part to his cultural self-confidence:

    “Listen, please,” (Fedya) said. “We have talked about these matters often before. You don’t like that we make scientific studies of human nature like Professor Pavlov. You don’t like revolutionary vigilance and lists on the social reliability of people, and discipline and re-education camps. You think I am brutal and ridiculous and uncultured. Then why did you like making love with me? I will tell you why and you will understand…”

    “I am not a tall and handsome man…There are no tall and handsome men who come from the Black Town in Baku, because there were few vitamins in the food around the oilfields. So it was not for this that you liked to make love with me…It was because I believe in the future and am not afraid of it, and because to know what he lives for makes a man strong…I am not handsome, but you have felt attracted to me because you know that we will win and that we are only at the beginning–and that you will lose because you are at the end…”

    In my review, which was originally posted almost 5 years ago, I linked a British Muslim woman who said that ““Since 9/11, vast numbers of educated, privileged middle-class white women have converted to Islam”…she identified these converts as including women at “investment banks, TV stations, universities and in the NHS.” Her concern was not that they are converting to Islam…something I’d presume she would applaud…but that they were converting to “the most restricted forms” of the religion.

    In the review, I said:

    I don’t think Koestler’s protagonist would have been attracted to a fundamentalist Muslim in the way that she was drawn to the communist Fedya. The gap in values would have been far wider: while Communism is a bastard child of the Enlightenment, radical Islam is counter-Enlightenment, and does not make the kind of universalist, humanitarian, and secular promises that the Communists made–the cruelty is closer to the surface.But the loss of Western self-confidence has greatly accelerated since Koestler wrote, and today’s Hydies are unlikely to share the educational and religious depth of the woman Koestler imagined.

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Deep Thoughts, France, Islam, Philosophy, Society, Terrorism, USA | 24 Comments »