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  • Archive for August, 2006

    Video: Small-Unit Night Fighting in Lebanon

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st August 2006 (All posts by )

    Via Menorah (via Power Line) comes a riveting video made by an Israeli journalist who accompanied troops on a night mission against a Hezbollah-occupied village in Lebanon. It’s 27 minutes long and exceptionally clear and well produced. You will watch the whole thing.

    To start the video, copy and paste this URL into your browser:

    http://tinyurl.com/rdjvh

    Posted in Israel | 3 Comments »

    Maybe This Time They’ll Do It Right

    Posted by Ginny on 31st August 2006 (All posts by )

    Jim Miller contextualizes & links to a new column by Kate Riley, “Who Owns the Past?” This is a topic discussed here and here before – the Kennewick Man. She says:

    Kuw�ot yas.�in and Kennewick Man have something to say about how people came to America. But the testimony told through their bones reveals only a small part of the larger mystery. The truth should not be buried

    Posted in History | Comments Off

    Inefficient Efficiencies

    Posted by Shannon Love on 31st August 2006 (All posts by )

    Instapundit links to a FastCompany article about Walmart’s pushing of the use of high-efficiency compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) as a means of cutting energy consumption. I like CFLs and use them in my home. Walmart’s effort represents an honest attempt to try to reduce energy consumption.

    To bad this effort and all other efforts to reduce energy consumption via greater efficiency will never, ever work.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Environment | 29 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th August 2006 (All posts by )

    Chicagoboyz promotes family values.

    Posted in Photos | Comments Off

    Go Read Ginny’s Post First

    Posted by John Jay on 30th August 2006 (All posts by )

    I wanted to add a couple of things to what Ginny said about SATs. The SATs have been a burr under my saddle since ETS “re-centered” the test in 1994. Mensa* no longer accepts the new SAT because the statistics are now so screwy – they no longer correlate with IQ. The scores had been dropping for a while prior to 1994 and the educational powers-that-be wanted to hide it, so they re-jiggered the baseline. In practice, this meant a 100 200 point increase in the composite score – I knew of 2 kids who took both the 1993 and 1994 version (within a few months, and without extra test prep, so extra schooling was not a factor), and that was the difference in their scoring. N of 2, I know, but I have evidence Ill provide lower down that this is pretty typical.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education | 4 Comments »

    The SATs

    Posted by Ginny on 30th August 2006 (All posts by )

    Comments on Shannon’s post reminded me of a news report I’d heard this morning.

    The College Board is trying to put a pretty face on it, but the fact remains: “For the class of 2006, overall combined scores for mathematics and critical reading dropped by seven points from last year,” although they finish the sentence with “which represents less than 1 percentage point.” If you want to see the scores over a long period (which doesn’t make us boomers look all that bad), look at Table 2. Various other tables give other data, including a graph that shows the improvement in math scores over the last decade – though certainly not back to 1967 levels – as well as those in critical thinking.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education | 4 Comments »

    Choosing Poverty

    Posted by Shannon Love on 29th August 2006 (All posts by )

    Catherine Seipp at NRO writes about Barbara Ehrenreich’s new documentary Waging a Living. (I haven’t seen it but I have read other Ehrenreich works so I feel confident in my analysis based on Seipp’s summation.) I think Ehrenreich’s body of work showcases the Left’s blindspots when it comes to fighting poverty.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Politics | 38 Comments »

    Kolthoff

    Posted by John Jay on 29th August 2006 (All posts by )

    As the first scientist in the series of geeks you should know, I give you Izaak Maurits Kolthoff. My first introduction to him was at a conference where a student from Minnesota was wearing a t-shirt that read �I.M. Kolthoff � and you�re not.� He was revered, feared, and marveled at during his own tenure, publishing 809 articles until his retirement, after which he published 136 more as an emeritus. Let me repeat that: 945 articles, and 136 peer-reviewed articles as an emeritus! He taught 67 graduate students, and his scientific progeny number in the thousands, now. If for no other reason that that level of publication and educational output, he should be widely known. Instead, he�s Chemistry�s equivalent of Appert.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Science | 4 Comments »

    Disproportionate Response

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 28th August 2006 (All posts by )

    Famed blogger Steven den Beste asked me if I would mind posting a few of his thoughts. Not at all! And here they are.

    During the recent war in southern Lebanon, one of the many complaints leveled at Israel was that its response was “disproportionate”. Care to hear the reason why the complainers wanted Israel to limit itself to “proportionate” responses?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 83 Comments »

    Evangelicals and U.S. Foreign Policy

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th August 2006 (All posts by )

    I read this paper by Walter Russell Mead in Foreign Affairs last week. It is a typically excellent Mead product.

    I think the main thing Mead is trying to accomplish with this article is to show unreligious people who are part of the Northeastern establishment that (1) there is a lot more to the so-called “religious right” than their stereotypes can capture, (2) that the impact of the evangelical community is going to continue to be major, and growing influence on US foreign policy, and (3) that the policies that this community is going to advocate in the future, again, may differ from the stereotypes which the non-religious establishment has of evangelicals. Basically, American evangelicalism is a vast and influential and active world unto itself that most people who are interested in or participate in public policy know nothing about. One friend commented that Mead is being more than fair to these folks. I think he is appropriately fair. But Mead�s goal is not to criticize this community, but to try to explain them to an uncomprehending and hostile audience.

    RTWT.

    Posted in Politics, Religion, Society, USA | 1 Comment »

    On & Of Podhoretz

    Posted by Ginny on 28th August 2006 (All posts by )

    Both current & recent Commentaries offer discussions of possible interest to Chicagoboyz. One is about the personal – how are our friendships defined? developed? Podhoretz’s Ex-Friends appears to stimulate “Friendship Among the Intellectuals” by Joseph Epstein. The role of civility and affection in friendships that are strained by a variety of forces, notably a drifting apart in political or ideological passions, is demonstrated by Epstein, clearly a man with a respect for the importance of such friendships. Why Podhoretz’s life contains many “ex-friends” is demonstrated in the current issue, “Is the Bush Doctrine Dead?” where he affirms the position he has set out in a series of Commentary essays – a position quite different from that taken by his friends of a few decades before.

    Posted in Politics | Comments Off

    Ward-Perkins — The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization

    Posted by James McCormick on 28th August 2006 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted on Albion's Seedlings]

    Ward-Perkins, Bryan, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization, Oxford University Press, 2005, 239pp.

    In an earlier book review article on Peter Heather’s The Fall of the Roman Empire, we got a chance to revisit the subject with a new generation of scholarship at hand … to correct for the prejudices of Edward Gibbon’s contemporaries, to integrate substantially more knowledge about events in the eastern Empire, and to apply more modern perspectives on economics and communication to our understanding of the “Fall.”

    The who, when, and where of the Fall have been known for centuries, at least in rough outline. Heather’s book provided a thorough overview of the details. The how and why have also been subject to generations of debate and mountains of written scholarship. Nonetheless, it’s only in the last fifty years that new perspectives on the “what” … as in “what actually happened, where?” have been more fully addressed by archaeology. The details of settlement and material culture which can give us a physical baseline for cultural activities is only now coming into focus.

    A comment by Albion’s Seedlings reader “Mark” led me to an online interview with Peter Heather and Oxford colleague Bryan Ward-Perkins … both had co-incidentally written books on the fall of the Roman Empire in the same year (2005). I’d enjoyed Heather’s book so much, and found the online interview so interesting, that I was inspired to borrow Ward-Perkin’s title from the local library.

    This second book approaches the subject from a very different vantage point … it reviews the latest perspectives on the why and how of the fall of the Roman Empire, and discusses the material impact of the Fall in the centuries following the abdication of the final western Emperor (476 CE). Finally, it discusses the academic “sugar-coating” of the Fall of the Empire that has taken place over the last 30 years. How did we go from centuries of “The Fall of the Roman Empire” to a “Transformation of the Classical World” in the scholarship of the 1990s? What combination of EU political requirements, post-modern post-colonial fantasy, and New Age religiosity converted the Dark Ages into “Late Antiquity”? The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization goes quite a ways to solving both the historical puzzle and the academic muddle of the 21st century.

    This year, we’re not celebrating the 1600th anniversary of the invasion of the Vandals, Alans, and Sueves across the Rhine river, which triggered a fatal seventy year crisis in the western empire. After reading Ward-Perkin’s book, you’ll only be surprised that the EU didn’t commission an anthem, a logo, and a cartoon mascot! By let’s first turn our attention to an outline of Professor Ward-Perkin’s compact, beautifully written book.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 13 Comments »

    Latest Developments in Spam

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th August 2006 (All posts by )

    I just received a junk message whose subject line read: “Powerline Hugh Hewitt Jarvis”.

    Posted in Internet | 2 Comments »

    Buzzati — The Tartar Steppe

    Posted by James McCormick on 27th August 2006 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted on Albion's Seedlings]

    Buzzati, Dino. The Tartar Steppe, translated from the Italian by Stuart C. Hood, and available in many inexpensive editions from 1952 to late 2005.

    Dino Buzzati’s The Tartar Steppe is the story of a young man who completes his training as a military officer and is transferred as a young lieutenant to a border fortress where nothing seems to happen. Isolated from life in the city amidst mountains and set before a vast forbidding plain, the soldiers and officers of the fort live in a routine, familiar and often boring, secretly hoping that their commitment and discipline will be rewarded by some kind of engagement with an enemy over the northern horizon … across the expanses of an empty steppe.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes | Comments Off

    A Mild & Messy Rant, inspired by John Jay

    Posted by Ginny on 27th August 2006 (All posts by )

    Thank you, John Jay, for the post below. I started a comment & kept ranting, so made it into a messy post. It remains more a thrown out comment than coherent response. And, of course, mostly I think you are quite right.

    Nonetheless, I think Mencken got it really wrong and is an irritating forefather of some of the worst about our culture today – especially his emphasis upon cynicism and his lack of gratitude for the rich tradition we have been given. His belief we need aristocrats is characteristic of his misanthropy which seemed to come from a narrow & bitchy soul. I remember picking up his essays to read on break & feeling physically ill – the pages seened strewn with spittle & venom. You have shown, however, that he did have both a sense of humor and common sense.

    Sure post modernism is impenetrable because it is idiotic�being impenetrable is a power play for one thing. This is the same device that the theorists want to be called philosophers & contend they are discussing philosophy. Well, they are writing impenetrable prose about quite abstract, counterintuitive, and often just weird ideas. That doesn�t make it deep.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Morality and Philosphy, Society | 5 Comments »

    Of Witchcraft and Weaponry

    Posted by David Foster on 27th August 2006 (All posts by )

    An old copy of Forbes ASAP (2/22/99) has an article on supercomputing which includes this quote from a nuclear weapons designer at Los Alamos:

    Weapons designers play the societal role of witches in fairy tales–we scare people into behaving.

    This captures very well the Cold War image of nuclear weapons–they are of the supernatural rather than the natural world; they belong to the realm of fevered nightmares rather than waking thoughts.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    Academic Prose

    Posted by John Jay on 27th August 2006 (All posts by )

    As a scientist and teacher, I was often confronted with the task of communicating very complex ideas to people who, while intelligent, did not have all of the relevant information necessary at the forefront of their consciousness to understand the concepts I was trying to convey. For that reason, scientific writing strives (not always successfully) to be as clear, simple and concise as possible. I was fortunate to have good teachers – that article was required reading in our lab.

    One of the (many) problems with scientific English is that so many non-native speakers publish in it, and they bring a lot of baggage to it from their native languages. But the main barrier to understanding is that scientific prose is that it is dense with new ideas. If you do not know the precise definitions of the terms the author is using, you will be lost, no matter what your level of skill. If you have not worked out the math before, you will need to do that when you encounter an equation, or the words that follow will make little to no sense. For this reason, simple, declarative grammar is the byword for a scientist the ideas make things hard enough as it is.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia | 1 Comment »

    Cat Rescue II

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th August 2006 (All posts by )

    For those who would like the follow-up on this post, Carl Ortona sent me an update, below the fold. The ending is happy.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Humor, Personal Narrative | 1 Comment »

    Kelo Update

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 26th August 2006 (All posts by )

    It’s over.

    The state of Connecticut has come up with an extra $2.1 million for the last holdouts in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood in New London, including Suzette Kelo. The town also decided to drop claims of $1.1 million of back rent from the people who refused to turn over their property. The Kelo house will apparently be jacked up and moved.

    The intended beneficiary of this project is the Pfizer company. They are only a couple of hundred yards from the Kelo house, right on the water next to Ft. Trumbull (the Kelo house is directly behind Ft. Trubull). There is supposed to be a hotel, a small convention center, and the usual luxury condos. They had better hurry – Pfizer’s patent on Viagra expires in seven years, and there are no blockbusters in development.

    I drove through the redevelopment area last week, and the situation was largely unchanged since I took these pictures (2 views of the Kelo house, the Pfizer campus, office space for lease, and Fort Trumbull from the ferry) last year. All the “Not for Sale” signs are down. There is an office park (with lots of space for sale or lease) on the north side of the area, but it looks like it is the result of the adjoining redevelopment of Shaw’s Cove. There is a lot of raw land. Even with clear title to most of the area, it does not look like an Oklahoma-style land rush is in process.

    Posted in Civil Liberties | 9 Comments »

    It Isn’t Water This Time Around

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 26th August 2006 (All posts by )

    An interesting theory was introduced in 1957 about hydraulic empires.

    The basic idea is that, in some regions, vast empires were only possible if the state had control over access to water. Control of the populace was ensured because everyone would soon die if the crops were denied the life giving resource.

    A drought was, oddly enough, a way for the reigning despot to strengthen his grip. Scarce water would be diverted to cities and regions that shown the most enthusiasm in their support of the ruler, while more troublesome populations would have to face a terrible death from starvation. The favored were even wilder in their support, while anyone who was less than loyal wasnt around any longer to cause trouble.

    Strategypage.com reports that North Korea has been doing the same thing, except that this time it is food that is scarce instead of water. The armed forces spend a fair amount of their time farming and raising food, which means that the guys with all the guns are less likely to rebel. Civilian farms in areas known for showing signs of unrest are denied desperately needed supplies, which results in mass starvation.

    Policy towards North Korea seems to be based on the hope that it will eventually implode on its own. The strategy is that forces inside the country will destroy the odious Communist government if we wait long enough. It is hoped that the people will rise up just as soon as enough of them realize that they have been lied to by their leaders, or the remaining leaders will start a civil war after Kim Jong Il dies.

    I first came across the theory of hydraulic empires when I was reading the Larry Niven novel A World Out of Time way back in 1976. The protagonist explains the concept, and then mentions that this type of empire exerted such control over the population that they could never be toppled from within. The society might become so rotten that a single barbarian raid could start a chain reaction which led to the destruction of the entire empire, but it always took that push from outside to get the snowball rolling downhill.

    Things are a bit more complicated when it comes to North Korea, mainly because both China and South Korea have an interest in seeing the country lurch along without coming apart. But, even if Pyonyang didnt have their support, I would be willing to bet that the government still wouldnt fall on its own.

    Posted in History | 3 Comments »

    Friday Catblogging

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 25th August 2006 (All posts by )

    Posted in Humor | 1 Comment »

    Pssst! Want to buy a Lebanese Ambulance?

    Posted by Shannon Love on 25th August 2006 (All posts by )

    Any chance that “buying a Lebanese Ambulance” will enter the language with the same meaning as “buying the Brooklyn Bridge”?

    Can someone come up with a better phrasing?

    Posted in Humor, Middle East, The Press | 1 Comment »

    Historical Irony of the Day

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 25th August 2006 (All posts by )

    Apropos of nothing, I learn from Mexicans back home after months lost in Pacific, which is about several men who involuntarily undertook a harrowing journey of several thousand miles, that the Mexican AG is named Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, thereby sharing a surname with the early Spanish explorer of Mexico, who involuntarily undertook a harrowing journey of several thousand miles (the subject of a strange but intriguing movie fifteen years ago).

    Posted in Latin America | 3 Comments »

    Another P.S. to an even older post

    Posted by Ginny on 25th August 2006 (All posts by )

    A theme of long-standing on this blog has been the weight of what is sometimes called “democide”, that seldom, if ever, is balanced by the deaths of war. And the fear of which permeates our lives in a way that war may – but often doesn’t. Mohammad of Iraq the Model, reporting on a blogging conference he attended in Cairo, notes that difference:

    It may sound a bit odd but that’s really what I felt in Egypt that I don’t feel in my war-torn city; for the first time in 3 years I felt the restraints of governmentI told one of my colleagues I feel safe in Baghdad despite the dangers, I may feel afraid of terrorists or random violence but I never fear the government and that’s not only how I feel, Iraqis are not afraid of expressing their differences with the authority because we in Iraq have more or less became part of that authority the day we elected our representatives while terrorists and militias are nothing more than temporary phenomenon that unlike constitution and elections have no solid foundations.

    This distinction, of course, is one we understand & appreciate. (Original reference was to Atlantic Monthly; hat tip Instapundit.)

    Posted in Civil Liberties | 3 Comments »

    Chicagoboyz – Relevant Then & Relevant Now

    Posted by Ginny on 25th August 2006 (All posts by )

    Discussion of Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed drew criticism from several bloggers here: Lex, Shannon, as well as a more positive take on his earlier Guns, Germs & Steel by Michael Hiteshew, who voices an appreciation shared by many of us who were more critical of this later, apocalyptic work.

    A&L, that great aggregator, has linked to an article by Terry L. Hunt, Rethinking the Fall of Easter Island, that finds Diamond’s assumptions quite wrong. We are pleased when we see a scientist, in Arnold’s words, “turn back on himself” – not because we want their assumptions to be wrong but because we respect those who are willing to listen to what the evidence says, to approach their projects with sympathies but not closed minds. So, Hunt tells us:

    When I first went to Rapa Nui to conduct archaeological research, I expected to help confirm this story. Instead, I found evidence that just didn’t fit the underlying timeline. As I looked more closely at data from earlier archaeological excavations and at some similar work on other Pacific islands, I realized that much of what was claimed about Rapa Nui’s prehistory was speculation. I am now convinced that self-induced environmental collapse simply does not explain the fall of the Rapanui.

    (In American Scientist Online.

    Posted in Science | 3 Comments »