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  • History Weekend – Tales of a 19th Century Road Warrior, Continued

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on February 14th, 2015 (All posts by )

    (Part one is here.)
    All righty – everyone still interested? This is the rest of the story, of Fred Harvey and his hospitality empire, which not only is given popular credit for ‘civilizing’ the Wild West, but also for supplying that stretch of the Southwest between the Mississippi-Missouri and the Sacramento with excellent food and drink, splendid service, and a constant stream of wives – for many of the women recruited as waitresses in the track-side station restaurants married right and left; to railroad men, co-workers in the Harvey establishments, and to customers they met in the course of their duties. A comparison between Harvey Girls and stewardesses in the glamorous days of commercial flight has been made now and again; both groups were composed of relatively young, independent and adventurous women, carefully selected and trained, and working in a setting where their attractive qualities were shown at an advantage.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Business, Diversions, Entrepreneurship, History | 6 Comments »

    Dresden

    Posted by David Foster on February 14th, 2015 (All posts by )

    (This is a post I wrote in 2009, on the occasion of Obama’s visit to the city of Dresden.  Today Instapundit notes that today is the 70th anniversary of the Dresden firebombing, and says  “The Nazis opened a can of whoop-ass, and this is one of the things that came out. The world would be a safer place if their modern-day equivalents were more afraid of the same fate.”)

     

    Dresden, once known as “Florence on the Elbe” because of its beauty and culture, is now best known for its destruction by British and American bombers in February of 1945.  “Dresden” is the name of a haunting movie, originally made for German television, about a love affair in the doomed city.

    Dresden is of course also the German city that Barack Obama intends to visit–for reasons best known to himself–during his current trip to Europe. It seems like this would be an appropriate time to review the film (which I watched a couple of months ago via Netflix) and to use it as a springboard for discussion of the Dresden bombing and of the WWII strategic bombing campaign in general.

    Here’s a brief synopsis of the film. I’ve tried to minimize the spoilers, but some are inevitable.

    Anna Mauth is a nurse in a Dresden hospital. Although she hopes to attend medical school and become a physician, she has put these plans on hold in order to assist her father, Dr Carl Mauth, who runs the hospital–which is heavily overloaded and constantly short of supplies. Anna’s fiance, Alexander Wenninger, is a dedicated young physican but just a bit of a pompous prig. Her sister, Eva, is a horrible little Nazi enthusiast, glorying in her affair with a Gauleiter’s adjutant and luxuriating in the special privileges she is able to obtain through this relationship. Anna’s best friend, Maria, is married to a Jewish man, Simon Goldberg–and she holds his life in her hands, because it is only by virtue of the marriage that he has been–thus far–protected from arrest and shipment to a concentration camp.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Europe, Germany, History, Politics, Society, War and Peace | 44 Comments »

    Lovescanning

    Posted by David Foster on February 14th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Especially for Valentines Day,  GE posts a video about Stanford University’s MRI-based “love contest.”

    It’s not quite a cold and clinical as it sounds, on account of the individual stories told by the participants.

     

    Posted in Human Behavior, Medicine, Science, Tech | 2 Comments »

    Our Need For Categorization

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on February 14th, 2015 (All posts by )

    I am an enormous fan of “top lists” and almost any sort of categorization. If it is the top 100 guitarists, the greatest bands, a type of warship, or anything else – I like to see it in a category and classification that can explain trends and try to cut through complexity by organizing the data into different groupings.

    Sirius XM radio stations are a great example of categorizations. Recently on a trip with Dan and our friend Brian we had the station stuck on “Hair Nation” – and then we started thinking through the different stations and how Sirius has chosen to allocate music across each of them.

    Some bands are solidly “Hair Nation” – Poison, Warrant, LA Guns, and everything else with spiky hair and all about having a good time. While Dan is more “Hair Nation” – I am more on the “Boneyard” station, which has a big overlap with Hair Nation but a whole host of songs that aren’t on Hair Nation, such as UFO and older heavy metal like Judas Priest.

    We started to have a mock “debate” in a snooty English style of “Dear Sir – I beg to differ with your classification of the band Skid Row. “Monkey Business” is more of a hard Boneyard song while their ballads of course could reside properly within the confines of Hair Nation.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Humor, Music | 4 Comments »

    The End of An Industry

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on February 14th, 2015 (All posts by )

    When Best Buy first moved into town maybe 15-20 years ago I was excited. I could spend hours in there looking at gadgets, components, routers, TV’s, and had thoughts and dreams of tying them all together. Later, Fry’s opened up, and you could walk through the aisles and buy all the pieces to build your own PC out of parts and make it the hottest gaming platform in town.

    Recently I saw this article in Business Insider (I really like that app / site / etc…) about how to upgrade your MacBook pro (the machine I am writing this blog post on). If you have an earlier model (2011-2), you could spend less than $200 to upgrade your RAM and install an SSD drive (one without moving parts, essentially a big memory chip) and pull out your old (mechanical) hard drive and your machine will then give you many more years of excellent Apple service. Apple’s integrated operating system / hardware plan means that my older machine takes advantage of all the new features in every software upgrade of the operating system (now my Mac “rings” when I get an iphone call and that is a bit annoying but who’s complaining) as long as it has the horsepower to keep up.

    So I took the (minor) plunge and went on Amazon and bought an SSD drive and upgraded RAM and it arrive in a couple of days for less than $200. I am going to take this over to my friend Brian’s house since he’s better at this than me and we are going to take apart the machine and put in the new drive and memory.

    The real point of this story, however, is that the implicit industry of “taking apart devices and rebuilding them” that existed on the consumer side for the last 30 or so years (that I have been part of, at least) is dying. You can’t take apart newer Apple machines and upgrade them. While you can theoretically “jailbreak” your iPhone, fewer and fewer people I know even think of that and instead they are part of the world that views them as integrated devices that you can either use, take to a tech, or replace.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 11 Comments »

    History Friday: The Storming of the Taku Forts, 1860

    Posted by Lexington Green on February 13th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 10.02.47 AM

    The passages below are from the really excellent book How We Got To Pekin: A Narrative of the Campaign in China of 1860 by Robert James Leslie M’Ghee (1862)

    Now for the far-famed Takoo Forts. They are five in number, two upon the left, or north bank of the river, and three upon the south bank. The two upper Forts, north and south, are nearly opposite to each other. About three-quarters of a mile further down lies the second north Fort, and below it, about 400 yards upon the south bank, the one upon which our unsuccessful attack was made in 1859, and the fifth lies close to the mouth of the river upon the same side; there is a strong family likeness among them all.
     
    Our attack was to be made upon the upper northern Fort, and it was on this wise. At day- light on the 19th Sir R. Napier, who was to command the assault, marched out of Tankoo with the 67th Regiment, Milward’s battery of Armstrong guns, the Royal Engineers, and Madras Sappers, for the purpose of making roads over the soft part of the mud, bridging the numerous canals, and throwing up earthworks to protect our artillery, and no man could have been chosen more fitted for the task, being himself an engineer officer of great experience, and a tried and skilful general.

    (c) Government Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

    (This is Napier, at a later period of his very successful military career.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, China, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Is He or Isn’t He?

    Posted by Jonathan on February 13th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Caroline Glick says: Yes. Worth reading.

     

    Posted in Islam, Israel, Judaism, Obama | 8 Comments »

    Immigration Policy

    Posted by Jonathan on February 12th, 2015 (All posts by )

    The airspace over coastal South Florida is buzzing with police/ICE/USCG helicopters. A buddy of mine pointed out a Coast Guard cutter in the Atlantic off Miami and a highway-patrol Cessna flying along the beach. Apparently the federal govt fears a new wave of Cuban migrants due to rumors that we will soon cancel our “wet foot/dry foot” immigration policy, making it more difficult for Cubans to enter the country legally. Thus the feds are mobilizing all resources to keep Cubans out. Here, at last, is a restrictive immigration policy that the Obama administration can support.

    My advice to prospective Cuban migrants is to try to get to Mexico first. And learn Arabic if possible.

     

    Posted in Cuba, Current Events, Immigration, Latin America, Law Enforcement, National Security, Obama, Politics | 16 Comments »

    Truthtelling

    Posted by David Foster on February 12th, 2015 (All posts by )

    …when a nation’s leader refuses to face reality.

    Immediately following the German attack on Poland, on September 1 of 1939, Neville Chamberlain’s government temporized.  A message to was sent to Germany proposing a ceasefire and an immediate conference, promising that “If the German Government should agree to withdraw their forces, then His Majesty’s Government would be willing to regard the position as being the same as it was before the German forces crossed the Polish frontier.”

    According to General Edward Spears, who was then a member of Parliament, the assembly had been expecting a declaration of war. Few were happy with this temporizing by the Chamberlain government. Spears describes the scene:

    Arthur Greenwood got up, tall, lanky, his dank, fair hair hanging to either side of his forehead. He swayed a little as he clutched at the box in front of him and gazed through his glasses at Chamberlain sitting opposite him, bolt-upright as usual. There was a moment’s silence, then something very astonishing happened.

    Leo Amery, sitting in the corner seat of the third bench below the gangway on the government side, voiced in three words his own pent-up anguish and fury, as well as the repudiation by the whole House of a policy of surrender. Standing up he shouted across to Greenwood: “Speak for England!” It was clear that this great patriot sought at this crucial moment to proclaim that no loyalty had any meaning if it was in conflict with the country’s honour. What in effect he said was: “The Prime Minister has not spoken for Britain, then let the socialists do so. Let the lead go to anyone who will.” That shout was a cry of defiance. It meant that the house and the country would neither surrender nor accept a leader who might be prepared to trifle with the nation’s pledged word.

    Greenwood then made a speech which I noted that night as certain to be the greatest of his life; a speech that would illuminate a career and justify a whole existence. It was remarkable neither for eloquence nor for dramatic effect, but the drama was there, we were all living it, we and millions more whose fate depended on the decisions taken in that small Chamber.

    I was reminded of this occasion by the upcoming Bibi Netanyahu speech to Congress and the hostile political reactions to it.  The reality is that Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons represents a severe threat not only to Israel but to the entire world, and by speaking to this point, he is serving not only his own country, but all of us.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Britain, History, Iran, Israel, Obama, USA, War and Peace | 34 Comments »

    Middle-Aged Ruminations About Mid-Life Crises, Self-Esteem, and Too Much Rumination

    Posted by Jonathan on February 10th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Generalizing from his own experience, Jonathan Rauch finds evidence of a U-shaped happiness curve in life:

    I was about 50 when I discovered the U-curve and began poking through the growing research on it. What I wish I had known in my 40s (or, even better, in my late 30s) is that happiness may be affected by age, and the hard part in middle age, whether you call it a midlife crisis or something else, is for many people a transition to something much better—something, there is reason to hope, like wisdom. I wish someone had told me what I was able to tell my worried friend: nothing was wrong with him, and he wasn’t alone.

    I’m skeptical.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Tradeoffs | 13 Comments »

    The Rise of the Dollar

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on February 10th, 2015 (All posts by )

    When I was growing up as a kid I remember they had TV commercials against Jimmy Carter explaining how the dollar declined vs. other currencies over the decades. In the late 1980s the Japanese Yen soared in value until their market crashed in 1989. The Euro was originally near parity with the dollar, then fell to 70 cents on the dollar (I happened to be in Europe at the time, it was great), then rose to over $1.30 against the dollar.

    In general if you keep your portfolio all in US assets you are essentially “100% long” against the dollar. A few years ago the dollar effectively fell almost 40% vs. many of the world’s major currencies – this is the time when the Canadian and Australian dollar almost reached parity with the US dollar. For US citizens who traveled frequently across the border into Canada, it seemed strange to think of the Loonie as being just the same as a US dollar, since for years it was worth substantially less. Thus if your portfolio was all in US dollar denominated assets, your value fell 40% that year vs. the worlds’s currencies, even though you couldn’t “feel” it unless you traveled abroad or tried to buy imported goods.

    Recently, however, this has all turned around. The dollar is soaring vs. most of the world’s currencies, which is good news for travelers and makes imports cheaper. However, those who own foreign stocks are looking at losses regardless of how the underlying stock performs (often many of the underlying foreign businesses IMPROVE when the US dollar rises; for instance Indian outsourcing firms who are paid in US dollars find that this money stretches further when paying their Indian based staff in rupees), just because of the rising dollar.

    Rise_of_dollar

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 16 Comments »

    When Instapundit Earns a Face Palm…

    Posted by Trent Telenko on February 9th, 2015 (All posts by )

    And he earns them for this post:

    BOLOS YES, TERMINATORS NO: We Can Now Build Autonomous Killing Machines. And That’s a Very, Very Bad Idea.
    Posted at 4:10 pm by Glenn Reynolds

    Silicon Valley, and the Techie crowd in general, have a hard time with any history that hasn’t happened in their own lifetime. But the Wired article Instapundit linked too is beyond the pale. Only a Silicon Valley Journalist serving a Silicon Valley cultural audience can say something as historically ignorant as this —

    “…You see, we’re already at the dawn of the age of killer robots. And we’re completely unprepared for them.
    .
    It’s early days still. Korea’s Dodam systems, for example, builds an autonomous robotic turret called the Super aEgis II. It uses thermal cameras and laser range finders to identify and attack targets up to 3 kilometers away. And the US is reportedly experimenting with autonomous missile systems.”

    …with a straight face in the earnest pursuit of eyeballs.

    Sadly, Instapundit fell for WIRED writer Robert McMillan’s repetition of Silicon Valley hype about Autonomous Killing Machines. and sent Wired an undeserved “Insta-lanch” instead of the “Fisking” it so richly deserved for this piece of historically ignorant/arrogant Silicon Valley Marketing fluff. (Admittedly the killer robot cartoon was retro-cute).

    The militaries of the world have quite literally built billions upon billions of Autonomous Killing Machines. for hundreds of years, at least since 1780, and in several different varieties. The first and most numerous of Autonomous Killing Machines are called _LAND MINES_.

    Cue in Gen Norman Schwarzkopf circa 1991 Gulf War —

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Civil Society, History, Humor, Military Affairs, Video | 7 Comments »

    Global Warming Again.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on February 8th, 2015 (All posts by )

    land only

    As the global warming matter chugs along, more more evidence of the manipulation of data is coming to light.

    Although it has been emerging for seven years or more, one of the most extraordinary scandals of our time has never hit the headlines. Yet another little example of it lately caught my eye when, in the wake of those excited claims that 2014 was “the hottest year on record”, I saw the headline on a climate blog: “Massive tampering with temperatures in South America”. The evidence on Notalotofpeopleknowthat, uncovered by Paul Homewood, was indeed striking.
    Puzzled by those “2014 hottest ever” claims, which were led by the most quoted of all the five official global temperature records – Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss) – Homewood examined a place in the world where Giss was showing temperatures to have risen faster than almost anywhere else: a large chunk of South America stretching from Brazil to Paraguay.
    Noting that weather stations there were thin on the ground, he decided to focus on three rural stations covering a huge area of Paraguay. Giss showed it as having recorded, between 1950 and 2014, a particularly steep temperature rise of more than 1.5C: twice the accepted global increase for the whole of the 20th century.
    But when Homewood was then able to check Giss’s figures against the original data from which they were derived, he found that they had been altered.

    Some interesting graphics here.

    I follow this story on a skeptic blog and Steve McIntyre’s blog.

    Both are currently tearing apart an absurd recent paper that has serious statistical errors. Steve is a statistician.

    A new paper in Nature by Jochem Marotzke and Piers Forster: ‘Forcing, feedback and internal variability in global temperature trends’[i] investigates the causes of the mismatch between climate models that simulate a strong increase in global temperature since 1998 and observations that show little increase, and the influence of various factors on model-simulated warming over longer historical periods. I was slightly taken aback by the paper, as I would have expected either one of the authors or a peer reviewer to have spotted the major flaws in its methodology. I have a high regard for Piers Forster, who is a very honest and open climate scientist, so I am sorry to see him associated with a paper that I think is very poor, even as co-author (a position that perhaps arose through him supplying model forcing data to Marotzke) and therefore not bearing primary responsibility for the paper’s shortcomings.

    This is embarrassing as many are attacking the methods with what sound like valid arguments.

    Even Nature has begun to recognize trouble in the alarmist world.

    Despite the continued increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, the annual-mean global temperature has not risen in the twenty-first century 1, 2, challenging the prevailing view that anthropogenic forcing causes climate warming. Various mechanisms have been proposed for this hiatus in global warming3, 4, 5, 6, but their relative importance has not been quantified, hampering observational estimates of climate sensitivity. Here we show that accounting for recent cooling in the eastern equatorial Pacific reconciles climate simulations and observations. We present a novel method of uncovering mechanisms for global temperature change by prescribing, in addition to radiative forcing, the observed history of sea surface temperature over the central to eastern tropical Pacific in a climate model.

    The story is getting harder to defend but, grant money being what it is, there is still a strong motive to try to keep the ball rolling, even uphill.

    The Michael Mann lawsuit against Mark Steyn and National Review is still chugging along as Mann seems to have nine lives in this matter.

    Steyn comes to Washington Tuesday for a hearing at the D.C. Court of Appeals. Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State, filed the lawsuit against Steyn, National Review, space policy and tech analyst Rand Simberg and the Libertarian-bent Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in 2012.

    All parties have lawyered up. They all have different legal representation with the exception of Simberg, who is clumped in with CEI.

    It is hard for me to take this seriously but there are enough scientifically illiterate judges to keep Mann’s suit alive.

    Steyn insists Mann is waiting out the clock so that everyone he’s suing will be good and broke if they ever get remotely near the prospect of a trial. The journalist, however, is plowing ahead, raising money and prepping himself for a trial he’s dying to see happen.

    The case is already on its second judge — the first one applied for “senior status” (meaning she’ll work part time and get full pay) and was accepted. The second, says Steyn, seems to be more on top of things, but has been unable to restore a timely process.

    Mann appears to be following a “law fare” strategy.

    ”If this guy Dr. Mann feels he’s being defamed then he should, like Oscar Wilde, get in court and have the manner settled. There is no right to a speedy trial…but you know, defamation is serious and more injurious to one’s reputation than bouncing a check for $30 at the general store. It’s more injurious than a parking ticket, than doing 45 in a 30 mile speed limit. [There’s the right to a speedy trial], but not for defamation. Nuts to that.”

    Last summer, a “lukewarmer” scientist named Roger Peilke had the misfortune to encounter the angry left when he accepted a job at the left wing site called five thirty eight.

    Roger Pielke Jr. said Monday that he left FiveThirtyEight, ending a short-lived but turbulent stint with the site launched by Nate Silver earlier this year.

    Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, told Discover Magazine that after editors at the site “showed some reluctance” in publishing his work, he told FiveThirtyEight managing editor Mike Wilson that “it was probably best that we part ways.”

    Reluctance was not exactly the proper term. Hysteria was more like it.

    “Disinformer!” the Daily Kos screamed. “One of the country’s leading tricksters on climate change,” charged the Huffington Post. “Inaccurate and misleading,” was ThinkProgress’s measured verdict. Even that doyen of professionalism and sworn enemy of hyperbole, Michael Mann, weighed in, knocking his foe for his “pattern of sloppiness.” The pile-on was as predictable as it was unjust. At root, Pielke’s biggest crimes are to have walked at slightly different pace than his peers and to have refused to bow to the president. Pielke accepts the IPCC’s view of the climate-change question but suggests in parallel that man’s response is unlikely to have a “perceptible impact on the climate for many decades” and that civilization should thus adapt to, rather than attempt to prevent, change.

    Pielke quickly left. He now has begun a new blog called The Climate Fix.

    The alarmist hysteria grows more acute as the evidence piles up that they are wrong and, perhaps, even lying.

     

    Posted in Blogging, Politics, Science, Statistics | 11 Comments »

    Fishing Only in the Heavily-Fished Pools

    Posted by David Foster on February 8th, 2015 (All posts by )

    …probably won’t lead to great results.

    Virginia Postrel  notes that “elite investment banks, law firms and management consulting firms often hire almost exclusively from a handful of schools,” citing  research by sociologist Lauren Rivera:  “So-called ‘public Ivies’ such as University of Michigan and Berkeley were not considered elite or even prestigious.”

    Virginia argues that “If everyone you interview comes from the same few schools, the same social networks, the same previous employers or the same geographic regions, you aren’t really fighting for talent.”

    What she is saying here is similar to my point in the recent post  “Top-tier university graduates only.”

    Of course, for the industries Virginia mentions–law, investment banking, management consulting–people are being hired not only for their ability to do the job, but also for the advertising value of their credentials in attracting potential business.

     

    Posted in Academia, Business, Management, Society | 2 Comments »

    Could This Company Have Been Saved?

    Posted by David Foster on February 7th, 2015 (All posts by )

    If you had been elected as CEO of Radio Shack, let’s say 5 years ago, what would you have done?  Was there a viable strategy for a long-term future for this company, or would it have been best to wind it up in an orderly manner?

     

    Posted in Business, Management, Tech | 35 Comments »

    Schrecklichkeit, Revisited

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on February 6th, 2015 (All posts by )

    (Original meditation on this subject here.)So, now the social-political-confection of a peculiar sort of Islam have put one of their captives/hostages into an iron cage, publically and horrifically, burning him alive, making certain to video this, broadcast it locally, and to post it on the world-wide internet media; also to post materiel purporting to provide justification for this on the usual media channels. I presume the national Islamic media sycophants are breaking the sound barrier in rushing to assure us that those peculiar practitioners are not truly Islamic, and that this has been the actions of just a tiny and marginalized minority, not truly representative of the really-oh-and-truly-oh tolerant Muslim world, and who are we to judge because … Crusades and Inquisition. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Christianity, Current Events, History, Islam, Religion, Terrorism | 10 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on February 6th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Beach Van

     

    Posted in Photos | 3 Comments »

    Murderous US Gun Culture

    Posted by Jonathan on February 5th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Bill Whittle is in great form here, showing how simplistic international murder-rate comparisons that fail to consider US cultural diversity are fatally flawed. (One quibble: Honduras isn’t a socialist country. However, this fact is irrelevant to Whittle’s argument.)

    (Via Of Arms & the Law)

     

    Posted in RKBA, Society, USA, Video | 13 Comments »

    Mike Lotus Spoke to the University of Chicago Law School Federalist Society Student Chapter on February 3, 2015 About “America 3.0 and the Future of the Legal Profession”

    Posted by Lexington Green on February 5th, 2015 (All posts by )

    UChicago law school

    Huge thanks to the University of Chicago Law School Federalist Society Student Chapter on Tuesday, who invited me to speak to their group on February 3, 2015. I previously spoke at the Booth School of Business, which was also a thrill. I am most grateful for the opportunity to speak at the University of Chicago, my undergraduate alma mater.

    The event was well-attended. I attribute this in part to the drawing power of the free buffet of Indian food, and not exclusively to the appeal of the speaker. The students were attentive and asked good questions. I understand that audio of the talk will be available at some point. I will post a link when it is available.

    My topic was “America 3.0 and the Future of the Legal Profession”.

    First I spoke about some of the themes from America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century, Why America’s Greatest Days are Yet to Come, which I coauthored with James C. Bennett. I discussed the cultural foundations of American prosperity and freedom, the role of our legal profession in American history, in particular in adapting to technological changes, I then discussed some of the major technological changes which are now sweeping our nation and the world. I said that some of them will be general purpose technologies which will cause changes on the scale of the steam engine, railroads or computing itself.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Academia, America 3.0, Book Notes, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance, Education, Entrepreneurship, Law, Personal Narrative, Politics, Quotations, Society, Tech, USA | Comments Off

    Pondering

    Posted by Dan from Madison on February 5th, 2015 (All posts by )

    jameson toy
    Chicagoboyz contemplate where the Jameson Experience begins, and ends.

     

    Posted in Jameson | 4 Comments »

    Obama’s plan for an alliance with Iran.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on February 4th, 2015 (All posts by )

    There has been considerable curiosity about Obama’s foreign policy goals in the middle east. He has picked a major fight with Israel and the PM, Netanyahu. It has been known for years that Obama and Netanyahu loathe each other. Obama withdrew US forces from Iraq while American military leaders kept silent but were disapproving. The CIA Director, General Petraeus, was removed after a scandal that had administration fingerprints all over it. Senior generals who opposed Obama’s plans and let it be known, were relieved like like General McChrystal, who had permitted other officers in his commend to talk disrespectfully about the administration in front of a reporter.

    As for McChrystal: In a press conference on June 24 of this year, Adm. Mike Mullen said, succinctly, “It was clear that … in its totality, it challenged civilian control … .”

    Mullen’s “it” refers to the disrespect for civilian authority by now-former U.S. Afghanistan commander McChrystal’s staff, as portrayed in an article in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine. President Obama, whose wife until his candidacy was never proud of her country, relieved McChrystal for this disrespect — not so much for what McChrystal had said, but for his staff’s biting criticism of other members of the administration, including Vice President Joe Biden.

    Not long after this, General Petraeus resigned from the CIA but is still being harassed by the FBI.

    “All of us who know him and are close to him are mystified by the fact there is still this investigation into him,” Jack Keane, a retired four-star U.S. Army General said in an interview. Keane has been both an adviser to and mentor of Petraeus since he saved Petraeus’s life during a live-fire training exercise in 1991.

    It may be as simple as an effort, so far successful, to keep Petraeus from talking about the Obama Administration’s most important foreign policy initiative.

    How eager is the president to see Iran break through its isolation and become a very successful regional power? Very eager. A year ago, Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national-security adviser for strategic communication and a key member of the president’s inner circle, shared some good news with a friendly group of Democratic-party activists. The November 2013 nuclear agreement between Tehran and the “P5+1”—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—represented, he said, not only “the best opportunity we’ve had to resolve the Iranian [nuclear] issue,” but “probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Middle East, National Security, Obama | 21 Comments »

    Book Review: Rockets and People

    Posted by David Foster on February 3rd, 2015 (All posts by )

    Rockets and People, by Boris E Chertok

    Boris Chertok’s career in the Russian aerospace industry spanned many decades, encompassing both space exploration and military missile programs. His four-volume memoir is an unusual document–partly, it reads like a high school annual or inside company history edited by someone who wants to be sure no one feels left out and that all the events and tragedies and inside jokes are appropriately recorded. Partly, it is a technological history of rocket development, and partly, it is a study in the practicalities of managing large programs in environments of technical uncertainty and extreme time pressure. Readers should include those interested in: management theory and practice, Russian/Soviet history, life under totalitarianism, the Cold War period, and missile/space technology. Because of the great length of these memoirs, those who read the whole thing will probably be those who are interested in all (or at least most) of the above subject areas. I found the series quite readable; overly-detailed in many places, but always interesting. In his review American astronaut Thomas Stafford said “The Russians are great storytellers, and many of the tales about their space program are riveting. But Boris Chertok is one of the greatest storytellers of them all.”  In this series, Chertok really does suck you into his world.

    Chertok was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1912: his mother had been forced to flee Russia because of her revolutionary (Menshevik) sympathies. The family returned to Russia on the outbreak of the First World War, and some of Chertok’s earliest memories were of the streets filled with red-flag-waving demonstrators in 1917. He grew up on the Moscow River, in what was then a quasi-rural area, and had a pretty good childhood–“we, of course, played “Reds and Whites,” rather than “Cowboys and Indians””–swimming and rowing in the river and developing an early interest in radio and aviation–both an airfield and a wireless station were located nearby. He also enjoyed reading–“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn met with the greatest success, while Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin gave rise to aggressive moods–‘Hey–after the revolution in Europe, we’ll deal with the American slaveholders!” His cousin introduced him to science fiction, and he was especially fond of Aelita (book and silent film), featuring the eponymous Martian beauty.

    Chertok remembers his school years fondly–there were field trips to study art history and architectural styles, plus a military program with firing of both rifles and machine guns–but notes “We studied neither Russian nor world history….Instead we had two years of social science, during which we studied the history of Communist ideas…Our clever social sciences teacher conducted lessons so that, along with the history of the French Revolution and the Paris Commune, we became familiar with the history of the European peoples from Ancient Rome to World War I, and while studying the Decembrist movement and 1905 Revolution in detail we were forced to investigate the history of Russia.” Chertok purused his growing interest in electronics, developing a new radio-receiver circuit which earned him a journal publication and an inventor’s certificate. There was also time for skating and dating–“In those strict, puritanical times it was considered inappropriate for a young man of fourteen or fifteen to walk arm in arm with a young woman. But while skating, you could put your arm around a girl’s waist, whirl around with her on the ice to the point of utter exhaustion, and then accompany her home without the least fear of reproach.”

    Chertok wanted to attend university, but “entrance exams were not the only barrier to admission.” There was a quota system, based on social class, and  “according to the ‘social lineage’ chart, I was the son of a white collar worker and had virtually no hope of being accepted the first time around.” He applied anyhow, hoping that his journal publication and inventor’s certificate in electronics would get him in.” It didn’t–he was told, “Work about three years and come back. We’ll accept you as a worker, but not as the son of a white-collar worker.”

    So Chertok took a job as electrician in a brick factory…not much fun, but he was soon able to transfer to an aircraft factory across the river. He made such a good impression that he was asked to take a Komsomol leadership position, which gave him an opportunity to learn a great deal about manufacturing. The plant environment was a combination of genuinely enlightened management–worker involvement in process improvement, financial decentralization–colliding with rigid policies and political interference. There were problems with absenteeism caused by new workers straight off the farm; these led to a government edict: anyone late to work by 20 minutes or more was to be fired, and very likely prosecuted. There was a young worker named Igor who had real inventive talent; he proposed an improved linkage for engine and propeller control systems, which worked out well. But when Igor overslept (the morning after he got married), no exception could be made. He was fired, and “we lost a man who really had a divine spark.”  Zero tolerance!

    Chertok himself wound up in trouble when he was denounced to the Party for having concealed the truth about his parents–that his father was a bookkeeper in a private enterprise and his mother was a Menshevik. He was expelled from the Komsomol and demoted to a lower-level position.  Later in his career, he would also wind up in difficulties because of his Jewish heritage.

    The memoir includes dozens of memorable characters, including:

    *Lidiya Petrovna Kozlovskaya, a bandit queen turned factory supervisor who became Chertok’s superior after his first demotion.

    *Yakov Alksnis, commander of the Red Air Force–a strong leader who foresaw the danger of a surprise attack wiping out the planes on the ground. He was not to survive the Stalin era.

    *Olga Mitkevich, sent by the regime to become “Central Committee Party organizer” at the factory where Chertok was working…did not make a good first impression (“had the aura of a strict school matron–the terror of girls’ preparatory schools”)..but actually proved to be very helpful to getting work done and later became director of what was then the largest aircraft factory in Europe, which job she performed well. She apparently had too much integrity for the times, and her letters to Stalin on behalf of people unjustly accused resulted in her own arrest and execution.

    *Frau Groettrup, wife of a German rocket scientist, one of the many the Russians took in custody after occupying their sector of Germany. Her demands on the victors were rather unbelievable, what’s more unbelievable is that the Russians actually yielded to most of them.

    *Dmitry Ustinov, a rising star in the Soviet hierarchy–according to Chertok an excellent and visionary executive who had much to do with Soviet successes in missiles and space. (Much later, he would become Defense Minister, in which role he was a strong proponent of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.)

    *Valeriya Golubtsova, wife of the powerful Politburo member Georgiy Malenkov, who was Stalin’s immediate successor. Chertok knew her from school–she was an engineer who became an important government executive–and the connection turned out to be very useful. Chertok respected her professional skills, liked her very much, and devotes several pages to her.

    *Yuri Gagarin, first man to fly in space, and Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman.

    *Overshadowing all the other characters is Sergei Korolev, now considered to be the father of the Soviet space program although anonymous during his lifetime.  Korolev spent 6 years in labor camps, having been arrested when his early rocket experiments didn’t pan out; he was released in 1944.  A good leader, in Chertok’s view, though with a bad temper and given to making threats that he never actually carried out.  His imprisonment must have left deep scars–writing about a field trip to a submarine to observe the firing of a ballistic missile, Chertok says that the celebration dinner with the sub’s officers was the only time he ever saw Korolev really happy.

    Chertok’s memoir encompasses the pre-WWII development of the Soviet aircraft industry…early experiments with a rocket-powered interceptor…the evacuation of factories from the Moscow area in the face of the German invasion…a post-war mission to Germany to acquire as much German rocket technology as possible…the development of a Soviet ballistic missile capability…Sputnik…reconnaissance and communications satellites…the Cuban missile crisis…and the race to the moon.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Aviation, Big Government, Biography, Book Notes, Leftism, Management, Military Affairs, Russia, Society, Space, Tech, Transportation | 5 Comments »

    Fixing Gaza

    Posted by TM Lutas on February 2nd, 2015 (All posts by )

    Israel, if it is farsighted and wise, has a grim opportunity in the emergence of Islamic State Sinai Province. It can sign a defense treaty with Egypt to ensure the territorial integrity of Egypt. Israel’s gain would be the undertaking of Egypt to grant palestinians on Egyptian territory Egyptian citizenship, removing the malign influence that the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is having over the Palestinian situation the only sure way possible, by removing its reason for being in a decent, humanitarian way by settling Palestinian refugees into a normal status, in this case as citizens of Egypt.

    This line of thinking does assume that Egypt’s military will be unsuccessful in stopping IS Sinai Province from controlling territory, either part or all of Sinai. It further assumes that the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza/Hamas will be assisting ISSP in its efforts, justifying an Egyptian takeover of Gaza to root them out. Now is the time for the negotiations to start, if they haven’t already started.

    Without refugee status, and the unique UN agency to support Palestinians in their grievances, Palestinians will tend to disperse, tend to get jobs, and as they get more invested into the existing legal system, tend to reduce their jihad to lawfare seeking reparations for their losses in both properties and suffering. Eventually Israel will write a big check and be happy to end this chapter in their history.

     

    Posted in Islam, Israel, Middle East, Tradeoffs, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    Political Correctness

    Posted by David Foster on February 1st, 2015 (All posts by )

    …not just an irritant anymore, but now a serious threat to American society.

    Jonathan Chait tells the story of Omar Mahmood, a student at the University of Michigan, who dared to publish a column satirizing (rather gently, I think) those people who go around being offended at everything.  He has been demonized, was fired from his job at the Michigan Daily, and his apartment was vandalized.  Chait notes that  at a growing number of campuses, professors attach “trigger warnings” to texts that may upset the oh-so-sensitive students…and that the insistence on “protecting” people from ideas that may upset them has resulted in movements to ban speakers such as Condi Rice (Rutgers), Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Brandeis), and IMF director Christine Lagarde (Smith).

    Stuart Schneiderman describes how Political Correctness can influence national politics, noting that “When Obama became president, political debate was no longer about ideas. In social media and universities those who opposed Obama were slandered and defamed…Now, with the candidacy of Hillary Clinton looming, the debate will no longer concern Mrs. Clinton’s thin resume and  barely visible accomplishments, but about the sexism of those who oppose her.”

    And here is Frederik deBoer, a self-defined leftist (who does not much like Jonathan Chait), writing about the ways he has seen Political Correctness at work and the impact it has had on individuals:

    I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 19-year-old white woman—smart, well-meaning, passionate—literally run crying from a classroom because she was so ruthlessly brow-beaten for using the word “disabled.” Not repeatedly. Not with malice. Not because of privilege. She used the word once and was excoriated for it. She never came back. I watched that happen.

    I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 20-year-old black man, a track athlete who tried to fit organizing meetings around classes and his ridiculous practice schedule (for which he received a scholarship worth a quarter of tuition), be told not to return to those meetings because he said he thought there were such a thing as innate gender differences. He wasn’t a homophobe, or transphobic, or a misogynist. It turns out that 20-year-olds from rural South Carolina aren’t born with an innate understanding of the intersectionality playbook. But those were the terms deployed against him, those and worse. So that was it; he was gone.

    I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 33-year-old Hispanic man, an Iraq war veteran who had served three tours and had become an outspoken critic of our presence there, be lectured about patriarchy by an affluent 22-year-old white liberal arts college student, because he had said that other vets have to “man up” and speak out about the war. Because apparently we have to pretend that we don’t know how metaphorical language works or else we’re bad people. I watched his eyes glaze over as this woman with $300 shoes berated him. I saw that. Myself.

    Frederik deBoer, writer of the above, objects to this kind of Political Correctness at least in part because it drives people out of leftist politics.  He says “I want a left that can win, and there’s no way I can have that when the actually-existing left sheds potential allies at an impossible rate. But the prohibition against ever telling anyone to be friendlier and more forgiving is so powerful and calcified it’s a permanent feature of today’s progressivism.”

    (Some of us think that the control of speech is an inherent feature of  ideologies of the type represented by today’s “progressivism.”)

    And here are a bunch of idiotic “Social Justice Warriors” (ie, aggressive wielders of the Political Correctness sabre) raging on Twitter about the US Army’s use of the term “chink”…in the context of a discussion of Special Operations, the specific sentence which resulted in so much fury being “Chinks in special ops’ digital and physical armor pose challenges, experts  say.”

    I’m reminded of something I read many years ago: a university professor came under virulent attack by a group of radical feminists because he had used the term “bang for the buck.”  This phrase originated, of course, in the field of weapons systems procurement and refers to getting the most military capability for the money.  But the attackers decided that the term referred to some kind of discount prostitution business and hence that its use was “degrading to women.”

    It has long been said that American universities are “islands of tyranny in a sea of freedom.”  But it was inevitable that the habits of groupthink and submission to the loudest voices that were inculcated in these institutions would seep out into the broader society and begin to poison political dialog in many contexts–and this process is now well underway.

    Tying this post to my last post, Conformity Kills:  if a person spends his college years learning to carefully avoid speaking his mind on all matter of politics, social organization, human nature, relationships between the sexes, and many other subjects–what are the chances that he will be willing to speak him mind in a career context where the stakes are high–even if those stakes involve matters of life and death?

     

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, USA | 10 Comments »

    The Romans of the NFL — the Kraft/Belichick/Brady New England Patriots

    Posted by James McCormick on February 1st, 2015 (All posts by )

    First let me take a moment to put on flame-retardant clothing and don heavy boots. There.

    Are you a big fan of the New England Patriots?

    My goodness … that was a fearsome blast of flame, heat and bile!

    Well, they’re back. For their sixth Super Bowl since 2001. Playing in 9 AFC championships in the last 14 years. Winning their division (the AFC East) 12 times. Their coach is now #4 in games won in NFL history (regular and playoff games combined). The quarterback owns virtually every postseason NFL QB record except a deeply-coveted fourth Super Bowl ring. And together, the coach/QB currently lead the NFL regular season wins list with 160 … next closest are Don Shula and Dan Marino at 116. There’s a lot to like or a lot to hate, depending on where you hail from.

    The AFL-NFL merger (“the Super Bowl era”) kicked off in 1970, though the game itself began at the end of the 1966 season (January 1967). Modern unrestricted free agency began in the NFL in 1992. So New England’s success in the last 15 years, during a period of intentional parity between NFL teams, has been exceptional and exceptionally contested. Their victories and losses in the Super Bowl have never been greater, or less, than 4 points.

    What can explain it?

    General consensus is “Satan” … followed closely in the polls by “cheating at every turn and at every opportunity … plus Satan … plus Satan’s Mom’s dog.” Certainly a full-throated, if not fully-verified, hypothesis.

    Nerdier fans insist Bill Belichick is actually a Sith Lord and Tom Brady is his pretty-boy protocol droid being drawn to the Dark Side, while owner Robert Kraft relentlessly undermines the NFL from within. And maybe Satan’s got season tickets at Gillette Stadium, as well. Not very plausible, I think, but the blurring of reality and Star Wars for millions has always led to some unusual claims.

    Back in late 2011, a young QB named Tim Tebow had an improbable run of late season victories with the Denver Broncos, which included a miraculous overtime playoff win in Denver on January 08, 2012 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. An American journalist at the time, whose name Google can’t find for me, wrote an article about how Tim Tebow’s stellar performance triggered a crisis of confidence in his journalistic/secular heart. Maybe Tim actually did have divine support.

    Secular redemption, of a sort, only arrived when poor Tim met the New England Patriots, in New England, the week after the miracle in Mile High. The Broncos lost 45-10. For the journalist, the Age of Reason had returned. Order, natural order, had been restored. And the Patriots proceeded to yet another Super Bowl as part of the Kraft/Belichick/Brady era (which they lost for a second time to the New York Giants).

    Paraphrasing the journalist’s article of the time, “the New England Patriots play football like the Romans fought wars. Methodically. Relentlessly. Mercilessly.” And Tim Tebow’s supernatural charisma never quite recovered, despite a stint several years later, ironically, at a New England Patriots spring training camp.

    As someone with a long amateur interest in Roman military matters, it seemed an appropriate time … here on the verge of yet another Patriots Super Bowl run … to cast a wider net … beyond cheating … beyond Sith Lords … even beyond ever-busy Satan. In the deranged period before the Big Game, let’s take said journalist’s premise, kick the tires, and take it for a spin until the wheels of analogy fall off.

    Compare the Patriots and the Roman war machine using the following criteria:

    • Governance
    • Education and Literacy
    • Situational Awareness
    • Organizational Focus
    • Accountability
    • Mercy
    • Battlefield Focus
    • Persistence
    • Likeability

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    Posted in Sports | 12 Comments »