Archive for September, 2009
I can’t tell if it’s a joke but there’s currently a Chicago Craigslist ad seeking only white males for a network admin job.
Considering the situation of our economy and the fact that almost every company in the Great City of Chicago is practicing racial profiling when it pertains to hiring, we will be straight forward and save a lot of time by asking that ONLY WHITE MALES apply for this position, since that is whom we are going to hire anyway.
I’m currently job hunting right now. I submitted my resume mostly to see what sort of train wreck this company is. Since I belong to a tiny religious minority and while I have a genetic mix that can pass visual inspection it doesn’t really match classic American racist requirements, I would have to be much more desperate than I am now to really consider these guys for a job. Oh, my tolerance for idiots is also probably set too low.
Unless it is a joke or some sort of false flag operation, this is a company that’s going to have its finances ruined by the upcoming class action suit. Explicit white racism is not something that lends itself to them making payroll for any length of time.
So how would you take advantage of the situation?
Two British policewomen are in trouble because they watch each other’s kids on a regular basis. The charge is “operating an illegal childminding business.”
Lest you think that this is only a British form of insantiy and such things could never happen in the United States…
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I listen to Bloomberg radio on XM most days when I am riding to work. They give a quick snapshot of the major markets and typically have interesting discussions that are not the usual shouting matches that you will find on the major networks.
Today in their news segment they reported some news that I had hoped I would see one day. I let out a cheer – what a great way to start out my week.
I understand that this will be a long fight, but at least it is a start.
“When the President chose a partisan path in his speech, he pushed the real debate behind closed doors. This is now a debate among House and Senate Democrats”
The real action is not taking place at markup. It is taking place behind closed doors, away from the markup. When the President chose a partisan path in his speech, he pushed the real debate behind closed doors. This is now a debate among House and Senate Democrats. Republicans can influence that debate only to the extent they can change the decision-making process of Democratic members, since everyone assumes that almost every Republican will vote no.
The comments to the above linked post are utterly depressing. Elections have consequences: I wonder how the ‘Obama’ libertarians and the ‘teach the GOP a lesson’ conservatives are feeling about their respective votes, now? Yes, in a moment of frustration I am being unfair; I barely managed to pull the lever for McCain. In the comments, Keith Hennessey shows up to make the following suggestion:
Call your Representative and Senators (in their DC office). Don’t email them. Call them. Email is largely ignored. Phone calls are not. As an individual citizen, your greatest impacts are (1) speaking up at town meetings, (2) calling, (3) meeting with your representatives and/or their staff, (3) voting, and (4) letters to the editor.
Each individual call has a trivial impact. If enough people call, it can have a big effect.
Posted by Mitch Townsend on 27th September 2009 (All posts by Mitch Townsend)
I have been trying to map the physical progress of Xenophon through the Middle East and back to the Greek cities in Anatolia. His starting point is relatively easy to find: the city of Sardis, now called Sart, still exists, although now it is just a village near the ruins. The city was destroyed several times by earthquakes.
The next city mentioned, Colossae, was located near what is now Denzli (Turkey). They went on to Celaenae, near the present-day town of Dinar, where they remained for 30 days. While looking at the area in Google Earth, I noticed some landscape features that look like they might be the outlines of ancient buildings under the plowed fields. Have a look for yourself.
Posted by Lexington Green on 27th September 2009 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Xenophon’s account, written many years after the events recounted, is not a bare retelling of facts. We cannot know how much of the tale is embellished, and how much is literal. The general outlines are likely to be true. Precise details, such as the precise language of the speeches, must have been rendered, at best “more or less” as Xenophon recalled. So, we can read the book as a record of actual events, with some caveats for the passage of time and biases of the author.
However, it is also the case that there is a symbolic element in the book, in which Xenophon is using the narrative to illuminate some “big picture” issues. To do that, he uses some artistic devices, woven into the narrative. One of these, which I mentioned in my previous post is the mixing of the literal and metaphorical “ascent” and “descent” of the army, and of Xenophon himself.
Mark Twain wrote, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” The Anabasis of Cyrus is filled with events that have reappeared throughout history to form a rhythm that if not repeated, lends example and advice to other commanders faced with similar challenges.
Not much discussed in the forgoing posts, has been Xenophon’s speech to the assembled soldiers before setting out on their march to the sea. Reading the speech, one will note several themes that have a familiar ring to any student of American military history. This account of how Xenophon dressed for the occasion has a twin in the way one American General outfitted himself for battle.
“After this, as Xenophon stood up, having equipped himself for war as nobly as he could, for he believed that if the gods should grant victory, the noblest of adornment was fitting for being victorious, but if there should be the need for his life to come to an end, he believed it was right that considering himself worthy of the most noble thing, he meet his end in these noble arms.”
Reading this passage brings to mind General George S. Patton, who in the 1920’s, read and annotated his copy of Anabasis among his many other readings of ancient history. One can begin to understand Patton’s theatre and how he might have been influenced to create his noble image in the shadow of Xenophon.
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From the AP:
Experts say that anarchists successfully deployed a tactic in Pittsburgh that they have often used at other protests, leading a large group of people toward police, then slipping out of the crowd to commit mayhem elsewhere.
Posted by Ginny on 25th September 2009 (All posts by Ginny)
Iowahawk is open to grant proposals. Couldn’t our site use that generous slush fund – considering some of us may have lost money waiting for Ronnie Earle to give up (of course betting on that is probably sufficiently stupid so anyone who lost deserves it) and the Iowatrade on Delay to pay out?
Aren’t we up to a little performance art – say a couple of posts done in Art Deco with a ridiculous amount of capitalization – or perhaps an iconic figure (what one you ask – ah, obviously you haven’t been paying attention) in the middle of one of Jonathan’s wide blue horizons. And if we can’t think up lyrics for kindergarteners, well, we might check to see if we haven’t checked out. (Not that checking out is necessarily an inappropriate reaction to current events.)
Acorn has filed suit against the young filmmakers, who took video of Acorn employees helping them with plans on setting up whorehouses for minors. They have also sued Breitbart for distributing the video.
There is a very intersting comment thread at Volokh for those interested in the legal aspects of this case.
I am just praying that this goes to discovery.
Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd September 2009 (All posts by Lexington Green)
One factor complicating a nuclear terrorist attack is the need for the aggressor to maintain command and control over their weapon at all times. Letting a nuke out of sight of a terrorist leadership cell is the supreme act of faith in the attacking cell. The nuke can be turned against them in a leadership struggle; diverted for sale or used to extort vast amounts of money. Fanatics can seize them to use against another faction. Much terrorist violence in the world is faction-on-faction. They can even be intercepted and made to blow up in their own faces. Unless used immediately nukes must be secured in a heavily guarded, hard to conceal place. If used immediately they cannot be stockpiled into a decisive amount. Missile delivery systems were ideal solutions to all the problems of command and control problem. That is why North Korea and Iran sought a missile capability immediately. Anti missiles defenses were therefore an immense discouragement against nuclear terrorism in their own right.
The most likely reason for Russia’s objections to US missile defense is not that it degrades their vast and unstoppable arsenal, which remains effective in any case, but it reduces the effectiveness of sock puppet proxies who threaten the US. Russia is not about to threaten the US directly. But wouldn’t it be convenient if others would? And wouldn’t it be even more convenient if the US could not defend against them.
My friend Janiece seems to attract the whackos. This time it is the alternative medicine crowd glomming on to an old post – what is it with these people? Neither they nor Wagner can stand having a piece of criticism out on the Net, even an old one. Do they spend all day vanity Googling? I had completely forgotten about Janiece’s post until the crazies showed up again months later.
One of the crazies showed up with “data” from the Gerson Institute, and being the truth seeker that she is, Janiece responded:
I’m not a doctor, but I do understand the scientific method, and this is not a clinical trial or a well constructed study. What I will concede is that the information was interesting enough to me as a layman that I think further study by qualified professionals wouldn’t be uncalled for.
Janiece is quite kind in her willingness to be open minded. This is not a character flaw*, because she also wanted to test the hypothesis provided – this is precisely what internalizing and living the scientific method as an heir of the Enlightenment and citizen of the modern world entails. But then, Janiece is my friend for many reasons, and this is one of them.
I do have a little bit of experience with clinical trial design, however, although (let me be very clear, here) I am not an MD. There are, however, methodological flaws in the study that negate even the glimmer of interest that Janiece detected – ones that do not require a statistician or an MD to find, though I will concede that the layman will need some specialized bits of information to parse the full impact on the claims made by the alt-med whackos.
There are so many red flags for quackery in that article it is hard to know where to begin. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by seydlitz89 on 22nd September 2009 (All posts by seydlitz89)
I had never read Xenophon before and while a great fan of Thucydides, had never spent much time reading ancient Greek – as opposed to Byzantine – history. This was a challenge for me and while I can’t offer much original on Xenophon and his times, I can perhaps take a look at Xenophon’s view of politics in Clausewitzian terms. Consider this my own limited contribution to the round table discussion.
Gallagher, Winifred, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, Penguin:New York, 2009, 244 pp.
Rapt is a wide-ranging and elegantly written summary of what scholars, authors, and a few mystics have to say about human attention and the role that it plays in our emotions and our day-to-day actions. Written in a very polished and literate style, it finds a nice balance between the author’s personal reflections on the role of attention in her life, quotations about focus and attention by authors such as William James and Thoreau, and interviews with leading psychologists and medical professionals. There’s perhaps a bit too much meat on the book’s bones to warrant selection for Oprah’s book club but fans of her TV show will find much to like and enjoy with Rapt.
In some ways, the book could be considered a skillful Boomer reflection on a subject that was grabbed with adolescent abandon by the same generation in the Sixties. The Power of Positive Thinking can’t quite match a world with many more religious, philosophical, pharmaceutical, and therapeutic choices in dealing with our unhappiness, or our endless distractions, or our frustrating procrastinations. Gallagher’s book makes a serious effort at surveying what we now know about particular habits of thought and focus. Anyone surrounded by colleagues wedded to their Blackberries, or by hordes of teenagers flogging their multi-coloured cellphones, has paused to wonder whether all of this is really “good” for people.
A few years ago I read a couple of books containing letters and replies to and from Ronald Reagan. I was fascinated by these writings and was quite surprised that the leader of the free world would take the time to actually reply to some of the mail he got. It opened up another side of Reagan to me – a more personal side.
Last week I was strolling through DFW and happened upon Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription by William F. Buckley Jr. As I posted that last link to Amazon I notice that I paid $4 too much at the airport. Oh well, I had to have it for that flight.
Prior to the roundtable, Dave Schuler a friend an astute blogger, asked if it mattered to me if Xenophon’s Anabasis of Cyrus turned out to be a work of fiction? I thought for a moment and replied that if The Anabasis is a work of fiction, by Xenophon or attributed to him by some later writer, it is a very durable work of fiction because the lessons of the story have a timeless quality. One of the lessons of The Anabasis of Cyrus is on the art of leadership.
Throughout the text Xenophon gives contrasting examples of leadership in the narrative, and as with Cyrus and Clearchus, his explicit commentary. Xenophon’s conception of leadership goes beyond that of command and embraces political acumen, foresight and the moral example provided by Greek and Persian rulers ( used here in the same sense as Ambler’s translation, of anyone holding authority over others). In this conception of leadership, I think the teachings of Socrates lies heavily on Xenophon and the passages about Xenophon pressing forward to go East with Proxenus were included mainly to assert the independence of his judgment to his fellow Athenians.
How did Xenophon present the notable “rulers” in The Anabasis? A few examples:
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Posted by Fringe on 20th September 2009 (All posts by Fringe)
Of all of the characters in the first section of the Anabasis, Clearchus is among the most important, and perhaps the most intriguing.
In Clearchus’s obituary, Xenophon describes a ruthless officer who is feared by all, respected by all, and liked by none(II,6). Clearchus was also the only Greek general who knew from the outset what Cyrus intended to do with the army he was raising(III, 1 (10)). Two questions are very much worth contemplating:
For whom was Clearchus working? And: who is responsible for his death?
The simple answer to the first is that Clearchus was working for Cyrus, as the narrative recounts. The narrative also allows the following interpretation: that Clearchus was using Cyrus to obtain sufficient treasure and military power to install himself as a King somewhere in the Hellenic world. There is a third possibility however: that Clearchus was in the employ of Artaxerxes, charged with tempting Cyrus to attempt a coup, and, if successful, delivering him to Persia and his death. If you imagine that this was his mission, he succeeded in this as well.
[Jonathan adds: A larger version of this image is below the “Read the rest” link.]
The opening phase of this discussion of Greek soldier, historian Xenophon’s account of the expedition to unseat Artaxerxes King of Persia by his brother Cyrus, has touched on several important elements. First, most important to any great undertaking was logistics, aptly covered in the first post by Fringe. Next, Steven Pressfield introduced the route and how it influenced Alexander the Great, who used the Anabasis of Cyrus as a guidebook in his conquest of Persia decades later. Lexington Green then offered up an overview of the each chapter, laying out the story line in concise detail. Most recently, Joseph Fouche took pen to point out important distinctions between Xenophon’s writing style and that of Herodotus.
The book that most of us have chosen to base our discussion is the translation by Wayne Ambler. In the introduction, Eric Buzzetti writes, “The Anabasis has the makings of a great Hollywood movie.” This statement along should stimulate the most benign reader to pursue the book further. Inside, they will not be disappointed; the story unfolds like a travel log detailing distance traveled, people encountered, battles fought and the unfolding loose republican democracy that formed after the death of their generals at the hand of Artaxerxes. Then becomes what could be described as the one of the great epics combining battles with political intrigue and lessons in leadership.
Anyone who sets out to read this book would do well to prepare themselves by carefully reading the introduction. Then turn to the back and make one’s self familiar with the Historical notes and the Glossary where they will find not only a definition of terms, but an explanation of the scale of measurements which is elementary to follow the journey up country and the escape to safety.
Today the FHA, the Federal Housing Administration, is a gigantic player in the residential mortgage business. The FHA guarantees mortgages against default, and allows purchases of homes with only a 3.5% down payment, and provides a rock bottom interest rate of near 5%. These lenient terms apply to virtually everyone, even those with poor credit scores and little equity in the home, which are highly correlated with default. This is in addition to the $8000 tax credit the US Government is issuing to first time buyers, which is boosting demand for these sorts of loans.
This article describes the measures that the agency is taking to reduce the odds of a bailout, but they don’t hit on the core issues of low down payments and not adjusting the interest rates to better reflect the risks on lower credit quality mortgages. These half-hearted measures require a tiny base of assets for mortgage originations (up to $1m from $250,000) and some changes to appraisals… the core issue here is that there were massive amounts of fraudulent mortgages that flooded into the system during the boom and when they went awry the brokers that backed them vanished into the night.
Many have pointed out that the FHA looms as a likely candidate for government bailout, such as this article from the Washington Post, titled “FHA’s Refusal to Seek Bailout Met With Skepticism”
FHA Commissioner David H. Stevens said Friday that the surplus fund set aside to cover unexpected losses on mortgages backed by the agency will fall below the 2 percent threshold required by Congress when the next fiscal year starts in October.
Although the reserves had remained well above the minimum required level during the housing boom, the audit last year showed they had shrunk to 3 percent as of Sept. 30, compared with 6.4 percent a year earlier. The fund’s value was estimated at $12.9 billion, down from $21.2 billion the previous year.
Many stories note that most of the loans that are being done today are backed by the FHA. From this article in the Wall Street Journal titled “No Easy Exit for Government as Housing Market’s Savior”
The Denver home lender sees every day how dependent the housing market has become on the government. At the height of the boom, just 20% of Universal’s mortgages were backed by the Federal Housing Administration, an arm of the government that guarantees loans to borrowers who can’t afford big down payments. Today, the FHA accounts for more than 80% of his business.
Also note that the US Government is buying most of the securities that are backed by the FHA. Private banks are not interested in purchasing securities with low returns and thus the government secures the loan on the front end, and then repurchases the securities on the other end.
At the Fed, the question of whether to start dismantling the scaffolding is a dominant one. Since the beginning of the year, the Fed has purchased $836 billion of mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, the federal body that securitizes FHA loans. The purchases have helped push down interest rates on mortgages guaranteed by the firms from more than 6.5% last October to 5.15% today, according to HSH Associates, which tracks the mortgage market.
I try to stay away from the non-fact maelstrom that is our current, utterly dysfunctional “debate” on health care reform (I put that in parenthesis because I don’t even know what the latest, half-baked plan du jour even is without an up to the minute scorecard).
However – the health care publicity did bring to light and start to quantify one item that could be useful in the future when this all dies down (and hopefully goes nowhere) – the high cost of health care for our governmental employees.
This article discusses “gold plated” health care plans and their cost, and the fact that under some proposals these plans would be subject to an excise tax. From the article:
“We don’t have Cadillac salaries”, said Robert Corner, a 63-year old who works for Nebraska’s department of roads in Lincoln and earns just over $50,000 a year. His parent union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, estimates that it’s average health plan in Nebraska will be worth $31,000 in 2013, the year the new tax thresholds would take effect.
But Mr. Corner – you DO have a Cadillac salary when you take into account the health plan that taxpayers have given you, one likely with small co-pays and very few restrictions. Many of the union plans here in Illinois involve the workers paying almost NOTHING towards their care, and rumbles of a strike whenever they are asked to contribute a dime.
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…about Obama’s recent action regarding ballistic missile defense and the highly offensive way in which this action was announced. Here.
This is painful to read.
Posted by Lexington Green on 18th September 2009 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Irving Kristol was a CCNY Boy, not a Chicago Boy.
Kristol was a Neoconservative when the “neo” part meant something. It started out as an insult, by former liberal friends, who derided Kristol and others for going where the evidence took them, and turning against their former views and former colleagues. The Neoconservatives were the people associated with The Public Interest magazine in the 1960s, mostly Jews from New York. The leading figures were Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Nathan Glazer and their circle. These guys followed a half-century course from Left to Right. They started out as Trotskyists at City College in New York in the ’30s and ’40s. Kristol describes that period here. They were anti-communist Social Democrats associated with Irving Howe and Sidney Hook in the 1950s. As the Democrat party undertook to build the Great Society in the 1960s, they became social planners. As that program failed, and Vietnam failed, and the McGovernite New Left began to take over the party, they became Scoop Jackson liberal hawks who were increasingly dubious about government social programs as well as staying hawkish on defense issues. As Jimmy Carter attempted to go beyond detente to something like appeasement, some switched parties and became Republicans. They were hawkish on defense and unideological and undogmatic critics of social programs that did not work. Kristol was the main figure in this intellectual odyssey. He and his colleagues added a critical infusion of intelligence and policy expertise to the conservative coalition that elected Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Rest in peace.
UPDATE: Helen weighs in, with many good links.