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  • Archive for April, 2011

    The Death of Lieut. Walter Hamilton, VC (3 September 1879)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 29th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Over six feet in height, splendidly made, lithe and strong, with all the activity of youth, expert with sword and pistol, he was a noble specimen of the British officer, and none more fit than he to stand in the deadly breach. Out then they went and acted on the plan arranged. For a third time those fateful guns were captured, and then alone to stem the fierce assault stood Hamilton, while his men laboured at the gun; but the odds were too great, and the gallant subaltern, after killing three men with his pistol and cutting down two more with his sword, was himself borne down. And so fighting died as brave a young heart as ever did honour to the uniform he wore. Swarming over his body, the mutineers recaptured the gun and again drove back the remnants of the forlorn hope. Hamilton lay where he fell close to the gun, till darkening night settled down on the dreadful scene. But when, next morning, a witness passed that way, he mentions that the brave young fellow’s body was laid across the gun. Perchance it was the kindly act of a friend, or perchance the rough chivalry of one who had watched his heroic deeds.

    From, The Story of the Guides, by Col. G. J. Younghusband, C.B., Queens Own Corps of Guides (1908), Chapter VIII, The Massacre of the Guides at Kabul.” Hamilton was 23.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anglosphere, Britain, Military Affairs | Comments Off

    The DARPA arts

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 29th April 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    .

    Zenpundit blog-friend Cameron Schaefer has a piece up at Small Wars Journal today in which he quotes Boyd (writing that his approach “incorporated science, but more closely approximated the often chaotic, creative impulses of art”) and Mahan (“art, out of materials which it finds about, creates new forms in endless variety”), and concludes:

    Approaching strategy in an indirect fashion, as more of an art than science may make some uneasy, specifically those who find safe haven in the concreteness of checklists and formulas. Yet, the nature of strategy reflects the nature of the world. It is infinitely complex, it is always changing and it is filled with humans that often do irrational things. Literature (see Charles Hill) and psychology have as much of a place at the strategy table as military history… as do mathematics, physics, political science and technology. So, when asking, “what must one study to be a great strategist?” the answer seems to be, “everything else.”

    Okay, so that (and Hill‘s work, which Zen reviewed recently) gives us the significance of the arts in strategic thinking which, one hopes, is practiced before going in to battle, and may indeed give one second thoughts about it…

    *

    Literature and the arts are also important after battle, though – and the US Military and DARPA have clearly been thinking about that side of things:

    quodarpa-arts1.gif

    Sources: ComicsPlays

    Poetry? meh… Sophocles? Chlanna nan con thigibh a so’s gheibh sibh feoil!

    *

    Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox in The Imperial Animal characterize modern health care as the “bureaucratization of mercy” and propose that for comparison, we set it beside:

    the Greek ideal of the hospital as the place with the best food, the finest furnishings and paintings, and the most skilled musicians and comedians.

    The greatest healing center in ancient Greece was the Asclepion at Epidavros / Epidaurus, which housed an amphitheater that could seat more than ten thousand people for dramatic and musical performances without amplification.

    At Epidavros, patients would be healed by watching those same dramas of Sophocles to which the US Army is now turning for therapeutic relief in Guantanamo — for as Tiger and Fox (what a pair of names) go on to argue:

    It is not the healthy, but the sick who most vitally needed such agreeable and re-creative stimuli; and the resources the community had were most beneficially and sanely used in helping them ease their personal disarray and feel encouraged by this display of their community’s careful concern.

    *

    It’s also interesting to note that the graphic novel Silver Shields mentioned in Axe‘s piece as a precursor to DARPA’s “Online Graphic Novel/Sequential Art Authoring Tools for Therapeutic Storytelling” project is “set during the ancient Greek invasion of Afghanistan more than two millenniums ago” as a metaphor for America’s current situation…

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Arts & Letters, Education, History, International Affairs, Media, National Security, Poetry, Rhetoric | Comments Off

    Geri X – You Always Find A Weak Spot

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 29th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Posted in Music, Video | 4 Comments »

    SpaceX and The Evil That Men Do

    Posted by James McCormick on 28th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Welcome to the big leagues, rookie!

    Rand Simberg reports that the Russians have suddenly become concerned about the safety of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket when used as a supply vessel for the International Space Station … now that that rocket seriously threatens the near-term Russian monopoly in heavy lift transport of people and materiel.

    SpaceX’‘s story, for those who aren’t space enthusiasts, is a tale of new technology, dot-com money, and threatened “iron rice bowls” from one end of the high-technology world to the other.

    Started in 2002 by Elon Musk with money he acquired after co-founding PayPal, Musk’s vision was to develop a new American liquid-fueled rocket engine and use economies of production and scale to reduce per-pound launch costs to a fraction of current commercial rates. Rather than a game of giant consortia, he thought that a relatively small private company could launch commercial rockets safely and much more cheaply.

    In the early years, the Falcon 1 rocket, using a new Merlin engine designed and manufactured by SpaceX, was subject to several flight failures that insiders largely attributed to lack of company access to the vast body of engineering lore used in past rocket launches. Not enough engineers. Not enough expertise. Whether that was true or not, the Falcon 1 (single engine) rocket had its first successful launch-to-orbit in 2008. Six years from blank piece of paper to orbit. Nonetheless, Musk has often been dismissed by other commercial space launch organizations as a dilettante, wasting his own money on a venture that would never amount to much, and would certainly never deliver any service cheaper than the giant aerospace companies of Russia, China, the EU, and the United States.

    All that started to change when less than two years after the successful launch of the Falcon 1 rocket, SpaceX’s new Falcon 9 (running 9 Merlin engines in tandem) was able to reach orbit. Suddenly SpaceX had a rocket big enough to deliver serious weight to space, and compete with the biggest commercial and state-sponsored launch services. Musk’s philosophy of rocket modularization (and cost reduction) had been proven out. A mere six months later, the company launched a second Falcon 9 to orbit with a pressurized “Dragon” capsule on top. SpaceX became the first private firm to launch and recover a crew-capable space capsule, with a splash-down off the Pacific coast of the US. To successfully launch a brand-new model of rocket, twice, with complete success, defies the laws of probability in the space launch industry. Maybe Musk really had stumbled onto a new way of designing, manufacturing, and operating rockets.

    The idea that a private firm could deliver cargo, let alone crews, to the International Space Station at a fraction of the cost of the Space Shuttle or Russian Soyuz capsules would have been inconceivable a decade ago. And yet here we are in 2011 with an American dot-com multi-millionaire announcing new rockets and successfully delivering them.

    Just recently, SpaceX announced plans to develop the “Falcon Heavy” which would run three Falcon 9s (3×9=27 engines) as a single first stage, delivering a proposed 117,000 pounds to Low Earth Orbit … more than the capacity of all other currently available commercial heavy-lift rockets. More, in fact, than has ever been lifted in single launches since the Saturn V carried the Apollo moon missions star-wards. First launch of the Falcon Heavy is scheduled for 2013, from Vandenburg Air Force Base. Characteristically, Musk isn’t shy about his dream for the Falcon Heavy. Hypothetical trips to the Moon, to Mars, to an asteroid, now fill his speeches.

    Musk’s earlier claims of “game-changer” technology and corporate process appear to be coming true. If he delivers on his recent promises with anything near the success rate of his earlier claims, almost every space-faring nation or corporation is going to be deeply affected.

    Let’s be clear, also. Musk has played the taxpayer-dollar game skillfully as he’s found initial technical success and grown his company’s staff and technical capacity. He’s received several multi-million dollar contracts from NASA for demonstration flights and future cargo delivery to the Space Station. He’s parked his corporate facilities in California (HQ and manufacturing), Texas (engine test-stand), and Florida (Cape Canaveral launch facilities) … covering his political bases by hedging good relations with US senators who already know what kind of money and jobs are created by space industry. The only senator not to dip his beak, as far as I can tell, was from Alabama (Huntsville). So Mr. Musk knows his domestic politics, or has learned its harsh anti-market lessons. And he’s successfully squared the circle of NASA bureaucracy, launching rockets on the one hand, and reassuring various government agencies that he should be allowed to.

    But the opening salvo by the Russians is a prelude to a new playing field that Musk will need to master. International politics.

    There are a lot of rocket engineers around the world who’ll be out of work if Elon Musk and his company can deliver cargo and people to space for half of what it costs the current aerospace giants. And even the Russians and Chinese, who can subsidize launch costs to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, still can’t afford to give away those launches indefinitely. Both nations operate in the market economy to the extent that they can, at the very least, estimate their per-launch losses trying to undercut SpaceX’s prices.

    As an amateur who’s thrilled by the appearance of a private space industry in the last ten years, I enthused about SpaceX’s successful December launch to an colleague (ex-military) who specializes in high-tech project management. His response was “now the sabotage begins.”

    And he may well be right. Whether Musk has been smart, or just plain lucky, the progress of SpaceX over the last decade has been (to my mind) dramatic. My sense is that it’s a matter of capital investment leveraging a backlog of knowledge (in technology and operational process). As long as he was a unproven minnow at the government trough, he could be ignored. Now however, SpaceX is getting big enough to put a dent in established companies’ profits and executive bonuses. There’s no reason why nations or large corporations could not have duplicated what Musk has done … but they either had no incentive or had organizational and social impediments. An “installed base.”

    At the moment, they don’t seem to be trying to beat him with comparable technology. And he doesn’t seem to want to be bought out. So what competitive strategy is left? Political impediments are cheapest. Intellectual property theft is likely but it still takes time to turn that into a competing product. And what if the technology is just a part of the equation. What if workforce optimization and “one rich, risk-taking, boss” are the essential components of SpaceX’s rapid success? Will sabotage of SpaceX rockets be the only route to slowing the company down? Fulfilling, conveniently, Russian “concerns.”

    Up until now, Musk has been calculating costs based on his technical requirements for design and manufacture (with a fudge factor for domestic political arbitrage). I rather doubt he’s also factored in the burgeoning security apparatus he’ll need to wrap around SpaceX’s activities to inhibit industrial espionage and/or industrial sabotage. And as he takes on more government contracts (both military and civilian), no doubt the bureaucratic restrictions on payload handling and the extra demands for operational oversight will boost company costs dramatically. Will SpaceX be strangled by a combination of bureaucrats, thieves, and saboteurs?

    It’d be disheartening to see SpaceX costs slowly but surely reach equilibrium with pricing in the rest of the industry. But there’s no doubt that, left to itself, the private space industry will make some wealthy men incredibly rich, and some aerospace executives unemployed. How clever people respond to that challenge will be interesting to watch.

    Enough SpaceX technology appearing in other countries in bootleg form, and enough “unexplained” failures of those really big (really expensive) SpaceX rockets, will spell a new and grimmer phase of the private space business. More and more “iron rice bowls” are being broken by SpaceX with each passing year. Hope Elon’s brushing up on his Sun Tzu.

    Posted in Big Government, China, Europe, Human Behavior, National Security, Politics, Russia, Science, Space, Tech | 5 Comments »

    Pitting Redistributionist Against Environmentalist

    Posted by Shannon Love on 28th April 2011 (All posts by )

    David Foster’s post on the cost to industry of EPA overreach gave me an idea of how to pit one group of Leftists against another group of Leftists.

    The upper-class, white, environmentalist Leftists might not care if Shell lost 4 billion (with a b) dollars when forced to shelve their exploration plans in Alaska but I wonder if, say, an African-American redistributionist Leftist struggling to find funding for urban social-welfare programs might care about all the Federal tax revenues lost when Shell is forced by the environmentalist to forego the profits they would have made pumping the oil.

    If Shell was going to spend $4 billion in development, then they planned to make at least twice that in profits. With the 35% US corporate tax rate, the means that the Federal government alone just lost $1.5 billion in tax revenues. That’s a bit simplistic of a calculation but nevertheless once you take into account the loss of income and social security taxes from the jobs that won’t be created, the EPA’s actions just cost the government a lot of tax revenues.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Environment, Leftism | 11 Comments »

    Keynes v. Hayek II

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 28th April 2011 (All posts by )

    This is one of the funniest, most creative, accurate, and informative videos I’ve ever seen. It could educate the nation through rap.

    Keynes v. Hayek

    Enjoy, pass it on.

    Posted in Economics & Finance | Comments Off

    The Glenn Beck, Mahdism and Antichrist series

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 27th April 2011 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
    .

    Glenn Beck has a new documentary coming out tonight on Mahdism and the Antichrist.

    He calls it “the documentary that you will not see on mainstream television” and to get to see it, you have to be a subscriber to Beck’s Insider Extreme channel on the web. But then that fits with Beck’s emphasis right now — he doesn’t mind crying shame on the media for not carrying the documentary, but he doesn’t want unbelievers to see it either — he told his radio audience today:

    Make sure you see it tonight at nine o’clock. And if I may recommend that you watch it with some friends. Invite some friends over, some like-minded people, don’t try to get any converts in. Pull up the nets, man, pull up the nets.

    So okay — it won’t be on “mainstream television” but it will be seen in a million “like-minded” homes, and it will influence them, it will influence their perspective on Islam, and on the Middle East.

    Here’s a description of what they can expect, drawn from Joel Rosenberg‘s blog today. Joel is the author of the apocalyptic thriller The Twelfth Imam, has seen the rough cut and will be appearing on the video, along with those he lists here:

    Tonight on his website, Glenn Beck will premiere his new documentary film, “Rumors of War — Part Two.” As with Part One, I was interviewed for the film…

    The documentary examines current events and trends in the Middle East and the Islamic world from various vantage points — Biblical End Times theology, Jewish End Times theology, and Islamic End Times theology. It discusses the latest threats from the Radical Islamic world to Israel, the West and our allies. It features a wide range of Jewish, Muslim and evangelical Christian authors and commentators in a balanced yet provocative and fascinating way. Among them:

    • Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the U.N.
    • Reza Kahlili, former CIA agent inside Iran and author of A Time To Betray
    • Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind novel series
    • Brigitte Gabriel, author of They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It
    • Joel Richardson, author of The Islamic Antichrist
    • Dr. Zudi Jasser, president of American Islamic Forum for Democracy

    *

    The thing is, Beck doesn’t know a whole lot about these things, and his advisers get things wrong — sometimes flat out wrong, sometimes just out of proportion — too.

    I aim to review Beck’s documentary along with its predecessor, and the books of Joel Richardson and Joel Rosenberg, and also take a look at some other books and articles that cover the same materials with greater scholarship and less religious special interest — notably the works of David Cook, J-P Filiu and Timothy Furnish — clear up some of this issues in which definitive corrections are in order, suggest areas where the preponderance of evidence and informed commentary leans away from Beck’s position, and raise again those urgent questions which remain.

    Because from where I sit, Glenn Beck has hit on one of our blind spots — and is giving us a dangerously distorted mirror in which to view it.

    *

    Here’s Beck talking about the upcoming documentary this morning on his radio show:

    Tonight, you don’t want to miss, on Insider Extreme, something that we have been trying to tell the story for quite some time, and I have told it to you many times before, the story of the Twelfth Imam, well this is not the full story of the Twelfth Imam, this is what people Middle East believe about the Twelfth Imam, or the Mahdi as the… Sunnis? Sunnis are in Egypt, Shias are in, ah, is it Shias in Iran or is it the other way around? I think it’s S.. Shias are in Iran. One believes in the Twelfth Imam, the others believe in the Mahdi, same guy, it is the… the… you would know it as the Antichrist. It is the, it has every earmarking of the Antichrist, every single one, I mean, he makes a peace for seven years with Egypt, he viol… — I mean with Israel, he violates it, he marks people with a number, he beheads people if they don’t submit, I mean it’s all there. It’s all there. And Ahmadinejad says that he is alive and well and orchestrating the things in the Middle East.

    Did you get that? He’s not sure: “is it Shias in Iran or is it the other way around?”

    If Beck has been working on this documentary for a year now, let’s hope he does in fact know the difference between Sunni and Shi’a, and that he’s using the popular gag technique of pretending not to know, so his audience — who haven’t all been working on a documentary and may well not know — can feel all the more strongly “he’s one of us”. And besides, Sunni, Shia, it’s all the same, Mahdi, Twelfth Imam, no difference at all, right?

    So that’s the level of required accuracy that’s tolerated here. Which side was it wanted to keep slavery? I forget now, I think it may have been the South. Belfast — now is that Catholic, or Protestant?

    *

    And one last quick note from the same post on Joel Rosenberg’s blog:

    As far as I can tell, Glenn Beck is leaving the Fox News Channel in part because Fox is opposed to him devoting so much time on his program to End Times issues, Bible prophecy, Iran’s eschatology, and the linkage of these things to left wing efforts to sow seeds of revolution and chaos. It’s too bad, really.

    That’s an interesting data point.

    *

    There will be plenty to talk about, anyway:

    the new documentary, Joel Rosenberg’s thriller, which I enjoyed, Joel Richardson, with whom I correspond and whom I like, the new Mahdist video in Iran which is causing quite a stir, and may or may not be an “official” Iranian production, the vexed question — vexed in all three Abrahamic faiths — of whether you can hasten the coming of the Awaited One and if so, how, and the implications of all this both in the United States and in the Middle East, the Iranian nuclear program…

    The Glenn Beck, Mahdism & Antichrist blog series, coming up.

    Posted in Beck-O-Lanche, Christianity, International Affairs, Iran, Islam, Middle East, Religion, Rhetoric, Terrorism | 12 Comments »

    New! – Your Chicagoboyz ‘Caption This Photo’ Event

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Do catfish have kittens? [C. Howard]

    Chicagoboyz has readers in unusual places.

    A few choice lots are still available at the Chicagoboyz Ranchos de Hayek (Phase 1) development with construction scheduled to begin 4Q 2017.

    I’ve never seen this species before, Fred. No gills and they sure do thrash around a lot.

    ? ? ?

    Posted in Humor, Photos | 4 Comments »

    Icebreakers, Lizards, and Gasoline Prices

    Posted by David Foster on 27th April 2011 (All posts by )

    After spending 5 years and nearly $4B on planning, exploration, and leases, Shell Oil has announced that it will have to scrap plans to drill for oil this summer in the Arctic Circle, off the northern coast of Alaska. The EPA has withheld the required air permits because the emissions from one single ice-breaking vessel were not included in the environmental impact calculations. More here.

    In Texas and New Mexico, no icebreakers are required for oil & gas exploration…but there is danger that activity will be shut down across a wide area to avoid any possible inconvenience to this cute little guy, the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard. (Bookworm is right–the lizard does have a rather Churchill-esque expression.) If the Dunes Lizard goes on the endangered species list, then both agriculture and energy would be affected:

    “We are very concerned about the Fish and Wildlife Service listing,” said Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, noting the service also has proposed listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken next year. “The wolf at the door is the lizard; we’re concerned listing it would shut down drilling activity for a minimum of two years and as many as five years while the service determines what habitat is needed for the lizard. That means no drilling, no seismic surveys, no roads built, no electric lines.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Obama, Politics, USA | 8 Comments »

    Jesse Jackson, Ambulance Chaser, and the Shores of Western Michigan

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 25th April 2011 (All posts by )

    I had to admit, a month or so ago when the protests were in full swing here in Madison I was surprised to see Jesse Jackson show up. Then I thought about it, and I wasn’t surprised at all. Jesse always shows up to events such as the protests to get his face on TV. Does anyone really listen to him anymore?

    Once again, I saw Jesse on the news today. The city of Benton Harbor has had its mayor (or is it city manager) and the entire city council tossed on its ear in the name of a financial emergency. The state of Michigan has empowered an emergency financial manager to run the place until it can get back on its feet. So who showed up? Jesse Jackson, imploring the people of Benton Harbor to sue the state (rather than showing up five years ago and imploring the people to fix the mess, but that is besides the point).

    On a personal note, I have vacationed with my family for the past decade on the shores of western Michigan and we absolutely love it. Every community there has cashed in on the warm summer waters of the Lake and developed their shores, and held nice festivals for the tourists such as myself and my family and the hordes from Chicago. Every community, that is, except Benton Harbor.

    We have stayed in neighboring St. Joseph, a tiny community just to the south of Benton Harbor, many times. Once we got lost and were driving through Benton Harbor and we all of a sudden had to lock the doors and zip through there. What an absolute dump. We could hardly believe that every small city we had visited was so nice, and Benton Harbor was so trashed. Something was clearly amiss, but we didn’t know what it was – we just wanted to get out of there.

    I am not surprised that Benton Harbor is in financial straits, nor that Jesse Jackson showed up to lead the “fight” to save their elected government that Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm declared to be such a basketcase that she had to appoint the emergency representative to rescue. I read a few documents on the situation and they didn’t even have basic accounting principles employed.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Civil Society, Diversions, Economics & Finance, Personal Narrative | 16 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th April 2011 (All posts by )

    The Chicagoboyz Diet

    Chicagoboyz recommends the Salvadoran breakfast.

    UPDATE: Here’s the restaurant. Worth visiting if you’re in the area.

    Posted in Photos | 11 Comments »

    “The Contemporary Art Of The Novella”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 24th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Browsing a bookstore on a rainy and strangely November-like day for April, I came across a display of novellas from Melville House Publishing. Slim, neat volumes with the book titles printed on each stark white cover page in primary colors and black. Irresistible to the book lover who is busy at work, a bit tired of blogging and blog commenting (and yet, I’ve left over ten comments here and elsewhere over the course of the entire weekend. Physician, heal thyself!), and who misses reading fiction.

    And so, the novella. After the fantastic comments about postmodernism left at my last blog post, “A Lazy Sunday’s Blogging,” the following blurb seemed especially intriguing:

    Part murder mystery and all jet-black satire, and based on a real life scandal, this edgy novella tells the story of Leopold Sfax, world-renowned as the creator of “The Theory” – a bizarre literary theory that grew from an intellectual folly to a dominant school of criticism that enslaved college campuses across the country.

    To make the satire even blacker, Leopold Sfax, the world-renowned theorist, is hiding his past as a Nazi collaborator. No wonder he is a proponent of words and text divorced from the author….

    ….and all of this is in Gilbert Adair’s novella The Death of the Author. It is a very good book and I don’t agree with the tepid mini-review at Amazon by Publishers Weekly. Why are the Publishers Weekly mini-reviews at Amazon so generally off-base? To whomever at PW wrote “a narrative weighted down by the narrator’s unceasingly haughty academic rhetoric,” all I have to say is this: the book and its language is a satire of academics, academia, and postmodern language. That’s the reason for the haughty academic rhetoric. It’s part of the fun:

    I proposed that, again in every text, there would fatally arrive what I called an aporia, a terminal impasse, a blank brick wall of impenetrability, an ultimatum of indetermination when its self-contradictory meanings could no longer be permitted to coexist in harmony and its fundamental “undecidability” would undermine for ever the reader’s most fundamental presuppositions.
     
    It was, as it happens, at that last proposition that the long-suffering scoffers at the Theory were determined to draw the line - rather, it was by the window of opportunity offered by its theoretical incontinence and by the enormity of its affront to sheer common sense that they sought to infiltrate and invade the rest of the fortress. What? they squealed from Berkeley to Brown, and from Wesleyan to Columbia, is nothing to mean anything anymore? Hamlet, Faust, Moby-Dick, The Divine Comedy – that these possess not one meaning, fair enough, but are they then to possess so very many that it becomes meaningless for the reader to explore any of them? To which the screw-turners, nostrils twitching at the whiff of sulphur, would add: And Auschwitz? Dresden? Hiroshima? My Lai? All of them meaningless, indecipherable texts, saying the opposite of what we had always imagined they said? Wars as texts – go tell that, they protested, to the Marines, go tell that to the maimed, gassed, blinded, disfigured victims of civil texts and guerilla texts and one day, doubtless, the great nuclear text.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Book Notes, Education | 2 Comments »

    Resurrexit

    Posted by Lexington Green on 24th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Posted in Holidays, Religion | 3 Comments »

    Around San Francisco April 2011

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd April 2011 (All posts by )

    Recently Dan and I took a trip to San Francisco to run in the Presidio 10 across the Golden Gate bridge (they don’t close the bridge to car traffic like they do for the “Bay to Breakers” race but there is plenty of room to run on the sidewalk). Unfortunately I was unable to run but went anyways and Dan did well and was happy with his time.

    Upper left – the ubiquitous Powell street cable cars. I don’t know if this is classified more as a “tourist attraction” or as a means of public transport. The sign shows all the “don’ts” especially for out-of-towners. Upper mid-left – we were at the Owl Tree bar which had great drinks on tap and the Ukrainian waitress made very strong drinks; this glass was pure alcohol and destined to be two martinis. Upper mid-right – there was an amazing shopping mall near the Powell street transit station which was packed to the rafters; it was as if the recession had never occurred. Dan and I were joking that everyone buying there came from a country with a positive trade balance. Upper right – a happy newlywed couple in a Powell street cable car. Lower left – Dan doing his version of the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. Lower mid – someone is drawing on the sidewalk with Koi fish as well as a playful cat. Middle right – Alcatraz Island. Lower right – stretching before the race in front of the Golden Gate bridge.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Photos, USA | 8 Comments »

    Happy That Russian Military Modernization is Failing

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd April 2011 (All posts by )

    I read an article a few days ago that positively buoyed my spirits – this WSJ article titled

    “Russia’s Fading Army Fights Losing Battle to Reform Itself”

    Russia was attempting to move away from an all-conscription army and towards a mix of volunteers and conscripted soldiers. In common parlance an all-conscription army generally has poorer morale and is less able to run high technology equipment that is necessary for today’s battlefield. In addition, draft evasion is high and there is a great deal of incentive to avoid conscription due to its brutal nature as practiced by Russian officers, who commonly physically abuse the draftees as well as extorting their pay. From the article:

    The enlistment drive’s failure puts constraints on Russia’s reach. When ethnic rioting in June threatened to tear Kyrgyzstan apart, its president appealed for Russian peacekeepers, the kind of force Moscow once deployed routinely as a political tool. This time the Kremlin demurred—in part, defense analysts say, because the army couldn’t spare a full brigade of professional soldiers.

    I remember books from the 70′s about how America’s post-Vietnam war fighting was being crippled by the difficulties of the transition from a conscription-based army to an all-volunteer army. Someone who is closer to this could provide better information but I’d say it wasn’t until the first Iraq war that we’d made this type of long term change and worked effectively into an all-volunteer army that was capable of dealing with wartime issues.

    While we currently are not having significant difficulties with Russia, their invasion of Georgia shows that they are capable of projecting force to protect their interests, and often their interests are not compatible with their neighbors. It is generally good news for the US that this modernization effort failed; how you can run a high technology army with integrated command control consisting of demoralized conscripts that represent the “bottom of the barrel” since all others desperately try to avoid the draft, is beyond me.

    Another element I found surprising is that individual Russian soldiers spoke about their conditions in the army and were named…. this takes a lot of bravery in Putin’s Russia today and I hope that they escape with their lives.

    Posted in Russia | 24 Comments »

    Military Vehicle Technology Foundation

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 22nd April 2011 (All posts by )

    Dan and I recently traveled to San Francisco and visited the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation. This museum is privately owned (a foundation) and was founded by Mr. Jacques Littlefield, who sadly died in 2009 after a long battle with cancer.

    The original intent of the museum was to restore the vehicles to original working order status – the restoration of the Panther tank (the only operating Panther tank in the US, I believe) was covered in a great TV show called “Tank Overhaul“.

    The museum is in Portola Valley California; Dan and I were completely astounded as we ascended the windy hills near the estate to envision dragging 70 ton tanks up these roads. And yet they are all there, in buildings atop a hill.

    In addition to the tanks there is a wide variety of period military equipment including machine guns and other gear from the era. The attention to detail from the facility is amazing.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Military Affairs | 5 Comments »

    Crucifixus, Mortuus et Sepultus

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd April 2011 (All posts by )

    Matthias Grünewald, The Crucifixion (1515).

    J.K. Huysmans discussing this painting.

    Posted in Holidays, Religion | Comments Off

    ChicagoBoyz Eye on Fashion

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 21st April 2011 (All posts by )

    I am so happy that summer is coming. I may make the wife purchase the outfit on the left for our next date.

    Posted in Photos, Style | 5 Comments »

    Yes, Virginia (and Lisa), There IS a Railroad Industry

    Posted by David Foster on 21st April 2011 (All posts by )

    There’s a Simpsons episode in which Lisa is on a nostalgia kick and is making a video on that theme…but real-world events keep getting in the way. For example, she is down by the tracks, doing an elegiac voice-over along the lines of “these lonely railroad tracks, where the trains come no more” when 4 or 5 diesel units thunder by with a mile or so of freight cars in tow.

    I was reminded of this episode by some recent discussions in the blogosphere and elsewhere. In debates about high-speed passenger rail, it’s pretty clear that many if not most people conflate “trains” with “passenger trains” and think of freight-rail, if they think of it at all, as a vestigial holdover from the railroads’ glory days. The many people who remark on U.S. passenger-rail inferiority vis-a-vis Europe rarely notice that the situation looks a bit different when it comes to freight. And in reviews of the new movie Atlas Shrugged–the principal protagonist of which is a railroad executive–there have been suggestions that it might have been better to switch the action to something more modern, rather than continuing the book’s focus on “1950s industries,” as one commenter called them, such as railroads and steel. One newspaper reviewer, describing the film’s setting, called it “2016 in an alternative retro-future where everything has the look of mid-20th-century modern, the Internet apparently was never invented (people still read papers!), and trains are how goods get from coast to coast.”

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    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Transportation | 30 Comments »

    A two part meditation, part ii: of monks and militants

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 20th April 2011 (All posts by )

    [ by Charles Cameron -- cross-posted from Zenpundit -- see also part I: Scenario planning the end times ]

    *

    Today I received a book in the mail from Powell’s: C Christine Fair and Sumit Ganguly‘s Treading on Hallowed Ground: Counterinsurgency operations in Sacred Spaces. That covers the spread of my interests pretty concisely. I’m reminded that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was complicit in several attempts to assassinate Hitler, once said, “Only he who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants” – again, the intersection of the sacred and harsh “facts on the ground”.

    I am interested in this intersection partly because my father was a warrior and my mentor a priest and peace-maker, and partly because that mentor, Fr. Trevor Huddleston CR, taught me to anchor my life in the contemplative and sacramental side of things, then reach out into world with a view to being of service – an idea that he movingly expressed in this key paragraph from his great book, Naught for your comfort:

    On Maundy Thursday, in the Liturgy of the Catholic Church, when the Mass of the day is ended, the priest takes a towel and girds himself with it; he takes a basin in his hands, and kneeling in front of those who have been chosen, he washes their feet and wipes them, kissing them also one by one. So he takes, momentarily, the place of his Master. The centuries are swept away, the Upper Room in the stillness of the night is all around him: “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet.” I have knelt in the sanctuary of our lovely church in Rosettenville and washed the feet of African students, stooping to kiss them. In this also I have known the meaning of identification. The difficulty is to carry the truth out into Johannesberg, into South Africa, into the world.

    A few days ago I saw a film that encompasses that same range – from the contemplative to the brutal – telling the story of the Cistercian (Trappist) monks of Tibhirine in the Atlas mountains of Algeria, the warmth of affection that existed between them and their Muslim neighbors, the mortal threat they came under from Muslim “rebels” whose wounded they had cared for, their individual and group decisions to stay there in Tibhirine under those threats, and their eventual deaths.

    *

    It is an astonishing story, and my copy of John Kiser‘s book, The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria, which also tells that story, already has more tabs in it noting phrases and whole paragraphs I’ll want to return to than any altar missal – and I’m only two-thirds of the way through it.

    I don’t wish to retell the story – I’d rather you saw the film, Of Gods and Men, in the theater if possible, on DVD if not, or read the book, or both – but a few of those book-marked passages stand out for me.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity, Film, International Affairs, Islam, Middle East, Religion, Terrorism | 2 Comments »

    Harding and Coolidge

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 18th April 2011 (All posts by )

    The Republican convention of 1920 knew that the party was heavily favored to win the fall election. Wilson was forlornly hoping for third term nomination in spite of his crippled state as a result of the stroke. Teddy Roosevelt had died in 1919 at the age of 60. The contenders on the Republican side included Illinois Governor Frank Lowden whose only major handicap with the voters was the fact the he had married the daughter of George Pullman, the railroad tycoon, and was rather ostentatious in displaying his wealth. He had, however, been a reform governor of Illinois. General Leonard Wood, who had been a medical officer commissioned into the regular army in 1886 as a line officer, was another. He had been the senior officer of the US Army in 1917, yet President Wilson had appointed John J. Pershing, junior to Wood, to the European command. Wilson considered Wood a potential political rival, somewhat like Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt considered General MacArthur.

    The third contender was Hiram Johnson, who had run as Teddy Roosevelt’s VP candidate on the Progressive ticket in 1912. There was little enthusiasm for him except among former Progressives who had returned to the party for 1920. Warren Harding is often described as a dark horse who was selected by party bosses after the leaders had exhausted each other. In fact, he was always in the top four and his selection was not a surprise to the convention.

    The huge surprise was the nomination of Coolidge for Vice-President. He did not seek the nomination and was not interested after his experience as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. After the Boston Police Strike, his name was familiar to the nation and in a favorable way. A big issue was the League of Nations and Coolidge favored membership, although with the Lodge reservations. Senator Lodge, no ally of Coolidge, exchanged letters with him on the League and agreed to disagree. Nevertheless, Lodge offered to place Coolidge’s name in nomination for President. Why he made the offer is not know. After several very favorable newspaper profiles appeared in early 1920, Coolidge made another statement that he was not a candidate for President. Frank Stearns and Lodge tried to bring a Coolidge delegation to the convention but Wood lived in Massachusetts and the delegation split. His interest in the nomination was further diminished by the death of his beloved step-mother, Carrie in May 1920.

    Lowden’s handlers favored Coolidge as a VP candidate as he and the governor were from different parts of the country. Lowden’s biggest problem with the bosses was his reputation as incorruptible. The Illinois party bosses distrusted him. They feared he couldn’t be bought, or if so, wouldn’t stay bought. Robert Sobel, in his biography of Coolidge, says that Lowden was probably the best qualified Republican of the 1920s. One of the party bosses, Boies Penrose, asked Harding if he wanted to be president. Harding liked being a Senator and declined, leading Penrose to look elsewhere. By the time of the convention, Penrose was fatally ill, although his reputation was still powerful. He awakened from a coma during the convention, asked about the voting and suggested they choose Harding. Then, he lapsed into the coma again.

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    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Coolidge, Elections, History, Political Philosophy, Politics | 11 Comments »

    A HipBone approach to analysis VII: world wide spiders & the web

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 18th April 2011 (All posts by )

    [ by Charles Cameron -- cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    *

    I thought I’d back-track a little, and drag in two blog posts that I made elsewhere back in March of 2008, which may help to explain my basic outlook on the sorts of issues that analysts face.

    .

    I. The version of the idea as poetry:

    I am Charles

    .
    .

    My concern is the human mind in service
    to an open heart, and my problem
    is that the heart picks issues rich in ambiguity
    and multiplicity of voices, tensions
    and torsions tugging not one way but
    in many directions, even dimensions, as does
    a spider’s web weighed down with dew –
    to clarify which a mind’s abacus is required
    .
    equal in subtlety to subtlety itself, while
    in all our thinking and talking, one
    effect follows one cause from question
    to conclusion down one sentence or white
    paper — whereas in counterpoint,
    Bach’s fugal voices contain their dissonance.

    .

    II. The same idea presented in prose — as I say, a few years back — with graphical illustration:

    Spiders and dewdrops

    Spiders and dewdrops do a pretty convincing job of portraying a certain level of complexity in this node-and-edge diagram of the global situation.

    .
    spider_web.jpg
    .

    When, say, Castro hands over power to his brother, or Musharraf has to give up control of the Pakistani army, it’s like snipping a couple of threads in that spiders web — and the droplets fall this way and that, carom into one another, the fine threads they’re on swing down and around until a new equilibrium is reached…
    .
    But try thinking that through in terms of Cuba and Pakistan before breakfast one morning if you’re Secretary of State, with a linear Cold War mind, Russia going through its own changes, and al-Qaida and associates training and recruiting in the background…

    Well, those two instances have been and gone, and the new configurations are now the tired old same old configurations we believe we’ve figured out — until another dewdrop slips, and a thread breaks, and all things are once again new…

    *

    Funnily enough, I think this spider’s web of mine ties in with the Hokusai quote I posted in response to Zen‘s quote from Steven Pressfield yesterday, and with a piece I read today about intelligence analysts — Martin Petersen, What I Learned in 40 Years of Doing Intelligence.

    It’s the web of tensions that constitutes the “complexity” that must somehow be grasped by the analyst, the writer, the historian…

    And Hokusai, watching across the years how grasses bend in the winds, reach for sunlight, bow under the weight of dew — and spring back when released — may finally have a mind that’s attuned to that kind of complexity — to a degree that linear thinking will never reach…

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Education, International Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Poetry, Political Philosophy, Uncategorized | Comments Off

    The Assault on American Identity and Cohesion

    Posted by David Foster on 17th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Reading Sgt Mom’s new historical novel inspired me to research some additional sources on that era of history. At the library, I picked up A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory, by Randy Roberts and James Olson. The first half of the book is devoted to the actual historical events, the second half to the differing ways these events have been portrayed in legend and in formal history over the century and a half that has passed since they occurred.

    At the end of the book, the authors describe a commemoration that was held at the Alamo in 1999. There were thousands of people there–one attendee they noticed was “an Anglo graduate student from the University of Texas, filled with passionate intensity…plain, metal-rimmed glasses rested down on his nose, and his goatee was trimmed a la Leon Trotsky.”

    They also noticed a Hispanic family with three girls ages 8 to 12. The father, a CPA with a Wharton degree, photographed his family in front of the limestone walls of the chapel and told them briefly about the Alamo, telling the girls that “it stood for courage and integrity, virtues they needed to cultivate in their own lives.”

    At that point, the Anglo graduate student arrived at the chapel door. He asked, “Why are you even here today? Don’t you know what this place stands for? It represents the rape and destruction of your people.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, History, Leftism, USA | 17 Comments »

    Who Needs Infrastructure? (II)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 16th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Commenters on the earlier post having raised several good points, I decided to write a follow-up rather than attempt to provide individual responses.

    I should first say something general about technological advance and prediction horizons. Due to the immense effects of nanomachinery, as hazardous as near-future speculation may be, it becomes extraordinarily difficult more than about 20 years out. What interests me in this context is what can be done with “bulk technology” before the transition to nanotech, and how many of the developments forecast by Drexler et al may occur relatively gradually and in unlikely places, rather than swiftly and obviously emanating from North America or some other high-technology region. Jim notes the potential of the combination of desktop fabricators and satellite links. I believe that few people on Earth will see more change in the next generation than young Haitians.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Environment, International Affairs, Latin America, North America, Personal Narrative, Tech, USA | 7 Comments »

    The Carpenters, Superstar (Live, 1971)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 15th April 2011 (All posts by )

    The magic and tragic Karen Carpenter.

    Greatest girl pop singer of all time?

    The world did not love Karen one-millionth as much as she deserved.

    Posted in Music, Video | 9 Comments »