Posted by Lexington Green on 31st January 2009 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Archive for January, 2009
From the avalanche of vehement and ignorant attacks on Bush v. Gore and the oft-made and oft-refuted allegation that the Bush administration lied about WMD in Iraq, to the remarkable lack of interest in Mr. Obama’s career in Illinois politics and the determined indifference to his wrongness about the surge, wide swaths of the media and the academy have concentrated on stoking passions rather than appealing to reason.
Some will speculate that the outbreak of hatred and euphoria in our politics is the result of the transformation of left-liberalism into a religion, its promulgation as dogma by our universities, and students’ absorption of their professors’ lesson of immoderation. This is unfair to religion.
At least it’s unfair to those forms of biblical faith that teach that God’s ways are hidden and mysterious, that all human beings are both deserving of respect and inherently flawed, and that it is idolatry to invest things of this world — certainly the goods that can be achieved through politics — with absolute value. Through these teachings, biblical faith encourages skepticism about grand claims to moral and political authority and an appreciation of the limits of one’s knowledge, both of which well serve liberal democracy.
In contrast, by assembling and maintaining faculties that think alike about politics and think alike that the university curriculum must instill correct political opinions, our universities cultivate intellectual conformity and discourage the exercise of reason in public life. It is not that our universities invest the fundamental principles of liberalism with religious meaning — after all the Declaration of Independence identifies a religious root of our freedom and equality. Rather, they infuse a certain progressive interpretation of our freedom and equality with sacred significance, zealously requiring not only outward obedience to its policy dictates but inner persuasion of the heart and mind. This transforms dissenters into apostates or heretics, and leaders into redeemers.
Posted by Shane on 31st January 2009 (All posts by Shane)
After laying the definitional framework of war in Books I and II, Clausewitz now drills deep into the practice of strategy. His admonishments in Book III resonate today, and in fact are echoed by nearly every business management book on shelves today: to wit, “The strategist must go on campaign himself” (i.e., to allow adaptation to emerging conditions on a chaotic battlefield).
Careful to distinguish between strategy and tactics, Clausewitz underscores the temptation to deal with the present – the “thousands of diversions” that can throw the execution of a well-formulated plan off course. His assertion that “… it takes more strength of will to make an important decision in strategy than in tactics” is particularly apt, especially since the tactician can observe “at least half the problem” empirically, while the strategist has to guess and presume.
Read the rest of this entry »
A trend that becomes the subject of late-night infomercials is probably close to being played-out.
During Blogo’s numerous press conferences prior to his impeachment, he hammered on a few themes that I started to think may be a precedent for the nation as a whole.
From his impeachment speech (whole text here):
And then I would say to all of you, think about the things we’ve been able to do together. Health care for all of our kids, first in the nation
In speech after speech and interview after interview he hammered home the “fact” that he had granted insurance coverage to so many in Illinois, through various means.
How has this actually been implemented in Illinois? State payments to medical providers has been dramatically slowed. From this article titled “State Owes Area Health Care Providers Millions”
“This is the worst it’s ever been it’s historically been this way, nursing home providers have had to in this kind of environment in Illinois for quite a long time”
Posted by Lexington Green on 31st January 2009 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Clausewitz set forth the nature of war, in Book I. What we saw there was that the nature of war can only be incompletely known, by a series of analogies. It is deepest nature cannot ever be realized in practice, but only tends toward “Absolute War”. In Book II Clausewitz discussed the theory of war, disclosing that there is no actual theory, but only a method of study, which is to be internalized by the commander. In Book III, “On Strategy in General” he tells that strategy is at bottom simple, yet exceedingly difficult in practice, and devotes most of his discussion to telling us the things that other writers have erroneously believed to be true about strategy. So, to recap our journey so far, we have been told that (1) there is an inner logic to war — that never happens in reality, (2) the theory of war is induction and intuition and examples, but not a theory in any ordinary sense, and (3) strategy is simple as an idea, hard in practice, and not what most people think it is.
The pattern here is pretty clear. You expect Clausewitz to tell you something, but when he does, he takes most of it back, and he tells you that a lot of what matters is inarticulable. Clausewitz works not only by induction, and example, but also by indirection and paradox. Most of all, he works by analogy, to suggest the shape of something that cannot be explained to lay persons who have not experienced the stress of high command, the hardships of campaigning, the hazards and confusion of battle. Yet he is not trying to be difficult or clever. He is trying to show that what most smart people try to make war out to be is wrong, and why it is wrong. He wants to articulate a better understanding, so a superior practice of war can be undertaken, in place of the erroneous ideas and actions he sees all around. He would rather be difficult, or merely suggest something that cannot be said, than to say something that is actually false.
From the Telegraph:
The EU trade commissioner vowed to fight back after the bill passed in the House of Representatives late on Wednesday included a ban on most purchases of foreign steel and iron used in infrastructure projects.
The Senate’s version of the legislation, which will be debated early next week, goes even further, requiring that any projects related to the stimulus use only American-made equipment and goods.
The inclusion of protectionist measures has quickly raised hackles in Europe.
Catherine Ashton, the EU trade commissioner, said: “We are looking at the situation. The one thing we can be absolutely certain about, is if a bill is passed which prohibits the sale or purchase of European goods on American territory, that is something we will not stand idly by and ignore.”
Back in the USA, Bill Lane, who is the government affairs director for Caterpillar, is very concerned about the implications of protectionist legislation:
“We are the first to recognise that if the US embraces Buy American then the whole notion of buying national will mestastasize and limit our ability to take part in overseas projects. We are students of history. A major reason a very deep recession turned into the Great Depression was the fact that countries turned inward.”
“We would be a primary beneficiary of any type of infrastructure project in the US, but at the same time we are one of the country’s largest exporters”
Caterpillar is of course not the only company for which exports are extremely important. At firms ranging from Boeing (airliners) and GE (locomotives, power turbines, medical equipment) to small manufacturing enterprises, there are millions of jobs which are dependent on the willingness of other countries to buy American products. Too often, politicians portray international trade as something we do almost as a favor to other countries, ignoring the very real benefits that Americans derive from trade.
I believe that manufacturing is very important to this country, and would support rational policy initiatives to help make American manufacturing more competitive. Starting a trade war, though, is not the answer to the problems either of American manufacturing or of the American economy as a whole.
Chapter 6 of Book 3 is one of Clausewitz’s gems. He strikes that middle ground that he so often aims for and frequently misses, balancing the rational and nonrational, outlining the pitfalls and long reach of this quality.
My interest in Clausewitz goes beyond the military applications of his thought. My first substantive introduction to him was by a mentor who was partial to military thought (Sun Tzu as well) as a model for organizational strategy.
I’ve never suffered from a deficiency of boldness, but that is a mixed blessing for a woman; was more than is. I recall springing up a flight of stairs in a college dormitory not my own, whistling. I was feeling good. “Women who whistle, and hens that crow,” came the word from a suddenly appearing housemother. (Yes, it was that long ago!) My boldness extended a poisonous look.
I’d like to follow up on Younghusband’s excellent post “Clausewitz, On War, Book 2: Clausewitz as social theorist”
Social factors can play a pivotal role in an engagement. During the Kamakura period the Japanese style of one on one combat with longswords was forever changed after facing a Mongol cavalry charge and a wall of Chinese spearmen. Furthermore, social factors abound in the first Book of On War where Clausewitz lists the general variables of war (see my equation for examples). Part of Clausewitz’s military “genius” could be “social intelligence”. This type of intelligence plays an important role in understanding personal relations, navigating and influencing politics, and affects interpretive skills such as those needed in intelligence analysis. As in the Mongolian example above, social rules periodically clash with changing times or new enemies. A military “socialite” would have the attuned social intelligence to not only detect these changes but to be able to react to them.
Clausewitz was correct to identify the social dimension as a weak point of the materialists. His only fault was being 250 years ahead of his time, before social constructivism had an established framework to deal with the problem.
A nice piece of analysis by Younghusband. I was stirred to ponder along a related tangent by Clausewitz’s passage ” War is an Act of Human Intercourse”: Read the rest of this entry »
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This asinine bill seeks to mandate that digital cameras in phones make a sound when activated to keep people from making surreptitious photos. Beyond the incredible inanity (what if you need to quickly photograph a crime in progress?) and nannying of the bill, it highlights just how lazy and divorced from the productive world the political class has become.
Specifically the bill says:
Requirement- Beginning 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, any mobile phone containing a digital camera that is manufactured for sale in the United States shall sound a tone or other sound audible within a reasonable radius of the phone whenever a photograph is taken with the camera in such phone. [emp added]
Okay, imagine that you’re an engineer tasked with implementing the sound function in the phone. By what criteria do you determine what comprises a “reasonable radius”? Engineers work in numbers. An engineer has to engineer the phone to emit a sound of X decibels in order to be heard by Y percent of the general population at a radius of Z with U decibels of ambient noise. What values of X,Y,Z and U are legally “reasonable”?
Posted by Lexington Green on 28th January 2009 (All posts by Lexington Green)
So what, right? Simple mistake to make. Laugh it off.
I am old enough to remember Gerald Ford.
Gerald Ford was probably the best athlete we ever had in the White House.
The news media and the comedians made that stumble his identity by constant mockery.
Why? Because Ford was a Republican. Period. No other reason. Just that.
“Ford? The one who was a klutz, right?”
And that is all that anyone remembers about Ford: A lie.
Obama, the Messiah, will get no such treatment.
There are two sets of rules.
The Mainstream Media = The propaganda arm of the Democrat Party. Period.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Never forget it.
I would wager that those who withheld more than they owed on their State of California taxes didn’t think that they would be making a zero interest loan to the state. I would be absolutely furious. I am thinking that many will never see their refund, as California appears to be on the precipice.
California has had no money in its general fund for the past 17 months, and has been paying its bills by borrowing from Wall Street and special internal funds.
If the state’s legislators and governor do not reach a budget agreement that brings immediate funds into the state’s coffers, the state’s borrowed funds will be entirely exhausted at the end of February, according to the controller’s office.
I would also wager that workers will be making a lot of changes to their withholding so as not to be owed any refund at the end of next year. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…
Then again, the feds could come to the rescue and print some money for Cali. Good luck with your bond rating, California municipalities and (insert project here) districts.
Some muni bonds are actually paying very good rates right now. As I was sitting across the table from a financial advisor we discussed the rates that some municipalities and state agencies in California were paying and then we both laughed out loud and moved on to looking at munis from more stable cities and states. I am thinking that this conversation has been played out millions of times at brokerage desks across the nation.
In Book 2 of On War Clausewitz attempts to clarify the reasons why formal theories of war are no help to a commander-in-chief. He criticizes contemporary theorists as being too mechanical, too reliant on material factors. Clausewitz reminds us that war takes place in a social space, with social conventions that are fluid and cannot be pinned down by static “rules of war”. However, he fails any attempt at social analysis. Rather, he spends his time trying to differentiate between “knowledge”, “intellect” and “judgement”. This muddles what is otherwise a brilliant observation: “War is an act of human intercourse” (pp. 149). Read the rest of this entry »
Via Instapundit comes this review of science fiction movies at Popular Science. The review of the movie “Moon” caught my eye:
In this space drama, Sam Rockwell plays a lonely lunar miner who is nearing the end of a multi-year contract. With communication satellites down, he’s cut off from the outside world, with little to keep him company other than a Kevin Spacey–voiced computer named Gerty (and his own demons, naturally). While the space dramas of the ’70s and ’80s were dominated by acid-spewing aliens, this movie’s monster is scarier yet: a negligent corporate bureaucracy. [Emph. added.]
WTF? You set a movie on the freaking Moon and the scariest, most dramatic conflict you can come up with involves tight-fisted accountants? Who’s going to be the scary monster in the sequel, those weenies in marketing?
This follows a pronounced trend I have seen in popular entertainment: Corporations are always portrayed as evil. This is especially true in entertainment aimed at young people, such as animation and video games.
The headline reads “Police tackle Internet knife gangs“, but it is completely false.
It seems that the cops in the UK are looking at profiles in Facebook and other popular Internet sites. If they see a picture of someone posing with a knife, a picture taken in a public place, then they go arrest the miscreant. It would appear that simply having a knife in public is enough to have the full weight and power of the law come down on your head. The police can arrest you, and the courts will convict you, even if there isn’t any reason for them to suspect you are up to no good with that knife.
It is legal to own knives as long as you keep them at home, but that doesn’t stop the cops. Even though no law has been broken, they still will lecture the poor knife owning bastard and confiscate his legally bought and held possession.
Notice, if you will, that there is no hint that a gang is involved. The cops are targeting people who want to look tough in a picture on a social networking site, not criminals. What gang? Where are the gangs? There aren’t even any “Internet gangs”, just some isolated kids!
Let us consider this as yet another reason why I thank God every day that I was born an American.
(Hat tip to Milo, who seems to have morphed into my go-to info source for British government overreach.)
Posted by seydlitz89 on 27th January 2009 (All posts by seydlitz89)
Time constraints as usual are not allowing me to participate like I would wish to in this fascinating discussion.
Just a few comments, a bit disjointed perhaps, but here goes:
First, the “tactical nature” of victory. Fighting is the means for tactics and military victory is the end, whereas military victory is the means for strategy whose end is the return to peace with the political purpose attained (Book 2, ch 2). Of course either side could forestall peace for whatever reason, seeing the continuation of (relatively low-level) hostilities as more advantageous than concluding peace. This brings up potentially other problems as referred to in Section 3, Ch 1, Book 1. In any case, a four-star general who says that he didn’t plan for “Phase IV” operations should be busted to private and expected to clean latrines for the duration. You would only have to do this once, and the effect on strategic thought and its interaction with planning would be only beneficial.
Did you guys see this?
Seems the European Union is attempting to establish a “European Criminal Records Information System”. The idea is to share information concerning criminal convictions between the member states, and the lack of a program to do this was first noted in the European Council Declaration on Combating Terrorism of 25 and 26 March 2004.
A criminal database is something I heartily approve of, particularly when dealing with all of those little bitty countries that make up the EU. Far too many hardened criminals would slip through the cracks if the police and courts don’t know their past history. In fact, I’m wondering why it took the member nations five years to get off their collective backsides and get around to actually taking action.
But I was taken aback when I looked over the categories of offenses that would make up the data entered into the database. The sheer number of offenses is staggering, taking up at least half of the PDF file I linked to above. And some of them are not anything that I would consider a crime.
For example, number 0200-00 is “Knowingly taking part in the non-criminal activities of a criminal organization”. So that means lawyers who defend gangsters in court are considered criminals?
I was also intrigued by the way that the listed crimes illuminated, if not the actual conditions in the EU, then at least the fears of the people who live there. Section 0400 concerns “trafficking in human beings”, which should most certainly be a crime. But there are eight separate crimes listed! Simply trafficking in humans isn’t enough, they have to break it down.
Take a look at 0403-00, which is “Trafficking in human beings for the purposes of organ or human tissue removal”. That is certainly scary enough, but 0407-00 is reserved for those who kidnap children to remove their organs! What the hell, is Europe turning into one big horror movie? A horror movie where, thanks to draconian gun control laws (section 0500), all of the victims are unarmed? Consider this the next time you plan a vacation overseas.
It isn’t until section 8 where we see violent crimes against individuals crop up. 0807-00 is all about “Offences related to committing suicide”. Take my word for it, if they manage to break this particular law then punishing them is a waste of time.
If you want to see just where the EU is going, then take a look at sections 1205-00 and 1206-00. Both of them say that it is a crime to “insult” the State, the Nation, the symbols of the State or Nation, or representatives of the State/Nation. Does this mean that it is considered a crime if someone writes an op-ed that is disparaging of a politician? Sure sounds like it.
I could go on for awhile, but you get the idea. Click on this link and take a look for yourself.
Keep in mind that this is simply a list of offenses where someone has already been found guilty. It is not a list of new laws, nor is it a sentencing guideline. But if this is an accurate snapshot of what the EU considers to be crimes, then it is probably too late for them.
Today the crazed Illinois governor Blogo went on national TV to attempt to sway public opinion. We taped the various shows, and having watched Illinois politics for a lifetime, sat down and watched this totally amazing spree.
Geraldo ambushed the governor on the way to “The View” and actually let him off pretty easy. On his lawyer’s leaving:
It was like rats jumping off a sinking ship!
On “Chicago Tonight”, the great Chicago public television news program, Dennis Culloton, who represented our former incarcerated governor George Ryan as press secretary, when asked if he’d represent Blogo:
I would have to say no for the same reason his attorney Ed Genson pulled out of his case last Friday. He strikes me as someone who will not listen and who will just impulsively dive headlong into whatever crazy idea happens to come before him rather than try to approach this with some modicum of dignity
Then on Chicago Tonight they had an interview with Daniela Schreier who is a clinical psychologist who specializes in psychopaths. Here is a link to her profile. Here are her comments on whether or not he is truly a psychopath (she said he seemed to ACT like one, and looking into his blank eyes it seems like the truth):
Complete lack of remorse… very shallow affect… he is a great showman
He was also on with “The View”. When he said that he was interested in picking Oprah, Joy Behar said:
Oprah will just give you a car!
And then she tousled his hair and told him to put up his arms like Richard Nixon saying “I am not a crook.”
There were some actual journalists involved. Barbara Walters actually tried to ask him tough questions, and so did Diane Sawyer. But Blogo doesn’t even pretend to answer them, he just sticks “on message” with his rambling that 1) the trial is unfair because that he can’t call witnesses 2) the “fix is in” because he fought the state of Illinois.
From all of this he fails to point out that impeachment is a political process, and not a legal one. He doesn’t have the same rights as a governor as you’d have as a criminal defendant. He is not being charged by Republicans… he is being charged by everyone in Illinois.
This is an insane process and it is hard to imagine how even Saturday Night Live can improve on it. They probably will just play it straight.
A sorry, sorry, sorry day for Illinois.
Cross posted at LITGM
Mickey Kaus, writing on the intransigence of UAW president Ron Gettlefinger [h/t Instapundit], observes:
It doesn’t mean Gettlefinger’s workers have a right to $28/hour if at that wage their employers can’t stay in business without an ongoing multi-billion dollar subsidy. I’m sorry if this seems obvious. It’s apparently not obvious enough.
It’s not obvious to most on the Left. One of the basic tenets of Marxism is that labor has intrinsic value that precedes and is separate from the value of management and investing. Most leftists, even those who are not Marxist, have absorbed this concept of the value of labor.
In reality, the circumstances are the exact opposite. It is the skill and judgment of managers and investors that creates the value of labor. If you don’t own your own company or freelance, you rely on someone else to choose what work you do and how you do it. Their decisions create the value of the products and services you make. When they make mistakes, the value of your labor decreases and you should charge less for it.
In chapter 17 of Book 3 we see Clausewitz as prophet, and a remarkably accurate one at that. Writing about the Napoleonic wars, Clausewitz identified three trends that would characterize combat in the Second World War: Read the rest of this entry »
As I turn Carl Von Clausewitz over in my mind the writing of a long dead Prussian floats forward in time hopefully to inform decision about future conflict. If, as I have said, the concept that tactics and strategy are independent of technology. If the premise can be proven that technology is always an analogy or metaphor for previous forms and tools then Clausewitz may inform our ideas of future cyber conflict. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Lexington Green on 26th January 2009 (All posts by Lexington Green)
The Obama administration will seek a treaty “banning” space weapons. [h/t Instapundit] That’s really great except such a “ban” will have no other effect than to disarm America and other liberal democracies while leaving hostile authoritarian governments in control of space.