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  • Archive for June, 2011

    Bald Cow Live July 15, 2011 Chicago

    Posted by Lexington Green on 30th June 2011 (All posts by )

    I am told we will be playing at 9:00 p.m. (going on first and early since we are old and our friends are also old) at Gallery Cabaret in Bucktown. I am troubled to see we are not shown on the calendar … . Details to follow as I get that clarified. (The drink specials that night are Jever Pilsener and Huber Bock, both $3 bottles. )

    Four songs recorded in 1989 here. We will be dragging out these old warhorses, for sure. We will be adding one new cover to the set: Who Will Save Rock’N'Roll? I wish Handsome Dick Manitoba could be there with us, physically, not just in spirit.

    Posted in Announcements, Arts & Letters, Music, USA | 4 Comments »

    Victorian / Edwardian Paintings

    Posted by Lexington Green on 30th June 2011 (All posts by )

    This is a great site with many excellent paintings.

    Check it out, if you are interested in the era, or the art of the era.

    Josef Fluggen, “The Last Resource.”

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Britain, History | 6 Comments »

    Obama, Tax Policy, and Manufacturing

    Posted by David Foster on 30th June 2011 (All posts by )

    Fact #1: Obama has been giving many speeches about how much he values American manufacturing and also introducing various initiatives which he claims will be help manufacturing businesses

    Face #2: In his recent budget proposal, Obama proposed the elimination of LIFO inventory accounting for tax purposes. This would generate additional business income tax revenues for the government of an estimated $72B by 2016.

    In what universe do the above two things go together?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Politics, Taxes | 12 Comments »

    New! – Your ChicagoBoyz helpful tip of the day.

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

    If your neighbor who is moving away and owns a lot of cats offers you one of them because she can’t take them all to her new place, do not take her up on her offer.

    UPDATE: Let me rephrase that. There may be a reason why your neighbor has decided to give up this particular cat.

    You might call this a case of revealed purrferences.

    Posted in Humor, Personal Narrative | 26 Comments »

    Waking Up to the Behavioral Impact of Taxes

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th June 2011 (All posts by )

    The current administration has continually protested the lower rates signed into law by the previous administration and initially acted as if there was no impact on behavior based on the act of raising tax rates.

    However, the administration IS interested in getting re-elected. Thus some new “incentives” have been put into place to incent economic activity, such as a tax credit for capital expenditures that makes them completely deductible in the current year. Since large capital expenditures are usually deducted over many years, this is a significant one-time tax holiday that major companies will consider seriously while planning for uses of their free cash flows (or available financing).

    This tax credit, however, is diametrically at odds with the administration getting re-elected, because it provides FURTHER encouragement for companies to replace people with automation. And as the jobless rate remains high, the government starts casting about for more solutions to a problem that they really care about, which is getting people back to work so they aren’t disaffected voters (never mind the deficit, the total economy, or other factors).

    While the government tried to make labor a bit less un-favorable with a social security tax holiday, the 2% is on the employee side (yes, yes, I know that this factors into wages in the long run, but not in the short or medium term), this type of change isn’t going to make businesses hire more in the short term.

    Thus now the government has decided to look at other incentives to try to get companies to hire people, such as a more extensive payroll tax holiday, as they discuss in this NY Times op ed piece.

    The administration apparently doesn’t feel any uneasiness with the blatant contradictions in their policies; officially they say that raising taxes “on the rich” doesn’t incent behavior, but here they are starting to see that businesses DO respond to incentives, and that in order to try to get businesses to hire they might want to use tax policies to further this end.

    In fact, our tax policies are a complete mess. Not only do businesses want a fair tax climate, they want a PREDICTABLE tax climate. Since businesses are (all) run by high net worth individuals, it also makes sense to have a predictable tax climate for businesses as well as individuals. No one would have foreseen that we would go an entire year without an estate policy; think of all the years of lawyers and various “shifting” transactions that could have been avoided. Likewise, this one time tax break for capital is something that businesses will have to consider for years to come; perhaps the best bet is just to wait to invest until a better tax deal comes along.

    I would love to hear the administration explain why taxes DO incent behavior sometimes (like when the administration wants you to hire people) but DON’T incent behaviors at other times (like when they raise rates and expect you to work just as hard as you did before and keep investing and hustling for years to come, knowing that a large chunk of it is going to go to the government in taxes). That would be a good you tube for Goolsbee. (also hilarious that when you put in his name the auto-correct in my computer comes up Goebbels).

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Taxes | 5 Comments »

    Rowe (Inadvertently) Explains Why We Are Doomed On Energy

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th June 2011 (All posts by )

    In my many posts on energy commenters make the point over and over again that I am too gloomy and don’t offer solutions. My lack of optimism comes from actually KNOWING how the BUSINESS of utilities works, which is independent of the technology, operations, or dreams of a “nuclear renaissance” or “alternative energy” or anything else.

    There are only a few utilities that actually matter in the USA. There is Southern Company (NYSE: SO), which benefits from some old-school regulation in the South that actually encourages investment in base-load generation, and is currently building 2 nuclear units at the site of an existing nuclear plant at Vogtle. Another one that does matter, because of its scale (enough market cap to borrow to fund a nuclear plant) and the fact that it already is a big nuclear operator, is Exelon. And an interview with Rowe, the Chairman, explains in his own words, better than I ever could, how doomed we are if any sort of “new thinking” is needed to get us out of the impending base-load crisis.

    Here is the dynamic leadership style of Rowe, in his own words:

    There are probably only four or five real decisions I make in a year. There are an awful lot of things I just quietly ratify. I find it very hard to get officers to let you in before the food is cooked. Their natural tendency is to want to bring it to you all packaged. By then all you can do is say yes or no. And you usually say yes.

    Awesome. And here is a Q&A about hiring, where he admits he isn’t very good at it:

    Q. Let’s shift to hiring. How do you do it? What qualities are you looking for? A. Well, it’s not one of my greatest strengths

    Most importantly, look at the cutting edge thinking he brings to the question of what he’d ask in an interview:

    Q. If you could interview somebody for only five minutes and ask just two or three questions to check for this sense of responsibility that you touched on, what would you ask?

    A. I’d probably ask them if they’d seen the old Gregory Peck movie of “Moby-Dick” where the Quaker sea captain says to Ishmael, “Are you man enough to pitch a harpoon down a live whale’s throat and jump after it?” That’s probably what I’d ask. And Ishmael of course gives the perfect answer. He says, “Well, I am, sir, if it be absolutely indispensible that I do so.”

    Really? This is the type of question you’d ask – about Moby Dick? I can’t make this stuff up.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation | 12 Comments »

    Manzi on Manufacturing

    Posted by David Foster on 26th June 2011 (All posts by )

    Jim Manzi is a thinker/writer who often has interesting things to say; see for example his piece What Social Science Does–and Doesn’t–Know. He has a new series at NRO about U.S. manufacturing competitiveness: why it matters, and how it can be improved. Here are the first two posts: Part 1, and Part 2. As additional posts are added, they will be easily findable via googling.

    See also my post Faux Manufacturing Nostalgia, which is about cultural influences on the situation of U.S. manufacturing; also A Manufacturing Renaissance?

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Political Philosophy, Tech, USA | 2 Comments »

    Live up to the Snake! (Name the Snake.)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd June 2011 (All posts by )

    I have been going off about how we have to have a countervailing image to the Obama 2012 image in the zero, on a blue field, which I am already seeing all over the place.

    The Gadsden snake in the zero, on a red field, is a good placeholder until the GOP has a candidate — and hopefully after.

    We need a GOP candidate whose name can proudly be matched with the snake.

    We need a GOP candidate who is serious about cleaning up the mess.

    We need a GOP candidate who is not a squish.

    We need a GOP candidate who will live up to the snake.

    We all need to live up to the snake.

    We need a name for the snake.

    I don’t think the snake has ever had a name.

    There’s a first time for everything.

    I propose Ronald Gadsden Rattlesnake, a/k/a Ronnie Rattlesnake a/k/a Ronnie Rattler.

    Ronnie for obvious reasons.

    Your proposals are solicited. It will have to be really good to be better than Ronnie Rattler.

    Snake 2012 stuff here.

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Elections, Obama, Politics, USA | 18 Comments »

    Accounting for the End

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 23rd June 2011 (All posts by )

    I’d like to thank the members of the ChicagoBoyz community for their condolences on my mother’s passing last month. They’re deeply appreciated. I’m comforted by the knowledge that she’s in God’s all-caring hands, that she’s free of mortal cares or sorrows, and that we’ll be reunited forever in God’s good time.

    One aspect of my family’s recent experience is worth sharing. It’s a data point of some interest to CB readers for many of the same varied reasons that bring us together here.

    My mother suffered three major bouts of breast cancer over the last 16 years. Her cancer was likely triggered, and exacerbated, by the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) she took for five years prior and ten years following her first cancer diagnosis. Recent studies suggest that HRT’s benefits are limited to treating one post-menopausal condition and then only for a limited time. Extended use greatly increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Mom’s 15+ years went well past any red line. She didn’t stop HRT until after the third, ultimately fatal, bout with cancer.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Health Care | 2 Comments »

    Seventy Years Ago This Day

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 22nd June 2011 (All posts by )

    Barbarossa

    Barbarossa

    On June 22, 1941, a day that will live in infamy (everywhere else but America), the Wehrmacht poured over the barely established line of partition between the Hun-dominated Third Reich and the Georgian-dominated Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. So began Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion in human history.

    It was named for Frederick I Barbarossa, the twelfth century Holy Roman Emperor and Hohenstaufen powerhouse who went east on Crusade only to drown ignominiously in an obscure Anatolian river along the way. After his death, Barbarossa became a sort of Hun Arthur. Hun legend told that Barbarossa hadn’t died in the swirling mountain currents of the Saleph. Instead, Barbarossa was sleeping with his knights in a cave under a mountain in Hun-Land named Kyffhauser. Once the ravens stop circling this mountain, Barbarossa will arise and lead the Hun back to his ancient greatness.

    Barbarrosa looking for ravens

    Barbarrosa looking for ravens

    Or something.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Holidays | 16 Comments »

    Feast of St. Thomas More

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

    (I highly recommend Peter Ackroyd’s balanced and brilliant biography, The Life of Thomas More.)

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, Religion | 3 Comments »

    Around Chicago June 2011 (more)

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 21st June 2011 (All posts by )

    Upper left – a car that should definitely not be on the street – a Lamborghini parked right out on the street on a busy Friday night in River North. Upper right – all I could think of when I saw that ridiculous photo of a laptop strapped to the handlebars of a motorcycle was “Get a damn iPhone or a Garmin”. Really… that is plain crazy and in a nutshell explains how having the most up to date laptop has gone from a must-have to an I’ll-wait-a-while type of purchase. Lower left – can’t argue with that sentiment about spring, but funny that it is on a trash bin door. Lower middle – great license plate on a truck in front of the post office. Too true and it should say retire at 50 but that probably won’t fit on the plate. Tzar bar – popped up in my neighborhood on Ontario and funny that the name of what was essentially the Emperor of Russia is now a trendy name for a nightclub. Pictures here looks like a fun and expensive place to visit if you are under 30 and can burn a few hundred bucks / night and stay out until daylight.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Humor, Photos | 8 Comments »

    American Majority Grassroots/Activist Training Saturday, June 25, 2011 from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM (CT) Oak Lawn, IL

    Posted by Lexington Green on 20th June 2011 (All posts by )

    Our nation was founded by ordinary citizen activists desiring a government that was accountable to the people. Today, ordinary citizens across our nation are tired of the status quo and ready to engage for the betterment of their communities. American Majority’s political training addresses these passions by providing education and resources to help you meet your goals.
     
    American Majority along with the Chicago Tea Party will conduct a Grassroots/Activist training that will provide citizens with the tools necessary to win elections and implement limited government and free market principles.

    I am going.

    You should too.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Elections, Politics, USA | 2 Comments »

    A Golden Chain Through Apple’s Nose

    Posted by Shannon Love on 20th June 2011 (All posts by )

    My good Internet friend and blog mentor Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit falls victim to the Internet rumor that Apple has patented a technology that will allow anyone to disable an iPhone’s camera against the wishes of the user.

    Of course Apple did no such thing, but for the purposes of discussion let’s assume that they did. Now, should I be panicking that I will someday have pranksters, evil concert promoters, corrupt police and authoritarian governments disabling my iPhone camera anytime they want?

    Nope, not worried in the least. Why? Is it because I think the people who run Apple are so good and noble that they would never do such a thing? No, it’s just the opposite. I am confident I will always control my iPhone camera because I think Apple is run by a bunch of “greedy” bastards.

    Let me put it this way: Everyone who would pay hundreds of dollars for an iPhone that had such a camera-disabling “feature” in it, please raise your hand.

    What? Nobody?

    Exactly.

    Economic self-interest (that’s “greed” for you leftists) is the most powerful protector of liberties that exists.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Tech | 32 Comments »

    What am I missing here?

    Posted by Lexington Green on 19th June 2011 (All posts by )

    How about passing a bill that is about one page long.

    It just says that any person or entity that requests a waiver of Obamacare can have it upon written request.

    Since Obama is giving these out to his pals, just let everyone have it if they want.

    Would this be a great issue or what?

    Put it up for a vote and make the Democrats defend the bill and the waiver process.

    Posted in Elections, Health Care, Obama, Politics, USA | 21 Comments »

    Did He Say What I Thought He Said?

    Posted by Shannon Love on 19th June 2011 (All posts by )

    I got into a pissing match with Eric S. Raymond, the famous programmer, author and Open Source Software advocate. I want the opinion of others, preferably people with no specialized programming knowledge, to tell me if I read one of his responses correctly.

    I objected to what I regard as a hysterical over reaction to a patent application Apple filed for an infrared augmented reality tag system. The technical issues aren’t that important at the moment.

    I would like you good readers to read one of my comments and Raymond’s next response and then answer some questions after the jump. Please don’t read my questions until you read Raymond’s response because I don’t want to prejudice your impressions.

    Here is my comment. The only thing you really need to know before reading Raymond’s response is that it was he who used the phrase “complete control” in the parent post.

    Here is Raymond’s response.

    The parent post is here if you want to read it.

    Now, here are my questions:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Tech | 18 Comments »

    Doting Dads of History

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 19th June 2011 (All posts by )

    Just in time for Father’s Day, this puff piece purports to list the 12 most doting dads in history. Its criteria for measuring paternal dotage are vague but seem to center on dads who educated their daughters when it was historically unfashionable to do so. Charlemagne (#10), Thomas More (#8), and Lt. Col. George Lucas (#7, not the one you’ve heard of) get mad props for being pioneers of women’s rights.

    Based on that criteria, I’d add three more doting dads of history to their list:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Holidays | 4 Comments »

    The War on History

    Posted by David Foster on 19th June 2011 (All posts by )

    …it looks like the schools have won and history has lost. A recent survey indicates that less than a quarter of American students are scoring at or above the “proficient” level in their knowledge of this subject. For twelfth graders, the number is only 12%.

    More from Joanne Jacobs and her commenters. Few high school seniors were able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought the U.S. during the Korean war. Most fourth graders were unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure. Only a third of fourth graders were able to identify the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. And only 2% of 12th graders can name the social problem — school segregation — that Brown vs. the Board of Education was supposed to correct, even after reading: “We conclude that in the field of public education, separate but equal has no place, separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” That number is two percent.

    While these results are disturbing, they should not be surprising to anyone who has been keeping up. Evidence has been building for years that the American school system is generally doing a very poor job in the teaching of history. I’ve seen data from 2002 showing that 15% of high school students actually believed that the U.S. and Germany had been allies during World War II. And the failures of history teaching extend through college level. In 2008, historian David McCullough spoke to seminar of some twenty-five students at an Ivy League college, all seniors majoring in history, all honors students. “How many of you know who George Marshall was?” he asked. None did.

    So why is this happening?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education, History, USA | 23 Comments »

    Backing Up The Hard Drive Of Civilization

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 18th June 2011 (All posts by )

    This post at Technology Review muses about what happens if high tech crashes. Would our store of technical knowledge, which is increasingly found exclusively in digital form, survive? Or would we suffer a terrible backwards slide as people struggle to reinvent what was once taken for granted?

    Glenn takes this to its logical conclusion, saying that there should be efforts to build an Encyclopedia Galactica. A vast repository of knowledge, the sum total of everything known up to this time, could be printed in a durable form and cached in a remote area. If any of the myriad civilization-smashing dooms should come to pass, then there would be a base of knowledge that would allow the survivors to rebuild in a very short period of time.

    This dovetails neatly into the Social Cycle Theory of history, a discredited model that states flourishing civilizations are doomed to descend into periods of darkness and barbarism. Vast libraries might be constructed in cosmopolitan cities where culture and knowledge are revered, but those same books filling the libraries are going to be burned by illiterate savages when they sack the toppled empires.

    So, if it is impossible to avoid the total destruction of all you hold dear, wouldn’t it be neato-keen to squirrel enough knowledge away so that the contributions made by your culture to the human condition are not lost?

    There actually has been at least one effort to do this very thing that I am aware of. Known as the Georgia Guidestones, they are massive slabs of rock arranged in such a way that many are reminded of Stonehenge.

    (Picture source.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Internet | 9 Comments »

    The Art of the Remake II

    Posted by Lexington Green on 17th June 2011 (All posts by )

    Dan had an earlier post featuring the original Joy Division version of the song “No Love Lost” and a remake by LCD Soundsystem. Dan’s admonition: “If you are going to cover a song, rip it apart a bit and make it your own.” The Clash did just that in this case.

    The Equals, Police On My Back (1968)

    The Clash, Police On My Back (1980)

    You can hear a hint of the Bobby Fuller Four’s I Fought the Law in the Equal’s song, and of course, the Clash did a cover of that one, too.

    I may have a few more of these comparisons … .

    Posted in Music, Video | 2 Comments »

    Global Warming and acupuncture

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 16th June 2011 (All posts by )

    It looks as though the sun is entering a new dormant period, similar to the Maunder Minimum which led to the Little Ice Age.

    This will almost certainly end the global warming hysteria in a few years. The people who continue to cling to this sort of hoax, will be looking for the Next Big Thing. I don’t mean to imply that the earth did not warm over the past century. The Little Ice Age ended about 1850 so a warming trend is expected following such an event. The hoax is the contrived evidence that humans are responsible. I was skeptical about that from the first. The forces involved are too large. If humans affected climate, it probably began with the development of agriculture. Perhaps we have had no ice age in the past 10,000 years because of the effects of agriculture and forest changes. I have previously discussed this and nothing has changed my mind.

    The next question is what will replace global warming as the religion of the bored classes ? There are signs that it may be “New Age” medicine. This sort of thing is common in certain circles and has considerable similarity to the global warming arguments.

    The Center for Integrative Medicine, Berman’s clinic, is focused on alternative medicine, sometimes known as “complementary” or “holistic” medicine. There’s no official list of what alternative medicine actually comprises, but treatments falling under the umbrella typically include acupuncture, homeopathy (the administration of a glass of water supposedly containing the undetectable remnants of various semi-toxic substances), chiropractic, herbal medicine, Reiki (“laying on of hands,” or “energy therapy”), meditation (now often called “mindfulness”), massage, aromatherapy, hypnosis, Ayurveda (a traditional medical practice originating in India), and several other treatments not normally prescribed by mainstream doctors. The term integrative medicine refers to the conjunction of these practices with mainstream medical care.

    Here we have what may become the replacement for AGW in the minds of the exquisite privileged class. It has all the requirements.

    1. America is corrupt and inferior ? Yes. (See the comments)

    2. Capitalism is corrupt and inferior ? Yes

    3. Only the truly intelligent and sensitive can appreciate it ? Well.

    You might think the weight of the clinical evidence would close the case on alternative medicine, at least in the eyes of mainstream physicians and scientists who aren’t in a position to make a buck on it. Yet many extremely well-credentialed scientists and physicians with no skin in the game take issue with the black-and-white view espoused by Salzberg and other critics. And on balance, the medical community seems to be growing more open to alternative medicine’s possibilities, not less.

    That’s in large part because mainstream medicine itself is failing. “Modern medicine was formed around successes in fighting infectious disease,” says Elizabeth Blackburn, a biologist at the University of California at San Francisco and a Nobel laureate. “Infectious agents were the big sources of disease and mortality, up until the last century. We could find out what the agent was in a sick patient and attack the agent medically.” To a large degree, the medical infrastructure we have today was designed with infectious agents in mind. Physician training and practices, hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry, and health insurance all were built around the model of running tests on sick patients to determine which drug or surgical procedure would best deal with some discrete offending agent. The system works very well for that original purpose, against even the most challenging of these agents—as the taming of the AIDS virus attests.

    But medicine’s triumph over infectious disease brought to the fore the so-called chronic, complex diseases—heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other illnesses without a clear causal agent. Now that we live longer, these typically late-developing diseases have become by far our biggest killers. Heart disease, prostate cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases now account for three-quarters of our health-care spending. “We face an entirely different set of big medical challenges today,” says Blackburn. “But we haven’t rethought the way we fight illness.” That is, the medical establishment still waits for us to develop some sign of one of these illnesses, then seeks to treat us with drugs and surgery.

    No doubt the author would prefer that people died too young for chronic disease to affect them.

    A well-known science blog states the case for scientific medicine.

    Speaking of bad ideas, in contrast to his previous article, in which he managed at least to get the gist of what Ioannidis teaches but merely spun it in what I considered to be an annoying fashion, the entire idea behind Freedman’s new article channels the worst fallacies of apologists for alternative medicine. The whole idea behind the article appears to be that, even if most of alternative medicine is quackery (which it is, by the way), it’s making patients better because its practitioners take the time to talk to patients and doctors do not. In other words, it’s a massive “What’s the harm?” argument. Yes, that’s basically the entire idea of the article boiled down into a couple of sentences. Deepak Chopra couldn’t have said it better. Tacked on to that bad idea is a massive argumentum ad populum that portrays alternative medicine (or, as purveyors of quackademic medicine like to call it, “complementary and alternative medicine” or “integrative medicine”) as the wave of the future, a wave that’s washing over medicine and teaching us cold, reductionistic doctors to care again about patients and thus make them better. Freedman even contrasts this to what he calls the “failure” of scientific medicine. I kid you not. Worse, Freedman makes this argument after having actually interviewed some prominent skeptics, including Steve Salzberg and Steve Novella, in essence, missing the point.

    I expect to see more and more of “alternative medicine” because it appeals to the scientific illiterate and it damns another traditional source of authority, scientific medicine. Global warming hysteria attacks capitalism and prosperity. Alternative medicine is also going to be useful to Obamacare as a way of cutting reimbursement for traditional care. There are assumptions that it is cheaper. It may be cheaper per session, although is also uncertain, but there is no end point to such treatment. Who can say when the treatment is enough if it cannot be measured ? The theory that it is cheaper will be a powerful wind behind it. Watch for more and more about it in the left leaning media.

    Posted in Health Care, Medicine, Science | 27 Comments »

    Book Review: Father, Son, & Co., by Thomas Watson Jr and Peter Petre

    Posted by David Foster on 16th June 2011 (All posts by )

    Buy the book: Father, Son & Co.

    —-

    When Tom Watson Jr was 10 years old, his father came home and proudly announced that he had changed the name of his company. The business that had been known as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company would now be known by the grand name International Business Machines.

    That little outfit?” thought young Tom to himself, picturing the company’s rather random-seeming collection of products, which included time clocks, coffee grinders, and scales, and the “cigar-chomping guys” who sold them. This was in 1924.

    This is the best business autobiography I’ve read. It’s about Watson Jr, his difficult relationship with his father, the company they built, and the emergence of the computing industry. It is an emotional, reflective, and self-critical book, without the kind of “here’s how brilliant I was” tone that afflicts too many executive autobiographies. With today being IBM’s 100th anniversary (counting from the incorporation of CTR), I thought it would be a good time to finally get this review finished and posted.

    Watson’s relationship with his father was never an easy one. From an early age, he sensed a parental expectation that he would follow his father into IBM, despite both his parents assuring him that this was not the case and he could do whatever he wanted. This feeling that his life course was defined in advance, combined with fear that he would never be able to measure up to his increasingly-famous father, was likely a factor in the episodes of severe depression which afflicted him from 13 to 19. In college Watson was an indifferent student and something of a playboy. His most significant accomplishment during this period was learning to fly airplanes—-”I’d finally discovered something I was good at”–a skill that would have great influence on his future. His first job at IBM, as a trainee salesman, did little to boost his self-confidence or his sense of independence: he was aware that local IBM managers were handing him easy accounts, wanting to ensure success for the chief executive’s son. It was only when Watson joined the Army Air Force during WWII–he flew B-24s and was based in Russia, assisting General Follett Bradley in the organization of supply shipments to the Soviet Union–that he proved to himself that he could succeed without special treatment. As the war wound down, he set his sights on becoming an airline pilot–General Bradley expressed surprise, saying “Really? I always thought you’d go back and run the IBM company.” This expression of confidence, from a man he greatly respected, helped influence Watson to give IBM another try.

    The products that Watson had been selling, as a junior salesman, were punched card systems. Although these were not computers in the modern sense of the word, they could be used to implement some pretty comprehensive information systems. Punched card systems were an important enabler of the increasing dominance of larger organizations in both business and government: the Social Security Act of 1935 was hugely beneficial to IBM both because of the systems they sold to the government directly and those sold to businesses needing to keep up with the required record-keeping.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Biography, Book Notes, Business, Management, Tech | 6 Comments »

    Lying About Apple

    Posted by Shannon Love on 16th June 2011 (All posts by )

    Lying about Apple, especially the iPhone, seems to be a fad these days.

    The usually mostly reliable Register seems to be caught up in some kind of anti-Apple hysteria lately. Today, they breathlessly report:

    The leading computer company plans to build a system that will sense when people are trying to video live events — and turn off their cameras.[emp added]

    Small problem, nothing in the articles supports that breathless assertion. It is, quite simply, a lie and journalistic fraud.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Media, Rhetoric, Tech | 36 Comments »

    Siegel’s Brain’s Day Off

    Posted by Shannon Love on 15th June 2011 (All posts by )

    Noted internet alcoholic Stephen Green takes the pseudo-intellectual Alan Siegel to the woodshed for Siegel’s pompous and error filled critique of the John Hughes ’80s classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

    Here’s my take:

    Siegel is simply revealing his own egocentrism in his review. In the guise of lambasting Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, he is really shouting, “This movie isn’t about me! It doesn’t make people think about me and how I should be more important!”

    Siegel wants people to care more about the political issues Siegel is publicly identified with and by extension to make Siegel more important. Virtually all leftist criticism of art comes down to this dynamic. They like art about themselves and art that makes them feel more important. It’s kind of disturbing how deeply the modern American Left has absorbed the world view of the fascist and communist wherein politics was the only valid purpose of art.

    I think Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a great movie because it explores universal human themes.

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    Posted in Arts & Letters, Leftism, Media | 6 Comments »

    Retrovertical Transportation versus The Evil ATM

    Posted by David Foster on 15th June 2011 (All posts by )

    A couple of years ago, I posted about a “creative” approach to job creation. President Obama’s attempt to blame our unemployment problems on ATM machines and other technological advances suggests that it’s time to post this idea again. So here it is, unchanged except for the date and the use of a less-respectful term in reference to our national legislators.

    Politicians, from Barack Obama on down, are spending a lot of time talking about “job creation.” Businesses, labor groups, and “experts” of various kinds are getting into the fun, each emphasizing that their proposed project W will create X jobs within Y time frame at a cost to the government of only Z.

    I know a way to create at least a million jobs, almost immediately, at no government expense whatsoever.

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    Posted in Economics & Finance, Politics | 17 Comments »