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  • Archive for the 'Media' Category

    Harbingers

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th April 2014 (All posts by )

    I’ve been surfing my usual internet hangouts over the last week or so – in between working on various editing, formatting and sales projects for the Tiny Publishing Bidness – so although I did surf, and read and observe reports on a number of different and rather disturbing events – I didn’t have time to write anything about them until after I had finished the biggest of the current projects on my plate.

    The biggest of them was the new-old range war of the Bundy ranch. I suppose that technically speaking, the Fed Gov had some small shreds of technical justification in demanding grazing fees … but the longer one looked at the whole of L’affaire Bundy, the worse it looked … which is doubtless why the Fed Gov backed down. A tactical retreat, of course; The optics of a shoot-out between the minions of the Fed Gov and the various Bundy supporters would not have been good, for Harry Reid and his clan and friends most of all, although they may eventually act – seeing that they have a position which will be at risk by tolerating defiance.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Blogging, Business, Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, Just Unbelievable, Media, North America, Politics, Real Estate | 19 Comments »

    You Know, I Always Wondered …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th April 2014 (All posts by )

    … about the egregious Al Sharpton, whom I will not dignify with the title of reverend, first because there is no record of the fat, illiterate, race-baiting rabble-rouser ever having attended a seminary of any sort, and secondly because … oh, good lord, just look at those old pictures of him from the 1970s and 80s; jheri-curled, velour track suit and gold pendant the size of a man-hole cover. People, trust me when I tell you that I require a smidge more dignity from those who hold churchly office in any denomination, a standard from which Al Sharpton fell so far that he would need a bucket-truck with a three-story-tall extension even to get close.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Diversions, Media, Society, The Press, Urban Issues | 22 Comments »

    A Hunger for Normalcy?

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd March 2014 (All posts by )

    Stephen Marche, writing about the Oscars, asserts that:

    The aesthetic criteria are pure cover, of course. The Oscars actually register which films the Hollywood elite think they ought to like. This is much more useful than a prize for merit. It provides a sense of the approved story lines of mass culture.

    …and goes on to say that what he sees projected in the front-runners and in many other recent films is a hunger for normalcy:

    This narrative is a marked change from previous years. Hollywood, and American moviegoers generally, likes the win. The common wisdom is that it wants not just a happy ending, but a triumph. Up! not down. Think Rocky. Think Gladiator, and Slumdog Millionaire, and Argo, and The King’s Speech….Obviously we can no longer stomach such victories. The story of overcoming and making a better world simply won’t fly anymore. Our version of winning, at this point, is simply being a human being, having your feet in the tall grass, having a family, being able to talk to a person in the flesh. Those are the “big wins” in America in 2013, at least by the lights of the nominees for best picture. 

    You can’t say it doesn’t fit the mood. We want everything to get back to normal. We want employment to return at the end of a recession. We want the American government to work again. None of it seems too much to ask, but obviously it is.

    RTWT

    I’m reminded of a passage in C S Lewis’s fantasy novel That Hideous Strength. The protagonist, Mark Studdock, is being held captive by a sinister cult. The room in which he is being held is intended, via both its structure and its artistic decorations, to create a maximum sense of disorientation in the prisoner. But:

    ...the built and painted perversity of this room had the effect of making him aware, as he had never been aware before, of this room’s opposite. As the desert first teaches men to love water, or as absence first reveals affection, there rose up against this background of the sour and the crooked some kind of vision of the sweet and the straight. Something else – something he vaguely called the “Normal” – apparently existed. He had never thought about it before. But there it was solid, massive, with a shape of its own, almost like something you could touch, or eat, or fall in love with. It was all mixed up with Jane and fried eggs and soap and sunlight and the rooks cawing at Cure Hardy and the thought that, somewhere outside, daylight was going on at that moment. He was not thinking in moral terms at all; or else (what is much the same thing) he was having his first deeply moral experience.

    (Oscars link via Newmark’s Door)

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Media, USA | 9 Comments »

    Stories

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

    (This afternoon I am working through my archives for materiel to post on the Watercress Press website blog, and I came across this post from … well, a while back. I thought it might be relevant, in these unsettled days and in light of various Boyz reminiscing about Tolkien and heroic days of yore. It might also serve as a departing point for a train of thought, especially when we need more inspiration than ever.)

    I am not one of those given to assume that just because a lot of people like something, then it must be good; after all, Debbie Boone’s warbling of You Light Up My Life was on top of American Top Forty for what seemed like most of the decade in the late 70s, although that damned song sucked with sufficient force to draw in small planets. Everyone that I knew ran gagging and heaving when it came on the radio, but obviously a lot of people somewhere liked it enough to keep it there, week after week after week. A lot of people read The DaVinci Code, deriving amusement and satisfaction thereby, and some take pleasure in Adam Sandler movies or Barbara Cartland romances – no, popularity of something does not guarantee quality, and I often have the feeling that the tastemakers of popular culture are often quite miffed – contemptuous, even – when they pronounce an unfavorable judgment upon an item of mass entertainment which turns out to be wildly, wildly popular anyway.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Business, Deep Thoughts, History, Lit Crit, Media, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Establishment Media

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th February 2014 (All posts by )

    Yes, I know very well that that is; to be the in-house media functionary. Not quite the so-called ‘real’ news media, but to be an employee/technician/writer/personality for the in-house public affairs media of a large government element – the US Air Force. I wouldn’t be so bitchy as to call the various offices that I worked in – base Public Affairs, the stint with a couple of production detachments focusing on informational elements for various departments of government, and for the largest part of my service life as a low-level minion of the keeping-up-the-morale-of-our-overseas-stationed-troops effort – as an in-house claque … but yeah. I’m almost two decades retired from the game, so maybe I can. Yes, I – and all the other AFRTS, PA pukes and military videographers – we were hired, paid and maintained in order to further the public affair goals of the US military. No shame in admitting that. Good outfits in the main; paid only moderately well, and a smidgen of a retirement after all that – but good on the whole to work for, and any number of former military public affairs personnel have used the experience as a stepping-stone to careers in journalism, television, and politics, to name just a few fields.

    The thing is – we all knew who we worked for; the military. And one of those lessons was that we should never reflect discredit on the military in our productions or in our actions in uniform. Fair go, being employees, we could not be seen to wash the institutional dirty laundry in public, and all. Public Affairs’ mission in the event of the dirty laundry coming out, was to spin so as to make it seem somewhat less dirty.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Current Events, Media, Military Affairs | 8 Comments »

    Fox News Doesn’t Represent Conservatives

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th February 2014 (All posts by )

    Well, OK. No offense to Roger Simon but he was expecting too much. Fox News is a business that has done well by catering to audiences — on the Center and Right of the political spectrum — that the other media companies ignored.

    Conservatives and libertarians like to complain about Bill O’Reilly because he is an annoying blowhard, a bully and a suck-up interviewer who claims to be conservative but allows himself to be used by leftist pols. Why does the supposedly conservative network continue to employ O’Reilly? Because he has a huge audience and makes the network a lot of money. Making money is what Roger Ailes is about. He’s not in business to foster conservatism. He caters to a conservative audience because that’s where the money has been, but as other networks have moved even farther to the left he can now pick off even more of their audience by moving Fox to the left. It’s not like Fox’s conservative and libertarian audience has alternative sources of TV news.

    Fox is a bit like the Republican Party. If your organization is the only game in town for people on your side of the issues, you can maximize your constituency/votes/donations/budget/profit by being squishy enough to capture some of your ideological competitors’ audience. So now James Carville and Bob Beckel work for Fox.

    Conservatives and libertarians should avoid dependency on one news network, just as members of any constituency should avoid being dependent on one political party.

    Posted in Media | 16 Comments »

    Bam! Slam! Sock! Pow!

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

    Kevin Williamson takes on some accusations by a Harvard professor…and, at a more general level, attacks the endless, hysterical, and irresponsible cries of “racism” and “sexism” by the Left and its media and academic minions. A fine piece of writing.

    Posted in Academia, Leftism, Media | 2 Comments »

    Her Inevitableness

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th February 2014 (All posts by )

    This is what I used to call her, in blog posts at ncobrief.com during the run-up to the 2008 primaries; Hillary Clinton; who seemed so … inevitable. She would be there, a power to behold and take seriously in the presidential primaries. “In the place of a Dark Lord you would have a Queen! Not dark but beautiful and terrible as the Morn! Treacherous as the Seas! Stronger than the foundations of the Earth! All shall love me and despair!”
    Well, I am certain that some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters have loved and despaired, in the resulting contest between ebony and ovary in the 2008 primaries. Eh – I didn’t care at the time, still don’t care and can’t be made to care. I will note for the record that my daughter was taking college classes then, and both of us were annoyed beyond all reason by the assumption that because we were both women, and politically involved, that we were OF COURSE all about Hillary. Our support was taken as a matter of fact. THE FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT! This possibility was apparently intended to make us both go wobbly in the knees and vote with our vaginas instead of our brains.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Conservatism, Media, Middle East, Military Affairs, Politics, Terrorism | 23 Comments »

    In Case You Have Been Wondering What Gollum is up to These Days…

    Posted by David Foster on 11th February 2014 (All posts by )

    LINK

    Posted in Humor, Media | 3 Comments »

    Otherizing

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

    To put it in simple terms, that’s what I call it when a whole group, or sub-set of people are deemed the Emmanuel Goldstein of the moment by a dominant group, and set up as a focus for free-wheeling hate. In practice, this hate may range all the way from a mild disinclination to associate professionally or socially, all the way to 11 in marking the object of that hate as a suitable target for murder, either singly or in wholesale lots – and sometimes with the cooperation and blessing of the state. It’s more something that I have read about – either in the pages of history books, or in the newspapers – and increasingly on-line. Still, it is no end distressing to see it developing here in these United States in this century. Am I paranoid about this current bout of ‘otherizing’? Perhaps – but don’t tell me that it cannot happen here.

    Some hundred and fifty years ago, the ‘otherizing’ reached such a pitch that young men marched against their countrymen – they were clad in blue and grey, and fell on battlefields so contested that lead shot fell like a hailstorm, and swept away a large portion of men recruited by regional-based units. Passionate feelings, words and small deeds, public and private regarding slavery were balanced against states’ rights. The pressure built up and up, like steam in a boiler – and finally there was no means for them to be expressed but in death wished upon the ‘other’. By the end of twenty years of editorials, speeches, and political campaigns had been worked to a fever pitch. Civil war became not only possible – but in the eyes of the editorialists, the speech-makers and the politicians – a wholly desirable outcome. And a goodly portion of a generation lay dead, as if a scythe had swept over a wheat-field. Everyone was very sorry afterwards, but the words could not be unspoken, the hatred and resentment re-bottled in a flask, or the dead re-animated, to go about their ordinary lives as if the great divisive issue of mid-19th century America had never been.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, History, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Media, North America, Tea Party | 49 Comments »

    When is 5 Percent Not 5 Percent?

    Posted by David Foster on 25th January 2014 (All posts by )

    The Iranian nuclear deal (more on the deal and the secret side agreement; see also this) refers to uranium enrichment thresholds of 5% and 20%. These may not sound too threatening, given that a nuclear weapon requires enrichment to around the 90% level. BUT the percentage enrichment of the uranium is NOT a good indicator of the amount of work required to get there.

    Start with a tonne (2204 pounds) of natural uranium feed–to enrich it to 5% will require about 900 Separative Work Units–SWUs being an indicator of the amount of energy, time, and capital equipment required for the process. Take to 5% enriched product and continue enriching it to 20%, and the incremental cost will be only about 200 SWUs, for an accumulated total cost of 1100 SWUs. And if you want to turn the 20% enriched substance into weapons-grade 90%-enriched uranium, you need add only about another 200 SWUs of effort, for a grand total of 1300 SWUs. Thus, the effort required to get to that seemingly-harmless 5% threshold is already 69% of the way to weapons grade, and 20% enrichment is 84% of the way there. See this article, which explains that “the curve flattens out so much because the mass of material being enriched progressively diminishes to these amounts, from the original one tonne, so requires less effort relative to what has already been applied to progress a lot further in percentage enrichment.”

    There has been very, very little media coverage on this point. One place the issue was discussed was in February and September 2012 reports by the American Enterprise Institute, which were discussed and excerpted at PowerLine in November 2013. Note that the AEI analysis shows an even flatter enrichment curve than the one in the article I linked above–AEI is showing 90% of the total effort for weapons-grade as being required to get to 5% enrichment, rather than “only” 69%. In either case, it should be clear that possession of large quantities of material enriched to 5% is a very nontrivial milestone on the way to constructing a nuclear weapon.

    Meanwhile, 4 billion dollars worth of frozen Iranian funds are being unfrozen and sent to Iran. Money is fungible, and almost certainly some of this money will go to support Iranian-backed terrorism, funding operations intended to kill American military personnel, Israeli civilians, and quite possibly American civilians in this country as well. And some of it will probably go to support R&D on advanced centrifuge technology, allowing Iran to move even more quickly to a nuclear weapon when it decides to do so.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iran, Israel, Media, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    Are We Living in a Post-Literate Society?

    Posted by David Foster on 11th January 2014 (All posts by )

    Was 1950 the high point of literacy in North America?

    An interesting if depressing piece here: Post-Literacy and the Refusal to Read.

    The author notes that the post-literate individual resembles the person from a pre-literate oral culture in many ways, BUT:

    On the other hand, post-literacy is not a relapse into orality, which, in its intact form, has institutions of its own such as folklore and social custom that codify the knowledge essential to living.  Post-literacy can draw on no such resources, for these have only been preserved in modern society in literature, and post-literacy has not only lost contact with literature, but also it simply no longer knows how to read in any meaningful sense.  It cannot refer to the archive to replenish itself by a study of its own past.

    …which implies, of course, that people in post-literate societies are more susceptible to manipulation than are those in either oral or literate cultures.

    Note also the description of the private college which is so desperate for tuition revenue that it forces its professors to tolerate almost any level of bad performance and outright laziness from its students. As I’ve observed before, the idea that “non-profit” institutions are inherently morally superior to for-profit entities is ludicrous, and increasingly obviously so.

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Human Behavior, Media, Tech, USA | 32 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 5th January 2014 (All posts by )

    The Power of Metaphor and Analogy. How verbal imagery affects decision-making.

    Not a Single One. Not a single Democratic senator managed to demonstrate enough judgment and courage to go against his Party herd and vote “Nay” on the Hagel confirmation. Also, interesting comments from a political science on the increasing tribalization of the electorate…strongly related to what I call the outsourcing of judgment and conscience.

    Coming Soon, to Places Near You? How French bureaucracy in the 1920s offers a preview of  rampant American bureaucracy in our present era.

    The Reductio ad Absurdum of Bureaucratic Liberalism. Swedish police were unable to suppress the riots, but they were able to issue parking tickets to burned-out cars…reminding me of an old SF story by Walter Miller.

    More on Bureaucracy. Peter Drucker explains why every government must be a “government of paper forms” if it is not to degenerate into a mutual looting society.

    Durbin, Tocqueville, and Freedom of the Press.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Israel, Leftism, Management, Media, Political Philosophy, Politics | 4 Comments »

    ETAOIN SHRDLU

    Posted by David Foster on 1st January 2014 (All posts by )

    I was trying to figure out the not-very-intuitive interface for presetting stations on my car radio, and remembered a car radio we had when I was a kid: it could “memorize” the frequencies of selected stations in an entirely mechanical manner. IIRC, you pulled out a setting button when the radio was on a station you wanted to “remember,” and when you later wanted to return to that station, you simply pushed the appropriate button in. (I believe this feature was mechanized via clamps gripping a continuous string that drove the tuning mechanism.)

    Which got me thinking: there was once a whole range of cunning mechanical devices that performed memory, logic, and arithmetic tasks that would now be done with a microprocessor or some other form of digital logic. Things that come to mind include railway signal interlocking systems, Linotype and other typesetting machines, mechanical calculators, mechanical analog computers, and ship and aircraft autopilots.

    Googling around, I found that there is actually a feature film about the Linotype:  a bit about the history of typesetting, the development of the Linotype machine, the basics of how it works, some of the social/economic implications, and much nostalgia from former Linotype operators (and also from younger operators, who are working to keep the trade/technology alive.) The film is available free to those who have an Amazon Prime membership.

    This video explains how the Linotype works and then goes into considerable detail about the mechanism.

    Regarding the social/economic implications, the first video notes that while Linotype reduced typesetting labor requirements by a factor of 6:1, it also drove an explosion in the volume of printed material, and a concurrent increase in literacy, and wound up actually increasing the number of people involved in the printing trade. I would also suspect that the high capital cost of Linotype equipment was one factor that drove a consolidation of the newspaper industry toward a small number of highly dominant papers in each city.

    One place where a Linotype can be seen in operation today is the Baltimore Museum of Industry, which has a machine which is periodically activated.

     

    Posted in History, Media, Tech | 11 Comments »

    History Friday – Spoiled for the Movie

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th December 2013 (All posts by )

    I’ve written now and again of how I’ve been spoiled when it comes to watching movies set in the 19th century American west – also known as Westerns – by my own knowledge of the setting and time. Yes, if a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a lot of it is like the Tunguska Explosion, with pretty much the same results – even if the movie in question is one of those high-cost, well-acted, beautifully filmed award-winning extravaganzas.

    The latest movie which has been destroyed for me is Dances With Wolves– which we decided to watch the other night. Beautiful-looking movie, scenic panoramic sweeps of the Northern Plains, attractive and interesting actors – especially those portraying Sioux – and as for the look and conduct of the tribe as portrayed? I’ve always thought there was nothing better for getting an idea of what a Sioux village and its inhabitants looked like in the mid-19th century. No, really – it was marvelous, almost a living history exhibit; everyone was always doing something; working, recreating, celebrating. Alas – everything else about Dances just falls apart on closer examination.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Diversions, History, Media | 11 Comments »

    Here We Go Again …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th December 2013 (All posts by )

    … or, haven’t I been to this rodeo before? Why, yes I have, and not all that long ago, either. First I called to mind was poor artless Paula Deen, celebrity cook-book author, metaphorically burned at stake in the marketplace of public opinion. But the Great Duck Dynasty Imbroglio of 2013 reminds me very much more of the Great Chick-Fil-A Ruckus of 2012, wherein some fairly mild published remarks by the CEO of the company sent the usual right-thinking suspects into a frenzy of shrieking like demented howler monkeys. Boycott, shun, divest and/or fire was the general ukase – for they are hateful hating bigots who shouldn’t be tolerated by truly tolerant people … and then the funniest thing happened. People went out and deliberately bought lunch, dinner and breakfast at their local Chick-fil-A outlet, to the utter chagrin of the usual right-thinking suspects. Chick-Fil-A nationwide had the best darned week they ever had, as far as sales went, and lines of hungry customers stretching for blocks.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Business, Conservatism, Current Events, Human Behavior, Media, Uncategorized | 28 Comments »

    The Mini-Series in 1878

    Posted by David Foster on 21st November 2013 (All posts by )

    Just re-read Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native (outstanding) and watched the 1994 movie (pretty good.) The book, like much Victorian literature, was originally serialized in a magazine, in this case Belgravia: a Magazine of Fashion and Amusement.

    I found the original illustrations that accompanied the serialization here. Inclusion of illustrations was apparently quite expensive in comparison with straight text, even after the efficiency improvements that went with higher print volumes, so they tended to be fairly scarce–only 12 of them for the whole serialized novel, in this case.

    More about the book and the economics of Victorian publishing here…it is interesting that the high cost of book encouraged lending libraries to insist that books be published broken into multiple volumes, so that reader access to the book could be “timeshared,” resulting in a higher ratio of revenue to cost.

    Hardy and the artist who did the illustrations (Arthur Hopkins) were able to collaborate only by mail, and Hardy was not thrilled with the first image of his main female protagonist, Eustacia…he was happier with the later versions of this character.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, Media | 2 Comments »

    Freedom, the Village, and the Internet

    Posted by David Foster on 21st September 2013 (All posts by )

    I’ve reviewed two books by German writer Hans Fallada: Little Man, What Now?, and Wolf Among Wolves (the links go to the reviews), both of which were excellent. I recently finished his novel Every Man Dies Alone, which is centered on a couple who become anti-Nazi activists after their son Ottochen is killed in the war…it was inspired by, and is loosely based on, the true story of  a real-life couple who distributed anti-Nazi postcards and were executed for it.

    I thought this book was also excellent…the present post, though, is not a book review, but rather a development of some thoughts inspired by a particular passage in the story.

    Trudel, who was Ottochen’s fiancee, is a sweet and intelligent girl who is strongly anti-Nazi..and unlike Ottochen’s parents, she became an activist prior to being struck by personal tragedy: she is a member of a resistance cell at the factory where she works.  But she finds that she cannot stand the unending psychological strain of underground work–made even worse by the rigid and doctrinaire man (apparently a Communist) who is leader of the cell–and she drops out. Another member of the cell, who has long been in love with her, also finds that he is not built for such work, and drops out also.

    After they marry and Trudel becomes pregnant, they decide to leave the politically hysterical environment of Berlin for a small town where–they believe–life will be freer and calmer.

    Like many city dwellers, they’d had the mistaken belief that spying was only really bad in Berlin and that decency still prevailed in small towns. And like many city dwellers, they had made the painful discovery that recrimination, eavesdropping, and informing were ten times worse in small towns than in the big city. In a small town, everyone was fully exposed, you couldn’t ever disappear in the crowd. Personal circumstances were quickly ascertained, conversations with neighbors were practically unavoidable, and the way  such conversations could be twisted was something they had already experienced in their own lives, to their chagrin.

    Reading the above passage, I was struck by the thought that if we are now living in an “electronic village”…even a “global village,” as Marshall McLuhan put it several decades ago…then perhaps that also means we are facing some of the unpleasant characteristics that–as Fallada notes–can be a part of village life. And these characteristics aren’t something that appears only in eras of insane totalitarianism such as existed in Germany during the Nazi era. Peter Drucker, in Managing in the Next Society, wrote about the tension between liberty and community:

    Rural society has been romanticized for millenia, especially in the West, where rural communities have usually been portrayed as idylic. However, the community in rural society is actually both compulsory and coercive…And that explains why, for millenia, the dream of rural people was to escape into the city. Stadluft macht frei (city air frees) says an old German proverb dating back to the eleventy or twelfth century.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, France, Germany, Health Care, History, Internet, Media, USA | 14 Comments »

    WORTHWHILE READING & VIEWING

    Posted by David Foster on 28th August 2013 (All posts by )

    How did Estonia become a leader in technology?

    Richard Fernandez on the creation of a whole generation of risk-averse elites

    Why is the golden age of television so dark?

    Finding the right balance between optimism and realism

    How to evaluate your own emotional intelligence

    How the politicized life is destroying society

    Flying aboard the PanAm–Boeing Clipper, circa 1940

    Transoceanic aircraft navigation in the Clipper era.  (The author uses the term “bearing” incorrectly: the proper term for the direction the airplane is headed in is actually “heading.)

    The man who loved not wisely, but at least twice

    Posted in Aviation, Europe, Human Behavior, Media, USA | 6 Comments »

    Celebrities Behaving Badly

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th August 2013 (All posts by )

    How very interesting that über-celeb (and possibly former über-celeb) Oprah Winfrey has now tried to walk back a very publically-made accusation of being treated with racial bias in an expensive Swiss handbag shop in Zurich with one of those lame apologies which aren’t really apologies, more of that sniveling, ‘I’m sorry that you were offended,’ statements which are framed so as to throw blame on the offended party merely for being offended. At least, she has skipped over the second part of the pro-forma excuse and non-apology, which is usually some variant of, ‘gosh, don’t you have a sense of humor?’ Both statements of which, I am obliged to confirm, do not remove the sting that a party thus abused takes away from the experience. Or even that that such an apology has been honestly and fully rendered to the aggrieved party.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Current Events, Customer Service, Human Behavior, Media | 17 Comments »

    The Media as Corrupt Kingmaker

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd June 2013 (All posts by )

    It appears that in 2008 there was considerable collusion among journalists to ensure that Barack Obama’s relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright did not receive serious attention. Be sure to read the piece at the link. I feel sure that there are numerous people who voted for Obama who would not have done so had this matter been properly covered. But these journalists–who no doubt consider themselves Your Moral and Intellectual Superiors, as Glenn Reynolds puts it–did not want you and other Americans to have and consider this information, but arrogated to themselves the power to decide what voters should see and should focus on, based on their own views of which candidate should win the election. Morally at least, what these journalists did is analogous to selling stock in a company while hiding material adverse information about the company…except that the stakes in this case were much, much higher.

    More recently, 60 Minutes performed what PowerLine calls “a  classic hit job on Israel ,” alleging that Israel is responsible for the exodus of Christians from the West Bank and Jerusalem. PowerLine notes that:

    The story was short on facts and context, particularly the context of the assaults on Christians and Christian sites in the Muslim Middle East. Anyone who has ever been to Israel knows that the authorities treat all religious sites as a sacred trust. At the American Spectator, Aaron Goldstein asks: “How many Christian churches have been burned down by Israelis? How many Christians have been murdered inside Israel?” Simon failed to “report” the answer to that question, but I’m pretty sure Power Line readers have a good bead on it.

    Watch the CAMERA video at the PowerLine link, which shows that CBS News made false statements about Bethlehem and the Israeli security fence. CAMERA also says that CBS, even after being advised of its error, has thus far failed to correct the misinformation it has propagated.

     

    Posted in Israel, Judaism, Media, Politics, USA | 11 Comments »

    NY Times on China’s Economic Rise Worldwide

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 2nd June 2013 (All posts by )

    The NY Times had a solid article called “China’s Expanding Economic Empire” in today’s paper.   It describes how China is using its’ state owned companies to expand globally, particularly in Africa, South America, the Middle East, and Asia.

    Ultimately, thanks to the deposits of over a billion Chinese savers, China Inc. has been able to acquire strategic assets worldwide.

    In addition to using their savings and financial discipline to acquire companies, China has infrastructure capabilities honed from building out their country and is able to bring staff locally to complete projects such as pipelines, railroads, mines and factories, thereby re-cycling their financial investments back into their own service companies.

    The article discusses Greenland, where China has proposed to come in and develop their vast resources in return for access to commodities only if the local government by-passes wage laws and other restrictions to allow the Chinese to being in their own labor.  Since no one else is offering to develop Greenland and their native workforce is ill-equipped to meet the challenge of modern infrastructure development and operations, it will be China’s by default.

    However, the article does not mention anywhere the key variable that keeps Western countries non-competitive in these regions – our own laws against corruption and bribery which are likely the only way to win bids throughout most of the developing world (the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act).  China has no compunction about working with anyone and doing whatever it takes to win these bids.

    In addition, China doesn’t care about its reputation with the local workforce, unless things get really bad (i.e. people start getting shot).  China brings its own value chain end to end, from the initial financing, to awarding bids to Chinese companies, to China pushing their surplus (skilled) labor and their own infrastructure even to support their staff (i.e. bringing in their own food).  Western companies try to bring in the local work force and are sensitive to local suppliers on a relative basis.

    While the article is generally full of relevant facts and analysis (except for the critical omission of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which basically gave the world to China on a platter), it ends on a completely false two paragraphs.

    As China becomes a global player and a fierce competitor… its political system and state capitalist ideology pose a threat.  It is therefore essential that Western governments stick to what has been the core of Western prosperity: the rule of law, political freedom, and fair competition… giving up on our commitment to human rights, or being compliant in the face of rapacious state capitalism, will hurt Western countries in the long term.  It is China that needs to adapt to the world, not the other way around.

    I am frankly astonished that the editor let them add these paragraphs to let the article end on such a false note.  There is no evidence that our methods of not complying with local practices is working; in fact the entire article proves that our Western methods are failing.

    If a country is led by a strongman you need to deal with a strongman or you won’t be in business; this is obvious, the Chinese know it, and we don’t have a chance in h*ll of competing with it.  As a result, we are handing the Chinese the world on a platter.  We will ultimately adapt to China, not the other way around.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in China, Leftism, Media | 11 Comments »

    Durbin, Tocqueville, and Freedom of the Press

    Posted by David Foster on 28th May 2013 (All posts by )

    Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds linked some comments by Senator Dick Durbin, who said he favors a “media shield law”…but isn’t sure if such a law should protect people who are bloggers and/or tweeters, rather than being employees of Associated Press, Fox News, etc.

    “Are these people journalists and entitled to constitutional protection?, asked Durbin. “We need to ask 21st century questions about a provision that was written over 200 years ago.”

    As it happened, last night I was reading Alexis de Tocqueville, who (as usual) has some relevant things to say:

    In France the press combines a twofold centralization; almost all its power is centered in the same spot and, so to speak, in the same hands, for its organs are far from numerous. The influence upon a skeptical nation of a public press thus constituted must be almost unbounded. It is an enemy with whom a government may sign an occasional truce, but which it is difficult to resist for any length of time.

    Neither of these kinds of centralization exists in America. The United States has no metropolis; the intelligence and the power of the people are disseminated through all the parts of this vast country, and instead of radiating from a common point they cross each other in every direction; the Americans have nowhere established any central direction of opinion, any more than of the conduct of affairs. This difference arises from local circumstances and not from human power; but it is owing to the laws of the Union that there are no licenses to be granted to printers, no securities demanded from editors, as in France, and no stamp duty, as in France and England. The consequence is that nothing is easier than to set up a newspaper, as a small number of subscribers suffices to defray the expenses.

    Hence the number of periodical and semi-periodical publications in the United States is almost incredibly large. The most enlightened Americans attribute the little influence of the press to this excessive dissemination of its power; and it is an axiom of political science in that country that the only way to neutralize the effect of the public journals is to multiply their number…The governments of Europe seem to treat the press with the courtesy which the knights of old showed to their opponents; having found from their own experience that centralization is a powerful weapon, they have furnished their enemies with it in order doubtless to have more glory for overcoming them.

    In America there is scarcely a hamlet that has not its newspaper. It may readily be imagined that neither discipline nor unity of action can be established among so many combatants, and each one consequently fights under his own standard. All the political journals of the United States are, indeed, arrayed on the side of the administration or against it; but they attack and defend it in a thousand different ways. 

    Durbin referred to the First Amendment as “a provision that was written over 200 years ago,” apparently implying that the passage of time makes it less relevant today. If he were better-educated and more intelligent, he would understand that the press environment of the Revolutionary era and the first half of the 1800s, marked by decentralization and low start-up costs, is more similar to today’s Internet-driven media environment–marked by the same factors–than either is to the era that was marked by a few huge quasi-monopolistic media organizations.

    When the Founders referred to “freedom of the press,” what exactly did they mean? I think there is a very strong case to be made (see detailed legal analysis by Eugene Volokh) that they meant freedom of the printing press (and, implicitly, of its technological successors) rather than offering a grant of special privilege to entities within a particular industry. Indeed, what would a grant of special protection to a “press” industry have even meant in an age when any citizen could buy a simple printing press and immediately begin publishing pamphlets or newspapers, without any need for huge capital investments, AP wire feeds, dozens of employees, etc?

    I agree with Glenn Reynolds that “We need protections for journalism, not journalists.” The idea of special civil-liberties protections only for a particular industry, with membership in that industry inevitably to be certified by the powers-that-be, is highly dangerous, and takes us back to an environment of  licenses to be granted to printers, securities demanded from editors, as in France, and stamp duty, as in France and England.

    I notice that the people who want to use “technology” as an excuse for the erosion of constitutional protections are generally people whose ignorance of technology is exceeded only by their ignorance of history.

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, History, Media, Tech, USA | 12 Comments »

    Borderline Radio

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th May 2013 (All posts by )

    (An archive post from … umm, a bit ago. I am putting together an eBook of my own posts about the military, and thought that the Boyz and fans might find this reminiscence of interest.)

    Our local public radio station (which full disclosure impels me to mention that I was employed by their 24-hour classical sister station on a part-time basis until about May, 2008 although now I am so pissed at their general drift that I coldheartedly refuse to support them in their current pledge drive) aired a special some time ago ago about “border radio”— that is, a collection of radio outlets located just over the Mexican border which during the 1950ies and 1960ies— joyfully free of FCC restrictions on power restrictions, or indeed any other kind of restriction— blasted the very latest rock, and the most daring DJ commentary, on stations so high-powered they could be heard all the way into the deep mid-West and probably on peoples’ fillings as well. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Customer Service, History, Media | 12 Comments »

    Academic Fraud

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st May 2013 (All posts by )

    An interesting case. Bellesiles? East Anglia? Don’t be silly — this is the Times, after all. But interesting nonetheless.

    Science may be a noble endeavor. However, as with professional sports, if there’s enough money or opportunity for self-aggrandizement in it some people will cheat, and some people will be attracted to the enterprise precisely because of the opportunity to cheat. Stapels, the subject of the Times profile, looks like a real piece of work. It will be interesting to see if he succeeds in rehabilitating himself, even if non-academically, as he seems to be trying to do. Perhaps his post-academic career is just beginning.

    (Via @blithespiritny on Twitter.)

    Posted in Academia, Human Behavior, Media | 15 Comments »