"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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I was maybe 150 miles away. Unfortunately, my camera won’t do longer than a 30-second exposure without a remote shutter release that I didn’t have. So what you see here is a 30-second arc of the flight, starting at the lower left a few seconds after the Shuttle, which appeared to the eye as a small, glowing red-orange ball, became visible. The bright trail continued, at a shallow angle to the horizon, for about thirty more seconds and then dimmed considerably, perhaps when the boosters burned out. It was probably visible for about 90 seconds in total. I’m sure it’s much more impressive close-up, but it was a bit of a thrill just to see it over the lights of the city.
The view from downtown Miami.
(Click the photo to display a larger version in a new window.)
I am looking forward to reading some books about the collapse of Wall Street. I am praying that Michael Lewis writes one. I was very happy to find this article written by him. If you are interested in the subject, I would make it required reading for this weekend. It is somewhat lengthy, but very entertaining. You will understand the title of this post if you read the article.
I could have sworn that someone was pulling my leg when I read this post over at Six Meat Buffet. No one could possibly imagine that I could be taken in by some tall tale of a socialist restaurant where the patrons pay what they think is fair, or “what they could afford”.
I found the analysis of the situation in Afghanistan to be particularly interesting. Obama has promised to forge a coalition of NATO allies to help win the war there, as well as take some of the burden off of our own troops. I have always figured that to be a pipe dream since most of the European governments have cut back military budgets to the point that they simply cannot project force beyond their own borders without significant help from the Anglosphere, particularly the United States. What good will it do for President Obama to go to the Europeans, hat in hand, and ask for a greater military commitment when there simply is no military for them to commit?
Many of the people I know in the US military have expressed similar thoughts to me. It seems to be weighing rather heavily on their minds of late.
Anyway, there really is nothing that I can add that would be of any use. Click on that link at the top of this post to read it for yourself.
In isolation, it may be argued that DNA retention would be useful to the Police in their work. However, put it against the background of everything else going on in the UK, and it becomes impossible to ignore the more sinister overtones of dictatorship.
It is very easy to formulate an argument for single items, for things that only affect a very small proportion of the population, which is how the salami slicing works.
However, when we put it all together, 26,000 new laws, 3000 new criminal offences, then the laws are not for the good of the people, or for their protection but for the good of the state.
According to this, voters with postgraduate educations supported Obama by 58% versus 40% for McCain.
This article suggests that the election results can be characterized as “the triumph of the creative class,” with “creative class” drawn from “Silicon Valley, Hollywood and the younger, go-go set in the financial world.”
For discussion: what, if anything, should Republicans/conservatives/libertarians do to increase their appeal to these categories of voters?
Let me get things off to a contentious start by suggesting that the “creative class” tag is more than a little presumptuous. Is a stock trader really more creative than a production control specialist in a factory, or a platoon commander in the Marines? (Indeed, I’ve seen research suggesting that the cognitive skills of a good trader and a good combat commander have a lot of similarities.) Is a computer programmer automatically more creative than a mechanical engineer? Is it really true that spreadsheet mavens on Wall Street are more creative than small businesspeople? Is a professor of electrical engineering inherently more creative than a practitioner of the same field who works for a defense contractor?
Maybe “credentialed class” would be a more realistic descriptor than “creative class.”
Until next January 20 Obama gets to bask in the glow of his election victory. He’s not responsible for Executive Branch screwups. He doesn’t have to make difficult public decisions or publicly reconcile incompatible demands from competing constituencies. Even though he is already deeply involved in the automobile industry bailout and other important issues as the President-elect, he can operate largely out of the public eye. His predecessor will get most of the blame for policy errors made during this period. Everyone likes Obama — including Republicans, since they have not yet been punished by his policies and, like the guy who is passing the tenth floor after falling from a 50th-floor window, still have that “so far so good” feeling.
All of this changes after Obama is inaugurated and has to start making public decisions and disappointing his supporters. The media will continue to cover for him, but many members of the voting public have high expectations and will be quick to complain when he lets them down. I hope that he does a good job, but so does everyone else, and that includes a lot of people with conflicting expectations.
Most of our readers here at The Chicago Boyz not only hail from the United States, but also identify themselves as Libertarians. You guys don’t know how good you’ve got it.
Why do I say that? Libertarians, big “L” or otherwise, seem to be concerned with keeping civil liberties intact. Vigilance must be eternal in order to keep the government from overreaching and trampling on our freedoms. For example, if the FBI insisted on taking and filing the fingerprints of everyone, including newborns, it would be seen as an infringement of privacy. There is just no reasonable justification for the expense and trouble of compiling a database of average law abiding citizens.
All well and good in the good ol’ US of A, but there is a rather alarming development in Old Blighty that has caused me to sit up and take notice.
It seems that the Home Office in Great Britain has compiled the largest DNA database in the entire world, not only in raw numbers but also in the percentage of population which has been included. According to the official figures found on the government webpage linked to above, “By the end of 2005 over 3.4 million DNA profiles were held on the database…” This dwarfs the approximately 1.5 million profiles that are to be found in all the DNA databases in the United States, even though we have about five times the population. The Home Office proudly claims that 5.2% of the entire population of England now has a copy of their DNA filed away in their database, and it might well be over 8% by now.
A friend of mine and I did the same thing when we were kids. I don’t remember if we used instructions from an old DIY book of children’s science projects or if our science teacher told us how to do it. We drove two large nails through a board. (The details are fuzzy in my memory, but I think we took a lamp cord, stripped the ends, and wrapped each end around the base of a nail before driving the nails through the board.) Then we pushed the ends of a hotdog onto the points of the nails so that it formed a bridge between them, stood back and plugged the lamp cord into a wall socket. The hotdog was cooked in a few seconds. One of us ate it, then we repeated the process with additional hotdogs. It was fun. We were careful and didn’t electrocute ourselves.
A few observations:
-They don’t make kids’ DIY science books like they used to. Or science teachers.
-I would not attempt this as an adult. OTOH, I don’t need to since I’ve already satisfied my curiosity.
-There’s a lot to be said for trying stuff. The trick is to know how far you can push it without getting hurt. Sometimes the only way to learn how far you can push things is to try them. Sometimes you try things and find out that they really aren’t very risky.
-Risk perception is very much a cultural construct. Our culture has changed substantially even during my lifetime. We are now generally more risk-averse and expect less individual responsibility.
-Don’t try this at home, at least not without a circuit breaker.
This is the first Veterans’ Day without my dad. He didn’t talk about it until he knew he was dying, and even then he didn’t say much. Smart-ass street kids from the Bronx without high school diplomas did not go to OCS. Usually, they were assigned to the infantry, but since he had volunteered for the Army Air Corps, they did the next best thing: they made him a ball turret gunner in a B-24. He was sent to the China-Burma-India theater on a troop ship to Calcutta (Kolkata), then flew over the hump to Chungking (Chongqing). In the hospital, he said a few words about being hauled out of the turret by his crew-mates before the plane bellied into a swamp, said a little about shooting at Japanese fighter planes and being shot at, talked a bit about flak, and mentioned strafing runs on Japanese trains, much too close to the ground. The only exit from the B-24 was at the rear of the plane, which was bad enough, but since he could not wear a parachute harness in the turret, let alone the parachute itself, his situation was essentially binary.
He must have been pretty good at it, though, because they promoted him and brought him back as a gunnery instructor. Nevertheless, he says he hated every minute of every day of the war. That may have saved his life, because they were offering early discharges to anyone who would sign up for the reserves; but he had decided that once he was done, he was done. It was 30 years before he would get on another airplane. As he said later, it was much nicer when no one was trying to kill him. The guys who took that offer went to Korea a few years later. Instead, Dad came back to the states to serve out his full enlistment, weighing 135 lbs., bright yellow from the malaria drugs, and bearing a heartfelt dislike of authority. All seven of his kids seem to have inherited that last characteristic.
Thank you, Dad, and good-bye. I hope we always have more like you when we need them.
Let the rehabilitation of Bush begin! For the past 8 years, the most strident and hysterical leftist criticism of Bush has centered on his intelligence policies which leftists assured us arose purely out of a callous disregard for civil liberties and human rights, if not outright evil.
President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies, advisers say…They say he is likely to fill key intelligence posts with pragmatists.
Whoa, whoa whoa! Pragmatic? Bush’s polices are suddenly pragmatic? What about the incessant ranting for years that Bush had gone far beyond any practical necessity?
I was reading about the new Hyperion mini-nuke power generator [h/t Instapundit] and as I read through the possible uses, it occurred to me that such generators would be very useful things to have in the event of almost any natural or manmade disaster. This in turn led me to think about how “alternative” electricity sources, i.e., wind and solar would fare under disaster conditions.
We all should think hard about this before we put all our energy eggs in the fragile alternative basket.
While I dream about owning a Nissan GTR that I saw at the Chicago auto show, in reality I drive an old Nissan Altima about 10 years old. That damn car will run forever since I take decent care of it and my frugal nature won’t let me replace it without a valid reason.
As I drive around in my older car, however, I can’t help noticing all of the expensive cars out on the street. Right now it is Saturday night here in Chicago in River North, and lots of people are “cruising” up and down the major streets, seeing and being seen, in their tricked out cars.
The situation is the same even when I visit a poorer neighborhood. A relative of mine moved to Beverly, in the south side of the city, and no matter how you drive to get there, you need to go through some pretty rough neighborhoods. New and expensive cars are ubiquitous, even there.
Let’s think a bit about car economics. If you use $25,000 / loan at 48 months as a starting price point, and the average rate of 6.5%, you are paying about $600 / month.
Over the last few years I have whipped myself into pretty decent shape for an almost forty something. From my heaviest point, I have lost somewhere between twenty and twenty five percent of my body weight, and in the meantime transformed what is left into solid muscle. Out of curiosity I should book an appointment with a trainer for an hour and on top of getting some more tips, I should get measured for a body fat percentage. But enough of that.
Where I am going with the description of my physical condition is that cold weather is absolutely my kryptonite now. I also shaved my head in the meantime, so any temps below, say, 50 F require coat, skullcap and gloves. Before, when I was heavier and had hair, 50 F was no issue in a t-shirt for me.
As I type this in my office, I have a small portable heater running under my desk. The winters here in the upper Midwest are very tough on me. Our winter is just beginning, and I am already suffering – the real cold stuff is yet to come. But so it goes.
On occasion, some interesting individuals come into my store from the UW. Well, I get people in the store from the UW all the time, but these individuals from a certain department are different. They work on the Ice Cube project. From their website, here is what the project is involved in:
The IceCube Neutrino Detector is a neutrino telescope currently under construction at the South Pole. Like its predecessor, the Antarctic Muon And Neutrino Detector Array (AMANDA), IceCube is being constructed in deep Antarctic ice by deploying thousands of spherical optical sensors (photomultiplier tubes, or PMTs) at depths between 1,450 and 2,450 meters. The sensors are deployed on “strings” of sixty modules each, into holes in the ice melted using a hot water drill.
The main goal of the experiment is to detect neutrinos in the high energy range, spanning from 1011eV to about 1021 eV. The neutrinos are not detected themselves. Instead, the rare instance of a collision between a neutrino and an atom within the ice is used to deduce the kinematical parameters of the incoming neutrino. Current estimates predict the detection of about one thousand such events per day in the fully constructed IceCube detector. Due to the high density of the ice, almost all detected products of the initial collision will be muons. Therefore the experiment is most sensitive to the flux of muon neutrinos through its volume. Most of these neutrinos will come from “cascades” in Earth’s atmosphere caused by cosmic rays, but some unknown fraction may come from astronomical sources. To distinguish these two sources statistically, the direction and angle of the incoming neutrino is estimated from its collision by-products. One can generally say, that a neutrino coming from above “down” into the detector is most likely stemming from an atmospheric shower, and a neutrino traveling “up” from below is more likely from a different source.
The sources of those neutrinos coming “up” from below could be black holes, gamma ray bursters, or supernova remnants. The data that IceCube will collect will also contribute to our understanding of cosmic rays, supersymmetry, weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPS), and other aspects of nuclear and particle physics.
Uh, yea. Maybe some of my readers with a more scientific background can decipher what they are after. I sure can’t make heads or tails of it.
You should hear the questions the Ice Cube guys ask us about simple parts. We usually stand there and stare at them like they have an arm growing out of their head.
This is a pump for a fuel oil furnace. There are millions of them all across the United States. There are several of these in the Antarctic right now that are in use that were purchased from me, having been modified by the Ice Cube team. They have to pretty much buy all standard items for use down there and modify them since there really isn’t any industry that creates items for use in that environment.
Speaking of that environment, I would last about three minutes down there. Seven degrees F is the recorded HIGH for the South Pole. This article appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal yesterday and literally sent shivers down my spine. I didn’t know the conditions that these scientists put themselves through. Their lips and fingers crack, they get nosebleeds, snow blindness, etc. In the article, it is stated that the participants in the program have to go through a rigorous physical and seminars explaining to them what will happen to their bodies as they dry out in the worlds largest desert – the Antarctic.
They repair their cracked skin with superglue. Superglue!
It might be cold down there, but it would be hell for me.
The Russian Navy has had another horrible accident aboard a submarine. Some 20 sailors have died and many others were “poisoned”. It is very difficult from the article to tell why. From the article:
The deaths were caused by a Freon gas leak that occurred when the fire-control system was activated yesterday, according to a preliminary investigation by the Russian Prosecutor’s Office, Vesti reported, citing Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Prosecutor’s investigative committee.
Huh? I don’t know a lot about submarine construction, but I do know a lot about “Freon”. Freon is a trade name used by the DuPont corporation for refrigerants. There are many different types of refrigerants, and “Freon” doesn’t describe which one. Most refrigerants that are commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning applications are non flammable and very low in toxicity. I can see how people in the sub would suffer greatly if a large refrigerant leak occurred, as there is only so far refrigerant can go in such a small space. But you would think a modern sub would have some sort of way to replace their air with stored oxygen.
Lastly, modern refrigerants operate under pressure, and are closed systems. How did a faulty fire control system rupture a refrigerant line?
It may be a poor translation of an article originally in Russian (too bad I don’t have it or Tatyana or John Jay could take a look at it) or just the Russian news service providing scarce details provided them by the Russian Navy. Any way you slice it, the article makes little to no sense.
I feel for the families of the Russian sailors and wish them the best. I also hope that the Russian navy starts to maintain their sub fleet a little better so I don’t have to keep reading about their sailors losing their lives.
Encyclopaedia Britannica is the venerable institution that prints all of those bound volumes that you had at your house (or your grandparent’s house) when you were a kid. Interestingly enough, their headquarters is right here in River North Chicago, and I walk by the building often on my way to work (it is on LaSalle Street, just North of the Chicago River.
When I mention Brittanica, the first thing that most people say is “Are they still in business?” This was Dan’s exact question when I mentioned that they are headquartered here in Chicago.
Early on, when the web was first starting up, many companies had the idea that capturing information would be a big money maker. For example, Microsoft has an encyclopedia called “Encarta” that was big news back in the ’90s, when it was battling Brittanica for leadership. About this time Microsoft also started up their online movie database “Cinemania” which was also popular for a while as an attempt to create valuable content.
People did pay for content back in the early days, when the web was somewhat of a novelty. I remember a good friend who bought Cinemania and loved it, since he was a giant movie buff, and he got a big kick out of being able to search through all the data and reviews and see some clips, as well. I think at the time if you mentioned that this all would be on the web, it seemed pretty far fetched, especially since home high-bandwidth broadband was a long ways away and we were stuck with dial up (remember all those AOL CDs in the mail?).
Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Uses ofAdversity” reinforces Michael Barone’s argument in Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation’s Future. Gladwell looks at difficulties:poverty, role as outsider, such handicaps as dyslexia. And he, too, concludes that hard makes strong. Gladwell’s rift is inspired by The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs, by Charles Ellis. Gladwell’s focus is on the first seventy pages, which follow the ascent of Sidney Weinberg.Bluffing his way into a janitorial job, Weinberg moves upward to run and enlarge the investment firm. Language can be telling.When the United States moved from governing the plural verb “are” to the singular “is”, Lincoln had won, more surely than with Lee’s signature at Appomattox or the golden spike connecting east with west.Gladwell points to a changed idiom:“Nowadays, we don’t learn from poverty, we escape from poverty.”We valued hard; now, easy is default.Still, our leaders emphasize their trials – McCain’s in the Hanoi Hilton; Obama’s alienation as African-American.They expect respect for overcoming difficulties; we give it, in part, I suspect, because we still believe that hard does, indeed, make strong.
[Update: November 11 - if anyone is still reading this far into our column.] The ever helpful A&L Daily links to Jason Zengerle’s lengthy piece on Gladwell, Geek Pop Star. The lengthy portrait discusses his new book, The Outliers. Zengerle credits Gladwell with the uncontroversial observation that success is not merely personal will but happenstate; this writer seems less impressed by the hardening than reducing the losers damaged in the hardening process. Hard can be good – it can also, of course, debilitate. It is not an accident or even a surprise to any observer of human nature that a disproportionate number of quite successful businessmen are dyslexic – nor that a disproportionate number of felons are. )
Wow, only a few days being the president elect and Obama already lost Indiana (and maybe a few other states) for the next election for bashing on one of his most vehement, politically active, supercharged frothing at the mouth opponents of this day…Nancy Reagan.
Geez, I figured they would have to raise taxes or introduce some sort of silly gun ban FIRST to get the conservatives riled up.
I would assume that Obama’s handlers are asking him to stick to the prepared scripts for a while here. I heard that Obama did call Nancy Reagan to apologize. I am sure she was extremely nice to him and made time for the President elect even though she is recovering from a broken pelvis suffered in a recent fall.
In 2004, I wrote about dog language and political language:
When you talk to a dog, you don’t have to worry a lot about using syllogisms, complete sentences, good analogies, or crisply-argued chains of logic. What he’s looking for is keywords…particular words and short phrases…like “nice doggie” or “here” or, especially, “dinner.”
It strikes me that, increasingly, the way in which politicians address the American people is very similar. It’s enough to say the words that are supposed to elicit the conditioned responses…”jobs” or “health care” or “education.” There is increasingly litle effort to specify exactly what cause-and-effect relationship will cause these good things to come to pass, and why one approach might be better than alternative approaches. This behavior is most noticeable among Democrats, but is by no means totally absent among Republicans.
Both Obama and McCain used political dog language in this campaign. Because of his superior oratorical skills, Obama could pull it off better. I think McCain would have been better served by cutting down on the dog language a bit and making more actual arguments on behalf of his policies. With regard to energy, for example, he spoke about the need for nuclear and wind and solar and all kinds of other sources, maybe including gerbil-powered treadmill generators. Which comes across as a grab-bag of ideas and probably also makes people think, “Well, with all those options, nuclear can’t be all that important.”
It would certainly have been possible for McCain to come up with a three or four sentence explanation of why wind and solar are not a complete answer…like, “When you want to wash your dishes at 9 PM, the sun may not be shining. When you want to run your heat pump on a snowy, icy day, the wind may not be blowing.” He would still have had an uphill battle, because wind and solar have been invested with a quasi-religious significance (as long as they stay theoretical), but would have done better than with the grab-bag approach. The same in other policy areas.
There are three types of Republicans in the world:
1) Northeastern. These are the Rockefeller Republicans. They tend to be internationalists and fiscally conservative. This movement is all but dead. They were compelled to leave the party by the much more socially conservative Southern Republicans. George H.W. Bush was a NE Republican.
2) Southern. These are the social conservatives. They tend to support a strong national defense. Fiscal discipline is only a talking point. This movement is still alive, but was repudiated both in the congressional elections in 2006, as well as the general elections of 2008. George W. Bush was a Southern Republican.
3) Western. The Western Republican is the Republican of libertarian leanings, generally favoring non-intrusive government in terms of social issues, and also favoring fiscal discipline. They tend to oppose nationalization of anything. They often, but not always, favor a strong national defense. Reagan was a western republican. This is the future of the Republican party, because the Western Republican can capitalize on the whims of the Independent Voter, who is usually fiscally conservative, libertarian socially, and for a strong national defense.
The Northeastern Republican was the type of Republican your grandfather was. The Southern Republican was just beat up in a brawl yesterday and is on life support.
The Western Republican is the Republican of the future. When the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika overplay their hand in the next 2-4 years, conservatives and conservate-leaning libertarians will strike, and will reestablish a mandate to govern.