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  • Archive for July, 2017

    Robot of the Week

    Posted by David Foster on 30th July 2017 (All posts by )

     

    Automated suturing

     

    Posted in Medicine, Tech | 1 Comment »

    “ObamaCare Fines Nailed The Working Class In 2017 And Other Unpopular Truths”

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th July 2017 (All posts by )

    Investor’s Business Daily:

    Preliminary data from the 2017 tax season are in, and they’re shocking. Not only does it look like the working class bore the brunt of ObamaCare individual mandate penalties this year, but people with relatively modest incomes apparently paid a lot more than the Congressional Budget Office anticipated.
     
    [. . .]
     
    The 2017 tax data offer new evidence that there’s much to be gained by moving away from the individual mandate and much to lose by sticking with it. Tax returns that had been processed as of April 27 included 4 million that paid ObamaCare fines (officially known as individual shared responsibility payments), with an average payment of $708.
     
    What is striking about the data is that the average payment is barely higher than the minimum payment of $695. Since people were required to pay the greater of $695 or 2.5% of taxable income above the filing threshold ($10,350 in 2017), one takeaway is that most of the $2.8 billion in fines paid through April appear to have come from people with modest to moderate incomes. As a frame of reference, CBO’s 2014 analysis implied that the average mandate payment for this tax season would be roughly $1,075 and that the total amount paid by people earning up to three times the poverty level would barely exceed $1 billion.

    There is much more interesting information in the article. Worth reading in full.

    Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Health Care, Obama, Politics | 19 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 29th July 2017 (All posts by )

    A photo essay about an old mill, by Gerard Van der Leun

    From welder to welding robot programmer

    Showing love through food

    The University Empire

    Privilege hoarding: Harvard and granite countertops

    A 2006 post by Dr Sanity on the Western Left and radical Islam

    Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, 30 years later.

    Cold Spring Shops writes about education, mating, fertility, and work.

    Posted in Academia, Feminism, History, Human Behavior, Islam, Leftism, Photos, Tech | 3 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th July 2017 (All posts by )

    big

    Chicagoboyz think big.

    Posted in Photos | 10 Comments »

    What’s going on with the DNC and the Pakistanis ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 27th July 2017 (All posts by )

    The arrest of Imran Awan sets off a potential firestorm.

    Who is this guy ?

    For years, Imran Awan had access to the secret data and correspondence of many House committees, including foreign affairs. What did he do with it? As I said, that’s the worst case scenario (I guess).

    He refers to a possible link to the Pakistani ISI. The ISI has a very controversial history. Some of it concerns the Afghanistan Taliban.

    In documents leaked in April 2011 on the Wikileaks website, US authorities described the ISI as a “terrorist” organisation on a par with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
    In the same month the US military’s top officer, Adm Mike Mullen, also accused the ISI of having links with the Taliban.
    He said it had a “long-standing relationship” with a militant group run by Afghan insurgent Jalaluddin Haqqani, which targets US troops in Afghanistan.

    What is the relationship between Awan and the Democrats in Congress ? Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz keep paying his salary until he was arrested trying to flee the country ?

    Imran Awan was arrested at Dulles Airport on a bank fraud charge, and was found to have smashed hard drives in his possession.

    “It’s about everything that the Democrats and the media spent months… trying to prove [with] the Russia investigation,” he said.

    Steyn said Awan’s story involved a powerful political figure trying to interfere in a federal investigation.

    “We have actual criminal elements,” he said. “Everything they’ve been looking for is… staring them in the face with this mysterious guy.”

    Why did Schultz threaten the capitol police chief with “consequences” if her hard drive possessed by Awan was not returned to her ?

    DWS: It’s a simple yes or no answer. If a member loses equipment and it is found by your staff and identified as that member’s equipment and the member is not associated with any case, it is supposed to be returned. Yes or no.

    Chief Verderosa: It depends on the circumstances.

    DWS: I don’t understand how that is possible. Members’ equipment is members’ equipment. My understanding is the the Capitol Police is not able to confiscate members’ equipment when the member is not under investigation. It is their equipment and it is supposed to be returned.

    Chief Verderosa: I think there are extenuating circumstances in this case, and working through my counsel and the necessary personnel, if that in fact is the case, and with the permission of through the investigation, then we’ll return the equipment. But until that happens we can’t return the equipment.

    DWS: I think you’re violating the rules when you conduct your business that way and you should expect that there will be consequences.

    What “consequences?”

    Here are some thoughts about this:

    1. Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz keep this man in her employ right up until he was arrested Tuesday night when he has been under suspicion for months. Does he have something on her or other people?

    2. Why did Nancy Pelosi lie when she said she never heard of Awan? Email revealed by Wikileaks says Awan had access to Pelosi’s iPad. (Wiklileaks has never been shown to be inaccurate.)

    3. What is on the smashed hard drives Awan is trying to retrieve from the FBI? (Oh, those Democrats and their hard drives.)

    4. Why is Awan suddenly being legally represented at the highest level by Clinton ultra-loyalist Chris Gowan — a fact-checker for Bill Clinton’s memoir of all things? (They are already using the same right-wing conspiracy baloney they used in the Lewinski case.) Does this make sense if Awan’s just a low-life fraudster? Why not let him dangle?

    5. Just what is the relationship, if any, between the Awan case and the unsolved Seth Rich murder? Is it entirely an accident that Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s brother Steven is accused of blocking the investigation? Denials from Debbie aren’t worth much anymore.

    6. Where did the Wikileaks come from anyway? Was it really Russia?

    And more questions.

    Key among the findings of the independent forensic investigations is the conclusion that the DNC data was copied onto a storage device at a speed that far exceeds an Internet capability for a remote hack. Of equal importance, the forensics show that the copying and doctoring were performed on the East coast of the U.S. Thus far, mainstream media have ignored the findings of these independent studies [see here and here].

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Elections, Internet, National Security, Systems Analysis | 10 Comments »

    Triage vs Surge pricing

    Posted by TM Lutas on 27th July 2017 (All posts by )

    Sarah Hoyt’s site has an interesting article entitled The Free Market versus Death Panels. I recommend it in general but it misses one point that I think deserves some examination. There is one exception to the market rule that is so embedded in our social mores that both market and non-market advocates alike pass over it. They shouldn’t. It’s called triage.

    I have never met a free market advocate of medicine who does not recognize and accept non-market allocation in terms of emergency care, specifically when medical treatment systems and personnel are overloaded. When you have 10 operating theaters and 50 people who need surgery, who gets in first and who gets in last? The market would institute surge pricing and let the ill or their care circles sort out how much they can wait. Triage orders it so that the fewest number of people die.

    It’s an important footnote to recognize triage and to explain *why* that limited exception is ok, properly fenced off with limiting principles so the exception doesn’t swallow the rule, and what is the reason we’re all generally ok with triage causing more suffering and against surge pricing.

    First is to note that triage causes excess suffering because it is designed, and functions well at minimizing loss of life at the cost of extending suffering for those condemned to delays in treatment by the triage system. We’ve all made a moral decision that some non-fatal suffering is an acceptable payoff for a reduced fatality count when medical systems are overwhelmed and resources have to be quickly, efficiently deployed to reduce fatalities.

    It’s important to cover these things because they take away all the central planner’s best arguments away from them when you reconcile the free market with triage. Solidarity, the common good, human decency, these are the heartstring appeals of the statists who falsely claim that free market medicine will cause wicked outcomes because the market has no sense of solidarity, the common good, or human decency.

    These statists are wrong. But they have to be shown wrong. Examining triage is a very good way to do it.

    Posted in Markets and Trading, Medicine | 46 Comments »

    The Pause

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th July 2017 (All posts by )

    Since Trump was elected it seems that anyone I’m speaking with who wants to bring politics into a conversation, and who doesn’t know me well, and who (I’m guessing) doesn’t like Trump, will make a remark about “these days” or “the situation” or something along those lines, and expect to continue (or not) the conversation in a political direction based on my response. At least that’s how it seems to me in my purplish part of the country. I don’t react when this happens. There may be a brief pause in the conversation. We continue with our nonpolitical topic or move on to another one.

    I’d bet that many of the readers of this blog have had similar experiences. My question is whether this type of experience is the inverse of what politically left-of-center people experienced when Obama was president. Is it?

    Discuss.

    Posted in Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Obama, Politics, Society, Trump | 11 Comments »

    Jordan Peterson: 12 Principles for a 21st Century Conservatism

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th July 2017 (All posts by )

    If you are not familiar with the videos of Dr. Jordan Peterson, you should acquaint yourself with them, and him, forthwith.

    This one is a good introduction to the style and substance of the man.

    Peterson starts talking about 18 minutes in, after a lengthy and rambling introduction which you should skip.

    If two hours is too much here are shorter snippets:

    The consequence of trying to build imaginary utopias out of real human beings.

    Stop saying things that make you weak.

    Proven differences between men and women.

    Go out and make something of yourself.

    The temptation of victim identity.

    Clean your room.

    Peterson on starting an online humanities university.

    The twelve principles from the video are as follows:

    1. The fundamental assumptions of Western civilization are valid.
    2. Peaceful social being is preferable to isolation and to war. In consequence, it justly and rightly demands some sacrifice of individual impulse and idiosyncrasy.
    3. Hierarchies of competence are desirable and should be promoted.
    4. Borders are reasonable. Likewise, limits on immigration are reasonable. Furthermore, it should not be assumed that citizens of societies that have not evolved functional individual-rights predicated polities will hold values in keeping with such polities.
    5. People should be paid so that they are able and willing to perform socially useful and desirable duties.
    6. Citizens have the inalienable right to benefit from the result of their own honest labor.
    7. It is more noble to teach young people about responsibilities than about rights.
    8. It is better to do what everyone has always done, unless you have some extraordinarily valid reason to do otherwise.
    9. Radical change should be viewed with suspicion, particularly in a time of radical change.
    10. The government, local and distal, should leave people to their own devices as much as possible.
    11. Intact heterosexual two-parent families constitute the necessary bedrock for a stable polity.
    12. We should judge our political system in comparison to other actual political systems and not to hypothetical utopias.

    Posted in Academia, Conservatism, Personal Narrative, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Speeches, Video | 19 Comments »

    Robot Emeritus

    Posted by David Foster on 25th July 2017 (All posts by )

     

    Ninety years ago this month, the first Centralized Traffic Control system was placed in operation, on a 40-mile stretch of railroad belonging to the New York Central. From a central console, the Dispatcher was able to control switches and signals anywhere in the territory.  The positions of individual trains were displayed via lights on the panel. Interlocking logic at the remote locations ensure that neither dispatcher errors nor communication problems could set up potentially-dangerous conflicts.

    In today’s terminology, it was a geographically-distributed robotics system, with a strong flavor of what is now being called the Internet of Things–although the communications links in the system were not provided by the Internet, obviously, the concept of devices announcing their status via telecommunications and receiving commands the same way was quite similar.

    To railroad men of the time, the new system seemed almost magical:

    The dispatcher was there and he was just filled up with enthusiasm on this new gadget called centralized traffic control… Along about 10 o’clock, he just yelled right out loud, ‘Here comes a non-stop meet.’ We all gathered around the machine and watched the lights that you know all about, watched the lights come towards each other and pass each other without stopping. That, to me… was history on American railroads, the first non-stop meet on single track without train orders… and you never saw such enthusiasm in your life as was in the minds and hearts of that crew.

    CTC technology caught on quickly, and by the mid-1930s, stretches of track up to 100 miles long were regularly being operated under CTC control.  In principal, there was no limit to how far away the operator could be  from the controlled railroad territory.

    I post items like this because they provide needed perspective in our present “age of automation” when there is so much media focus of robotics, artificial intelligence, and ‘the Internet of Things,’ but not a whole lot of understanding for how these fit on the historical technology growth trajectory.

    Posted in History, Tech, Transportation | 14 Comments »

    Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI Mini Tripod

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th July 2017 (All posts by )


    The Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI Mini Tripod is the official mini tripod of the Chicago Boyz blog.
     
    These things are great: bigger than those cheesy little mini tripods with bendable arms, yet still easily portable, faster to use and stable with even DSLR-sized cameras. I keep one in my briefcase with a compact mirrorless camera. You can easily carry one in a jeans pocket if you’re going out with photography in mind.
     

     
    UPDATE: Add a cellphone mount and you have an excellent setup for video calls.
     

    Posted in Photos, Product Reviews/Endorsements | 6 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Bob Bauer’s Free Speech Problem and Ours

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th July 2017 (All posts by )

    We have a free speech problem in America. I have talked about it before. It starts with the judiciary. See Seth Barrett Tillman, This Is What Is Wrong with the American Judiciary, The New Reform Club (Mar. 16, 2017, 4:23 AM), http://tinyurl.com/z4q9f8v. But the wider legal community has embraced the same legal philosophy. They want you to shut up, and if you don’t shut up, there is always punishment. Here is an example…

    An excellent post.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Media, Rhetoric, Trump | 5 Comments »

    Saturday at the Movies: A Review of Dunkirk

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd July 2017 (All posts by )

    I took it into my head to see Dunkirk in a movie theater on the opening weekend. I don’t think I have done since the early nineties (when we returned from Spain, where movies showed at the base theater six months to a year after premiering.) The last time I saw a movie in an actual theater, instead of at home on DVD or on streaming video was – if memory serves – The Kings’ Speech, in 2010, or it may have been The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in 2013. We saw the latter in an Alamo Drafthouse cinema, notable for being set up in a civilized manner to serve tasty adult beverages before and during the showing, as well as equally tasty entrees. They also have a positively Soup-Naziesque attitude about talking, texting, ringing cellphones and children disturbing the movie experience – an attitude of which I regretfully approve. One toot on yer flute, or on your cellie, and you’re oot, as the saying about the woman in the Scottish cinema with a hearing horn used to go. Adding to the charm of the experience – you can book a ticket for a specific seat and showing through their website, and pay for it online in advance. Print out your ticket on your home printer, waltz into the theater at the appointed time – and yes, this is one thing I do like about the 21st century.
    Back to the movie. The necessary trailers for upcoming releases reminded me powerfully about why I have not been to a movie theater for a movie since 2010 or 2013, especially a trailer for a superhero concoction called The Justice League. No, sorry; so much my not-cuppa-tea that I wouldn’t move two feet off a rock ledge to watch it, or anything else there was a trailer for. Fortunately, the pre-feature features were few and relatively brief.
    Then to the main feature, which began very quietly, with a half-dozen British squaddies wandering down a narrow street on the outskirts of Dunkirk, under a fluttering of German propaganda leaflets … which set the situation as it exists, and supplies one of the young soldiers, appropriately named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), with a supply of toilet paper. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Current Events, Film, History | 37 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Fanny Kemble

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd July 2017 (All posts by )

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    (This is a consolidation and editing of three posts from 2010. Also see new link at the end)

    Frances Anne Kemble was a British actress who achieved considerable fame subsequent to her 1829 appearance in a production of Romeo and Juliet. In 2010, I ran across her description of her 1830 adventure, when she became one of the first people to ride on the newly-constructed London & Manchester railway line. Railway travel was then as exotic as space travel is now…arguably more so. Fannie’s escort for the trip was none other than George Stephenson, the self-taught engineer who had been the driving force behind the line’s construction.

    She was impressed with the experience of railroad travel (“You can’t imagine how strange it seemed to be journeying on thus, without any visible cause of progress other than the magical machine, with its flying white breath and rhythmical, unvarying pace, between these rocky walls, which are already clothed with moss and ferns and grasses”) and with Stephenson (“the master of all these marvels, with whom I am most horribly in love”) She offers an interesting analysis of the roles of government vs the private sector in the creation of this railroad (“The Liverpool merchants, whose far-sighted self-interest prompted them to wise liberality, had accepted the risk of George Stephenson’s magnificent experiment, which the committee of inquiry of the House of Commons had rejected for the government. These men, of less intellectual culture than the Parliament members, had the adventurous imagination proper to great speculators, which is the poetry of the counting-house and wharf, and were better able to receive the enthusiastic infection of the great projector’s sanguine hope than the Westminster committee.”)

    Here’s another interesting passage in which she contrasts Stephenson with an aristocrat called Lord Alvanley and the class of which he was an outstanding representative: “I would rather pass a day with Stephenson than with Lord Alvanley, though the one is a coal-digger by birth, who occasionally murders the king’s English, and the other is the keenest wit and one of the finest gentlemen about town…if you knew how, long after I have passed it, the color of a tuft of heather, or the smell of a branch of honeysuckle by the roadside, haunts my imagination, and how many suggestions of beauty and sensations of pleasure flow from this small spring of memory, even after the lapse of weeks and months, you would understand what I am going to say, which perhaps may appear rather absurd without such a knowledge of my impressions. I think I like fine places better than “fine people;” but then one accepts, as it were, the latter for the former, and the effect of the one, to a certain degree, affects one’s impressions of the other.”

    The whole Project Gutenberg file of this memoir is here. There’s also a Wikipedia article on Kemble, of course.

    Kemble had many interesting experiences, including marriage to an American who inherited a Georgia cotton plantation, resulting in her becoming a fervent anti-slavery advocate. She seemed like an interesting and thoughtful person, well worth knowing better, and one of the first things I did when I first got my Kindle was to download and read her extensive memoirs.

    Publication of her impressions of America (in 1835) created quite a stir, as did the 1863 publication of her plantation journal, with its searing observations about the realities of slavery.

    Fanny’s writing is a valuable source for anyone interested in the social history of Britain and America during her era; she also has many thoughts about the theater and especially about the plays of Shakespeare; her writing is vivid, intelligent, and often quirky. She can quickly segue from an aesthetic observation of a railway journey to thoughts about governance and religion:

    The road from Birmingham here is quite pretty; the country in a most exquisite state of leaf and blossom; the crops look extremely well along this route; and the little cottage gardens, which delight my heart with their tidy cheerfulness, are so many nosegays of laburnum, honeysuckle, and lilac.

    The stokers on all the engines that I saw or met this morning had adorned their huge iron dragons with great bunches of hawthorn and laburnum, which hung their poor blossoms close to the hissing hot breath of the boilers, and looked wretched enough. But this dressing up the engines, as formerly the stage-coach horses used to be decked with bunches of flowers at their ears on Mayday, was touching.

    I suppose the railroad men get fond of their particular engine, though they can’t pat and stroke it, as sailors do of their ship. Speculate upon that form of human love. I take it there is nothing which, being the object of a man’s occupation, may not be made also that of his affection, pride, and solicitude, too. Were we—people in general, I mean—Christians, forms of government would be matters of quite secondary importance; in fact, of mere expediency. A republic, such as the American, being the slightest possible form of government, seems to me the best adapted to an enlightened, civilized Christian community, a community who deserve that name; and, you know, the theory of making people what they should be is to treat them better than they deserve—an axiom that holds good in all moral questions, of which political government should be one.

    Fanny’s father Charles, himself a noted Shakespearean actor, unfortunately took an investment and management interest in the Covent Garden Theater–which position carried personal liability for the theater’s debts and kept the family in scary financial straits for many years. It was largely in the hope of creating a new star who would bring in ticket revenues and head off financial disaster that Fanny was first put on stage, in the role of Juliet, in 1829. She quickly achieved great popular acclaim, but the bottomless quicksand of Covent Garden’s finances led Charles to organize a theatrical tour in the United States for himself and his daughter.

    The decision to publish Fanny’s journal describing her impressions of America was driven by the need to generate money for the care of a beloved aunt who had suffered a serious carriage accident. The publishing project was vehemently opposed by Fanny’s new American husband, Pierce Butler, whom she married in 1834, and the conflict set the tone for what was to be a disastrous marriage.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 9 Comments »

    From whence our news comes

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 22nd July 2017 (All posts by )

    Interesting post on the evolution of news creation. I had thought the future was well written press releases from the actors themselves. But it appears something much less transparent is emerging:

    The news media is dead broke. Print advertising is washed up and all the digital advertising that was supposed to replace lost revenue from print ads and subscribers has been swallowed up by Facebook and Google. But the good news is that people will still pay for stories, and it’s an awful lot easier to bill one customer than invoicing the 1,500 readers of your blog. The top customers for these stories are political operations.

    There is no accurate accounting of how many of the stories you read in the news are the fruit of opposition research, because no journalist wants to admit how many of their top “sources” are just information packagers—which is why the blinding success of Fusion GPS is the least-covered media story in America right now.

    Includes interesting history of Fusion GPS. It’s getting harder to know where the story is really coming from.RTWT

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    Robots of the Week: Replacing Cashiers in Grocery Stores and Cafeterias

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd July 2017 (All posts by )

    Eliminating checkout lines via automatic object recognition: IMAGR and Mashgin.

    (Technically, these are artificial intelligence systems but probably shouldn’t really count as ‘robots’ since they respond to the physical world but don’t manipulate it)

    Posted in Business, Tech | 11 Comments »

    “Eagle deaths: an interesting contrast”

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th July 2017 (All posts by )

    Via David Hardy:

    Synopsis: The use of lead hunting ammunition apparently kills a small number of eagles annually while wind turbines kill large numbers of birds of many types. Public officials who are concerned about bird deaths by lead poisoning tend not to be concerned about bird deaths by wind turbine.

    Much as Islam trumps sexual orientation in identity politics, so crony-capitalist green energy schemes trump the welfare of wild animal populations in eco politics.

    Posted in Crony Capitalism, Environment, Leftism | 30 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Jousting with a Phantom

    Posted by David Foster on 19th July 2017 (All posts by )

    (Victor Davis Hanson’s recent piece, The Fifth American War, reminded me of this post.  I think it is crucially important to understand that many of those calling for ‘equality’ do not themselves have any interest in being merely equal, any more than Napoleon the Pig did in Orwell’s novel ‘Animal Farm’)

    Those people who call themselves “progressives” are talking a lot about equality and inequality these days. And conservatives/libertarians, in response, attempt to explain why “equality of outcomes” is infeasible and unwise.

    To a substantial degree, though, they/we are jousting with a phantom. Because leading “progressives” don’t really believe in anything resembling equality—indeed, quite the contrary.

    Consider, for example: Many people in “progressive” leadership positions are graduates of the Harvard Law School. Do you think these people want to see a society in which the career, status, and income prospects for an HLS grad are no better than those for a graduate of a lesser-known, lower-status (but still very good) law school? C’mon.

    Quite a few “progressive” leaders are members of prominent families. Do you think Teddy Kennedy would have liked to see an environment in which he and certain other members of his family would have had to answer for their actions in the criminal courts in the same way that ordinary individuals would, without benefit from connections, media influence, and expensive lawyers?

    The prevalence of “progressivism” among tenured professors is quite high. How many of these professors would be eager to agree to employment conditions in which their job security and employee benefits were no better than those enjoyed by average Americans? How many of them would take a salary cut in order to provide higher incomes for the poorly-paid adjunct professors at their universities? How many would like to see PhD requirements eliminated so that a wider pool of talented and knowledgeable individuals can participate in university teaching?

    There are a lot of “progressives” among the graduates of Ivy League universities. How many of them would be in favor of legally eliminating alumni preferences and the influence of “contributions” and have their children considered for admission–or not–on the same basis as everyone else’s kids? Yet an alumni preference is an intergenerational asset in the same way that a small businessman’s store or factory is.

    The reality is that “progressivism” is not in any way about equality, it is rather about shifting the distribution of power and wealth in a way that benefits those with certain kinds of educational credentials and certain kinds of connections. And remember, power and connections are always transmutable into wealth. Sometimes that wealth is directly dollar-denominated, as in the millions of dollars that former president Bill Clinton has been paid in speaking fees, or the money made by a former government official who leverages his contacts into an executive job with a “green” energy company–even though he may have minimal knowledge of either energy or business. And sometimes the wealth takes the form of in-kind benefits, like a university president’s mansion. (Those who lived in the old Soviet Union and Eastern Europe can tell you all about in-kind benefits for nominally low-paid officials.) And, almost always, today’s “progressivism” is about the transfer of power from individuals to credentialed “experts” who will coerce or “nudge” people to do with those experts have decided would be best.

    To a very substantial extent, the talk about “equality” is a smokescreen, conscious or unconscious, behind which “progressives” pursue their own economic, status, and ego agendas.

    Writing in 1969, Peter Drucker–who was born in Austria and had lived in several European countries–wrote about what he saw as a key American economic advantage: the much less-dominant role played by “elite” educational institutions:

    One thing it (modern society) cannot afford in education is the “elite institution” which has a monopoly on social standing, on prestige, and on the command positions in society and economy. Oxford and Cambridge are important reasons for the English brain drain. A main reason for the technology gap is the Grande Ecole such as the Ecole Polytechnique or the Ecole Normale. These elite institutions may do a magnificent job of education, but only their graduates normally get into the command positions. Only their faculties “matter.” This restricts and impoverishes the whole society…The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim…
It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the strength of American higher education lies in this absence of schools for leaders and schools for followers.

    The “unwillingness of American society to accept this claim”…the claim of elite education as the primary gateway to power and wealth…has been greatly undercut since Drucker wrote. And “progressives” have been among the main under-cutters and the leading advocates for further movement in that direction.

    Related: Paying higher taxes can be very profitable.

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Political Philosophy, USA | 19 Comments »

    “Full transcript: Defense Secretary James Mattis’ interview with The Islander”

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th July 2017 (All posts by )

    Secretary Mattis responds to an interview request from a high-school student. The interview is worth reading and more informative than much of what appears in the adult press.

    (via Lex)

    Posted in Education, Europe, International Affairs, Media, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, Trump, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Worthwhile Watching

    Posted by David Foster on 16th July 2017 (All posts by )

    A good video on the women who flew military aircraft in Britain during WWII.  Title is a little misleading, lots of airplane types other than Spitfires were involved.

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

    Internal Secession ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th July 2017 (All posts by )

    The Trump Derangement Syndrome shows no sign of stopping. The alleged meeting between Russians and Donald Trump Jr is reaching a new level of fever.

    The anti-Trump mainstream media is buzzing with news that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian American lobbyist and veteran of the Soviet military, attended the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

    Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post insist that Akhmetshin’s presence “adds to the potential seriousness of the Trump Tower gathering that is emerging this week as the clearest evidence so far of interactions between Trump campaign officials and Russian interests.” I think they mean the only evidence.

    But now does the attendance of this lobbyist add to the “potential seriousness” of the “gathering”? If it was inappropriate for Trump Jr. to meet with one Russian lobbyist with probable Kremlin connections, the attendance of a second doesn’t make the meeting more inappropriate.

    The hysteria shows no sign of abating. What comes next ?

    “Resist” marches all over the country bring out thousands of leftists and feminists.

    Tens of thousands of LGBTQ folk and their allies marched through Hollywood and West Hollywood on Sunday for the Resist March, a protest which this year replaced the colorful and over-the-top celebratory atmosphere of a Pride parade.

    The event was billed as non-partisan, but unmistakeable was the heavy presence of marchers bearing anti-Trump signs, speakers decrying the administration’s immigration, healthcare and civil rights policies, and Democrats calling for a burst of activism to channel into the 2018 elections.

    Richard Fernandez has some thoughts on where this might go.

    Internal secession.

    Our trust hierarchies have collapsed. As with Soviet Russia, the “official” media sources are now distrusted as purveyors “fake news”. To fill the gap a peer-to-peer grapevine, similar to the “friends and family”, a samizdat is emerging to pick up the slack. Sonya Mann at Inc uses a startup to illustrate the growing division of society into trust groups. “Pax Dickinson wants to fund the revolution. Not a blood-in-the-streets revolution, but one where hardcore right-wingers can economically secede from the parts of society they vehemently dislike. “We need parallel everything. I do not want to ever have to spend a single dollar at a non-movement business.”

    That’s the right, the alt-right if you prefer.

    The left has already shown their willingness to boycott any business that does not follow their script.

    Ask Brenden Eich.

    Brendan Eich recently stepped down as CEO of Mozilla, developer of the Firefox Web browser. It may be more accurate to say he was forced out in the wake of a rising boycott against him. The backlash against Eich is related to his position on gay rights, but many feel that the campaign against him is its own form of discrimination and intolerance.

    His crime was to quietly donate $1000 to the Proposition Eight ballet initiative, which resulted in over 7 million yes votes and a 60% margin of approval. The proposition was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge who promptly married his gay lover.

    California’s AG declined to appeal his ruling. That’s a pretty effective boycott.

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    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Politics, Texas | 18 Comments »

    Robot of the Week: The Audi Traffic Jam Pilot

    Posted by David Foster on 15th July 2017 (All posts by )

    On certain roads, it is able to control the vehicle without driver involvement at speeds up to 37 mph.  The system, which in addition to the Traffic Jam Pilot also includes the Garage Pilot and the Parking Pilot, uses technology from Nvidia, Mobileye, and Delphi.

    Writeup

    Video

    The feature package is available (not sure if its optional or standard) with the 2018 model A8.

    Disclosure:  I’m an NVDA shareholder.

     

    Posted in Tech, Transportation | 12 Comments »

    Rerun Post: Bidwell-Bartleson, 1841

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th July 2017 (All posts by )

    The westward movement of Americans rolled west of the Appalachians and hung up for a decade or two on the barrier of the Mississippi-Missouri River. It was almost an interior sea-coast, the barrier between the settled lands, and the unpeopled and treeless desert beyond, populated by wild Indians. To be sure, there were scattered enclaves, as far-distant as the stars, in the age of “shanks’ mare” and team animals hitched to wagons, or led in a pack-train: far California, equally distant Oregon, the pueblos of Santa Fe, and Texas. A handful of men in exploring parties, or on trade had ventured out to the ends of the known continent … and by the winter of 1840 there were reports of what had been found. Letters, rumor, common talk among the newspapers, and meeting-places had put the temptation and the possibility in peoples’ minds, to the point where an emigrating society had been formed over that winter.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, History, Miscellaneous, Reruns | 6 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman and Josh Blackman: Yes, Trump Can Accept Gifts

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th July 2017 (All posts by )

    The NYT elevates itself by printing an op-ed by Professors Blackman and Tillman:

    The Constitution offers several remedies for a president’s improper foreign entanglements. Congress can regulate, by statute, the receipt of presents from other nations or require the president to make disclosures about his foreign commercial arrangements. Of course, as a last resort, the president can be impeached and removed from office for bribery. However, the Foreign Emoluments Clause can provide no redress in relation to a president’s foreign entanglements either in the courts or through the impeachment process, for the simple reason that the clause does not cover the president or any other elected officials.

    The piece is a concise presentation of Seth’s argument about the Emoluments clause. Worth reading in full.

    Posted in History, Law, Trump | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman and Josh Blackman: Yes, Trump Can Accept Gifts

    Summer Rerun: Sleeping with the Enemy

    Posted by David Foster on 12th July 2017 (All posts by )

    Why has the western world shown such loss of will in defending itself from radical Islamic terrorism? Why, indeed, do substantial numbers of people–particularly those who view themselves as intellectuals–endlessly make excuses for belief systems and terrorist movements whose values are completely at odds with their own stated values–and even romanticize these systems and their followers? I think some clues can be found in a forgotten novel by Arthur Koestler.

    The Age of Longing (published in 1950) is set in Paris, “sometime in the 1950s,” in a world in which France–indeed all of western Europe–is facing the very real possibility of a Soviet invasion. Hydie Anderson, the protagonist, is a young American woman living in Paris with her father, a military attache. Hydie was a devout Catholic during her teens, but has lost her faith. She was briefly married, and has had several relationships with men, but in none of them has she found either physical or emotional satisfaction…she describes her life with a phrase from T S Eliot: “frigid purgatorial fires,” and she longs for a sense of connection:

    Hydie sipped at her glass. Here was another man living in his own portable glass cage. Most people she knew did. Each one inside a kind of invisible telephone box. They did not talk to you directly but through a wire. Their voices came through distorted and mostly they talked to the wrong number, even when they lay in bed with you. And yet her craving to smash the glass between the cages had come back again. If cafes were the home of those who had lost their country, bed was the sanctuary of those who had lost their faith.

    Through her friend Julien DeLattre, Hydie is introduced to a number of Paris intellectuals and and East European emigres. Members of the former group are mostly in denial about the danger of a Soviet attack…many of them have indeed convinced themselves that Communist rule wouldn’t be all that bad. For example, there’s Professor Pontieux (modeled on Sartre)…”He did not believe that the Commonwealth of Freedomloving People had solved all its problems and become an earthly paradise. But it was equally undeniable that it was an expression of History’s groping progress towards a new form of society, when it followed that those who opposed this progres were siding with the forces of reaction and preparing the way for conflict and war–the worst crime against Humanity.” Vardi, another intellectual, says that if he had to choose between the (American) juke box on one hand, and Pravda on another, he isn’t sure which he would pick.

    Madame Pontieux, modeled on Simone de Bouvoir (with whom Koestler had a brief affair) is less ambiguous about her choice among the alternatives. “You cannot enter a cafe or a restaurant without finding it full of Americans who behave as if the place belonged to them,” she complains to an American official. When the Russian emigre Leontiev suggests that France would not survive without American military support, pointing out that “nature abhors a vacuum,” she turns on him:

    “I am surprised at your moderation, Citizen Leontiev,” Madame Pontieux said sarcastically. “I thought you would tell us that without this young man’s protection the Commonwealth army would at once march to the Atlantic shore.”

    “It would,” said Leontiev. “I believed that everyone knew that.”

    “I refuse to believe it,” responds Madame Pontieux. “But if choose one must I would a hundred times rather dance to the music of a Balalaika than a juke box.”

    (The French intellectuals Koestler knew must have really hated juke boxes!)

    Julien is romantically interested in Hydie, but she is not attracted to him, despite the fact that he seems to have much to recommend him–a hero of the French Resistance, wounded in action, and a successful poet. On one occasion, she tells him that she could never sleep with him because they are too similar–“it would be like incest”..on another occasion, though, she tells him that “what I most dislike about you is your attitude of arrogant broken-heartedness.” Parallel to Hydie’s loss of religious faith is Julien’s loss of his secular faith in the creation of a new society. He does not now believe in utopia, or any approximation to same, but he does believe in the need to face reality, however unpleasant it may be. Hydie argues that the Leftists of their acquaintance may be silly, but at least they believe in something:

    “Perhaps they believe in a mirage–but isn’t it better to believe in a mirage than to believe in nothing?”

    Julien looked at her coldly, almost with contempt:

    “Definitely not. Mirages lead people astray. That’s why there are so many skeletons in the desert. Read more history. Its caravan-routes are strewn with the skeletons of people who were thirsting for faith–and their faith made them drink salt water and eat the sand, believing it was the Lord’s Supper.”

    At a diplomatic affair, Hydie meets Fedya, a committed Communist who works for the Soviet Embassy. She is powerfully attracted to him: things get physical very quickly and, from Hydie’s point of view, very satisfactorily. (Fedya is one of Koestler’s best-developed characters. His boyhood in Baku is vividly sketched, and Koestler–himself a former Communist–does a good job in showing how a political faith can become core to an individual’s whole personality.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, France, Political Philosophy, Terrorism | 12 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: A Response To Jane Chong’s Reading the Office of Legal Counsel on Emoluments: Do Super-Rich Presidents Get a Pass?

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th July 2017 (All posts by )

    Once this error is noticed, the rest of Chong’s analysis falls apart. Chong can point to other language in Hoyt using “emolument of office.” It is there, and she takes it to mean that “emolument” can be used in a context unrelated to “office” and other employment-like relationships. But she offers nothing akin to proof for that bold claim. It is conceivable that the Hoyt Court added “of office” language to “emolument” because it believed that there were “emoluments” which were unrelated to office, but it is also possible that the Hoyt Court thought all “emoluments” were tied to office-and-employment-type relationships. Without her initial misreading of Hoyt or any other substantial reason to believe the former, the rest of her analysis makes no sense.

    Read the full text of Seth’s post.

    Posted in Law, Politics, Trump | 5 Comments »