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  • Archive for the 'History' Category

    Seth Barrett Tillman: How My Next Academic Article Begins

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th February 2018 (All posts by )

    Since 2008, I have argued in multiple publications that the Foreign Emoluments Clause’s Office-language (and closely similar language in other constitutional provisions) reaches only appointed federal officers, and not any elected federal officials, including the presidency. My position has not gone entirely unnoticed; indeed, it has even occasioned some firm and thoughtful opposition. My goal in this Article is not to illustrate the full spectrum of views opposing my position on the subject. There are far too many such views—many of which contradict one another—many of which (do not appear to) have gone through any sort of independent review process, by student editors, by peer review, or otherwise. Instead, my more modest goal here is to illustrate how deeply idiosyncratic some of these views are—not merely in their conclusions, but more importantly in their broad methodological approach.

    Read the entire post.

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    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump | No Comments »

    A French Village: Complete Series Now Available

    Posted by David Foster on 18th February 2018 (All posts by )

    I’ve previously mentioned this series, set in the (fictional) French town of Villeneuve during the years of the German occupation and afterwards.  It is simply outstanding – one of the best television series I have ever seen.  The program ran from 2009-207 on French TV, and all the seasons are now available in the US, with subtitles. Having now watched the whole thing, my very positive opinion of the series is sustained.

    Daniel Larcher is a physician who also serves as deputy mayor, a largely honorary position. When the regular mayor disappears after the German invasion, Daniel finds himself mayor for real. His wife Hortense, a selfish and emotionally-shallow woman, is the opposite of helpful to Daniel in his efforts to protect the people of Villaneuve from the worst effects of the occupation while still carrying on his medical practice. Daniel’s immediate superior in his role as mayor is Deputy Prefect Servier, a bureaucrat mainly concerned about his career and about ensuring that everything is done according to proper legal form.

    The program is ‘about’ the intersection of ultimate things…the darkest evil, the most stellar heroism….with the ‘dailyness’ of ordinary life, and about the human dilemmas that exist at this intersection. Should Daniel have taken the job of mayor in the first place?…When is it allowable to collaborate with evil, to at least some degree, in the hope of minimizing the damage? Which people will go along, which will resist, which will take advantage? When is violent resistance…for example, the killing by the emerging Resistance of a more or less random German officer…justified, when it will lead to violent retaliation such as the taking and execution of hostages?

    Arthur Koestler has written about ‘the tragic and the trivial planes’ of life. As explained by his friend, the writer and fighter pilot Richard Hillary:

    “K has a theory for this. He believes there are two planes of existence which he calls vie tragique and vie triviale. Usually we move on the trivial plane, but occasionally in moments of elation or danger, we find ourselves transferred to the plane of the vie tragique, with its non-commonsense, cosmic perspective. When we are on the trivial plane, the realities of the other appear as nonsense–as overstrung nerves and so on. When we live on the tragic plane, the realities of the other are shallow, frivolous, frivolous, trifling. But in exceptional circumstances, for instance if someone has to live through a long stretch of time in physical danger, one is placed, as it were, on the intersection line of the two planes; a curious situation which is a kind of tightrope-walking on one’s nerves…I think he is right.”

    In this series, the Tragic and the Trivial planes co-exist…day-to-day life intermingles with world-historical events. And the smallness of the stage…the confinement of the action to a single small village….works well dramatically, for the same reason that (as I have argued previously) stories set on shipboard can be very effective.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in France, Germany, History, Human Behavior, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: How My Next Academic Paper Ends: The Way Forward

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th February 2018 (All posts by )

    First, the commentators above (along with other commentators) believe their position carries a strong presumption of correctness (if not certitude), that it is my duty to displace that presumption, and that they will be the judges if I have carried that burden. Certainly, I have never agreed to such terms for this debate. Nor should I. The text of the Constitution does not expressly state that the Foreign Emoluments Clause applies to the President. The text of the Constitution does not expressly define the scope of the Constitution’s “Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States]” language. The Supreme Court has had no occasion to address the scope of the clause or the meaning of the clause’s operative language (or even the scope of similar language in other clauses.). As educated generalists who have chosen to recently inject themselves into this debate, their opinions should get a hearing. I would add: so should mine. And since, what is involved here is a debate between opinions lacking firm judicial support, our divergent ideas (and we) meet as equals. I add that the Legal Historians are supporting the plaintiffs in active litigation. Generally, in civil litigation, the burden of proof, production, and persuasion falls on the plaintiff, not on the defendant.
     
    Second, it is time for my intellectual opponents to be fair. Claims that they have made that they know or now know to be incorrect should be withdrawn or revised. Claims that they have made asserting the existence of documentary support, should be supported, and promptly, with actual documents—or else the claims should be withdrawn. If they have to go through this process repeatedly, they might ask themselves if their position (and expertise) is really as strong as they have led themselves and others to believe.
     
    Third, it is time for my intellectual opponents to be forthcoming in regard to an improved debate and debate atmosphere—an atmosphere rooted in mutual respect and goodwill…

    Read the whole thing.

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    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump | No Comments »

    Attack of the Job-Killing Robots, Part 3

    Posted by David Foster on 13th February 2018 (All posts by )

    The final months of World War II included the first-ever battle of robots:  on one side, the German V-1 missile and on the other, an Allied antiaircraft system that automatically tracked the enemy missiles, performed the necessary fire-control computations, and directed the guns accordingly. This and other wartime projects greatly contributed to the understanding of the feedback concept and the development of automatic control technology.  Also developed during the war were the first general-purpose programmable digital computers: the Navy/Harvard/IBM Mark I and the Army/MIT ENIAC…machines that, although incredibly limited by our presented-day, standards were at the time viewed with awe and often referred to as ‘thinking machines.’

    These wartime innovations in feedback control and digital computation would soon have enormous impact on the civilian world.

    This is one in a continuing series of posts in which I attempt to provide some historical context for today’s discussions of automation and its impact on jobs and society…a context of which people writing about this topic often seem to have little understanding.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, History, Tech | 9 Comments »

    Civil war or just uncivil society?

    Posted by Margaret on 8th February 2018 (All posts by )

    It seems that at least once a week I read an article predicting that the extreme political divisions in our country will lead to an actual civil war. “The country hasn’t been this divided since 1860!” is a common refrain.

    Divided, yes. But leading to war? I don’t think so.

    Those who actually know all about our Civil War may wish to correct me; I admit that discussion of this topic in my Georgia high school was so frequent and so prolonged that I did my best to sink into a coma whenever the subject came up. Even so, I think I grasped a few general points about that war which differentiate it from the present situation.

    (1) The war was driven by one major moral/economic dispute, even if the two sides described it differently. (North: “Slavery is wrong.” South: “Our economy depends on slavery. Besides, states’ rights.”)
    (2) The opposing sides were (mostly) geographically divided.
    (3) There were, on both sides, people who were willing to actually fight with something more lethal than a sarcastic Tweet.

    Now look at the current mess.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Civil Society, History, Leftism | 80 Comments »

    Josh Blackman and Seth Barrett Tillman: The Emoluments Clauses Litigation, Part 6: Are the Claims Against the President in his Official or Individual Capacity?

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th February 2018 (All posts by )

    Arguments progress:

    On January 25, 2018, Judge Messitte held oral arguments in Greenbelt, Maryland. Blackman attended. The very first question from the bench referenced our amicus briefs, and asked the parties to address whether the Maryland Complaint concerns actions taken in the President’s official or individual capacity. Over the course of nearly five hours of argument time, counsel for the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia maintained that Trump’s receipt of (purported) emoluments concerned his official capacity. But once confronted by skeptical questions from the bench, Plaintiffs volunteered to amend their complaint to bring claims against the President in his individual capacity.
     
    Judge Messitte did not order the Plaintiffs to amend their complaint, but during the hearing, counsel for Plaintiffs represented that they would do so in due course, presumably through a Rule 15 motion. At the hearing, the Justice Department did not indicate that it would oppose such a motion—rather, the Government suggested that it would file a new motion to dismiss. In short, the Maryland action, which had been set either to be dismissed or to proceed onto discovery, now sits in limbo awaiting a Rule 15 motion to amend, a new round of briefing on a motion to dismiss (and possibly in regard to the Rule 15 motion too), and, presumably, a new oral argument on the revised motion to dismiss (and, perhaps, also in regard to the Rule 15 motion). Moreover, all Plaintiffs have to do, to move the litigation into its new “path,” the obvious direction it should always have been in, is to change the Complaint’s caption and the 1-page prayer for relief; yet, it is now more than a week later, and still no amended complaint has been filed.

    Read the whole thing.

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    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump | No Comments »

    Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th January 2018 (All posts by )

    (I post an archive entry from my Celia Hayes blog, on the eve of the Golden Globes awards, All Hollywood seems to be running about with their hair on fire, casting accusations everywhere, regarding who knew or didn’t about the casting couch, who got an advantage from utilizing the casting couch, and who behaved badly to whom. I’m working on a post about this week’s Trump madness, and the time just got away from me.)

    (Example #1 – William Holden, publicity still)

    There are boys enough in the movies now, all dressed up in costume and mincing around, waving the prop weapons in a manner meant to be intimidating. Generally they look a bit nervous doing so. They have light boyish voices, narrow defoliated chests, delicate chins adorned with a wisp of beard, and sometimes they come across as clever, even charming company for the leading lady or as the wily sidekick to the first name on the bill, but as hard as they try to project mature and solid masculinity they remain boys, all dressed up in costume pretending to be men. Even when they try for a bit of presence, they still project a faintly apologetic air. Imagine Peter Pan in camo BDUs, desert-boots, full battle-rattle and rucksack. It’s a far cry from picturing John Wayne in the same get-up. Where have all the cowboys gone?

    (Example #2 – Robert Mitchum w/Deborah Kerr in “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison“)

    You could not really describe John Wayne as movie-star handsome; neither could you honestly say that Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart, Steve McQueen, Charlton Heston or William Holden were movie-star handsome. (Save perhaps Holden, early on.) They had something more – magnetic physical presence. They owned a room, just by walking into it. They had lived-in faces, especially as they got older, rough-hewn, weathered and individual faces, broad shoulders, strong and capable hands, and total confidence in themselves – even when the plot necessitated a bit of self-doubt.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Arts & Letters, Culture, Current Events, Diversions, Film, History, Media | 15 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: The Blue Book & the Foreign Emoluments Clause Cases Against the President: Old Questions Answered

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st December 2017 (All posts by )

    In 1792, the Senate directed President Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to draft a financial statement listing the “emoluments” of “every person holding any civil office or employment under the United States.”[1] Hamilton took more than nine months to draft and submit a response, which spanned some ninety manuscript-sized pages. The report included appointed or administrative personnel in each of the three branches of the federal government, including the Legislative Branch (e.g., the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House and their staffs) and the clerks of the federal courts.[2] But Hamilton’s carefully-worded response did not include the President, Vice President, Senators, or Representatives.[3] The presumptive meaning of this document is that Hamilton accurately responded to the Senate’s precise request: elected officials do not hold office . . . under the United States, and so they were not listed.
     
    Contrary explanations do not hold up…

    Read the rest.

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    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump, USA | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman: The Blue Book & the Foreign Emoluments Clause Cases Against the President: Old Questions Answered

    2017 Reading, continued

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

    Fed Up, by Danielle DiMartino Booth. Following a successful career on Wall Street, the author in 2008 took a job as an analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.  In this primarily-male organization, she did not experience discrimination on account of her sex…but she did face serious prejudice against her on account of not having a PhD.  Her take on the Fed is that is is far too theoretical in its approach and too limited in the backgrounds of its staff:

    Grasping the modus operandi of the Federal Reserve requires first anchoring in your mind two words: hubris and myopia.  We know better than you.  Only our models can decipher and predict the economy.

    The Fed’s battalion of economists–from the top down–believe that their training in the world’s top universities and their unique schooling in analysis gives them wisdom and insight, when in fact their training often blinds them to reality…Virtually no one I met at the bank had ever worked on Wall Street, managed a business, or handled their own investments.

    Indeed, her negative view of the Fed pretty much extends to the economics profession as a whole   Referring to a letter signed by 364 prominent economists in March 1981, which predicted disaster as a result of Margaret Thatcher’s fiscal policies, she approvingly quotes Geoffrey Howe, chancellor of the exchequer, to the effect that an economist was like “a man who knows 364 ways of making love, but doesn’t know any women.” She also cites a 1991 report by the American Economics Association which concluded that university economics programs “may be turning out a generation with two many idiot savants, skilled in technique but innocent of real economic issues.”

    One Fed official that she does speak of very highly is Richard Fisher, who was president of the Dallas Fed when she was there and was a noted critic of the way the quantitative easing program was carried out.  (He is now an advisor to Barclays and a member of the PepsiCo board.)

    Forgotten Victory, by Gary Sheffield.  This is basically a revisionist history of the First World War.  The author argues that–contrary to common opinions–the war, although tragic, was not futile, and that the British Army was not the incompetent organization as which it has often been portrayed, but rather was an institution which developed the ability to learn and to adapt:

    The (British Expeditionary Force) did not simply gape at the trenches with incomprehension in the winter of 1914-15.  Instead, British soldiers at all levels began a process of innovation and experimentation as the BEF rapidly began to adjust to the new conditions of warfare.

    If a unit bethought itself of some useful improvisation, such as a new method of firing rifle grenades, carrying rations or making ingenious loopholes combining a better field of fire with greater safety, details were collected and circulated by Army Headquarters. 

    One area of technical innovation cited by the author was in the artillery.  ‘Predicted’ bombardments, using improved calculation methods which accounted for variation in individual guns as well as such factors as wind speed, allow the preliminary ‘registration’ fires to be dispensed with or at least shortened, thereby increasing the element of surprise.  The instantaneous fuse, which triggered the burst before the shell buried itself in the ground, greatly improved the artillery’s effectiveness at cutting barbed-wire entanglements.  And sound ranging, which has been described as ‘the Manhattan Project of the Great War’, employed some first-class scientific minds and resulted in the ability to locate and destroy enemy artillery positions more effectively.

    More important than the technical and tactical points, of course, is the question of whether the war was really necessary at all.  The author argues that, at least from Britain’s standpoint, it was.

    This book probably deserves a stand-alone review and discussion thread.

    The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages.  I picked this up at a book sale…it is actually a children’s book, recommended for grades 5-8, but makes it good adult reading as well.  Dewey Kerrigan, a 10-year-old aspiring inventor, sets off on a cross-country train trip to be with her father, who is engaged in war work.  She is engaged in designing a radio when a fellow passenger, Dick Feynman, offers to help her.  They are both bound for the same destinations, Los Alamos.

    There is also a sequel, White Sands, Red Menace.

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    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Economics & Finance, History, War and Peace | Comments Off on 2017 Reading, continued

    A Tale for Children

    Posted by David Foster on 27th December 2017 (All posts by )

    The Christmas season, in combination with seeing the Churchill movie Darkest Hour, reminded me of a passage from the French author Georges Bernanos.

    In May/June 1940, Nazi Germany defeated the French army. Britain was forced to withdraw its troops at Durkirk–losing virtually all their heavy equipment. Few would have been willing to bet on Britain’s survival…after quickly devastating the (then highly-regarded) French army and demonstrating highly-effective use of airpower, Nazi Germany seemed unstoppable.

    In December of that year, Bernanos, then living in Brazil, wrote as follows:

    No one knows better than I do that, in the course of centuries, all the great stories of the world end by becoming children’s tales. But this particular one (the story of England’s resistance–ed) has started its life as such, has become a children’s tale on the very threshold of its existence. It mean that we can at once recognize in it the threefold visible sign of its nature. it has deceived the anticipations of the wise, it has humiliated the weak-hearted, it has staggered the fools. Last June all these folk from one end of the world to the other, no matter what the color of their skins, were shaking their heads. Never had they been so old, never had they been so proud of being old. All the figures that they had swallowed in the course of their miserable lives as a safeguard against the highly improbable activity of their emotions had choked the channels of circulation..They were ready to prove that with the Armistice of Rethondes the continuance of the war had become a mathematical impossibility…Some chuckled with satisfaction at the thought, but they were not the most dangerous…Others threatened us with the infection of pity…”Alone against the world,” they said. “Why, what is that but a tale for children?” And that is precisely what it was–a tale for children. Hurrah for the children of England! 

    Men of England, at this very moment you are writing what public speakers like to describe in their jargon as one of the “greatest pages of history”….At this moment you English are writing one of the greatest pages of history, but I am quite sure that when you started, you meant it as a fairy tale for children. “Once upon a time there was a little island, and in that island there was a people in arms against the world…” Faced with such an opening as that, what old cunning fox of politics or business would not have shrugged his shoulders and closed the book?

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    Posted in Britain, Film, France, History | 16 Comments »

    I Am a Barbarian

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 23rd December 2017 (All posts by )

    Scott, James C. Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017.

    Scott has hit another metaphorical grand slam with this one, a worthily disconcerting follow-on to his earlier work. I have previously read (in order of publication, rather than the order in which I encountered them) The Moral Economy of the Peasant, Seeing Like a State, and Two Cheers for Anarchism, and found them congenial. Scott is particularly good at encouraging a non-elite viewpoint deeply skeptical of State power, and in Against the Grain he applies this to the earliest civilizations. Turns out they loom large in our imagination due to the a posteriori distribution of monumental ruins and written records—structures that were often built by slaves and records created almost entirely to facilitate heavy taxation and conscription. Outside of “civilization” were the “barbarians,” who turn out to have simply been those who evaded control by the North Koreas and Venezuelas of their time, rather than the untutored and truculent caricatures of the “civilized” histories.

    By these criteria, the United States of America is predominately a barbarian nation. In the order given above:

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Americas, Anglosphere, Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Crony Capitalism, Culture, Current Events, Education, Entrepreneurship, History, Immigration, International Affairs, Latin America, Law Enforcement, Libertarianism, Markets and Trading, Military Affairs, National Security, North America, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, Systems Analysis, Tradeoffs, Transportation, USA | 7 Comments »

    2017 Reading, continued

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

    A Prophet Without Honor, by Joseph Wurtenbaugh.  An outstanding work of alternative history.

    It is now known that when Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland in 1936, his forces were under orders to withdraw if faced by serious opposition by the (then-much-superior) French and British militaries.  But these countries did not take action, being focused on their economic problems and convincing themselves that the German move wasn’t really much of a threat.  But they didn’t know about the Withdrawal Order.  What if they had?

    Some of the characters are fictional, others are real people imagined as following different trajectories.  The central figure is a German officer named Karl von Haydenreich; he has become friends with American officer Dwight Eisenhower and this friendship will prove critical in changing the course of history.

    Very well-done, should not be missed.

    The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz.  Advice about running a startup from a venture capitalist…the author is cofounder of the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.  A lot of worthwhile points, some of which should be obvious, others not so much so.

    Understanding what you did wrong if you hired an executive who did not work out:  Horowitz goes through several possible causes of the failure, including this:

    You hired for lack of weakness rather than for strengths.  This is especially common when you run a consensus-based hiring process.  The group will often find the candidate’s weaknesses, but they won’t place a high enough value on the areas where you need the executive to be a world-class performer.  As a result, you hire an executive with no sharp weakness, but who is mediocre where you need her to be great.

    On excessive focus on quantitative metrics:  “Management purely by numbers is sort of like painting by numbers–it’s strictly for amateurs.”

    I especially like Horowitz’s emphasis on the importance of organization design, and the point that all such designs are compromises…indeed:

    The first rule of organizational design is that all organizational designs are bad.  With any design, you will optimize communication among some parts of the organization at the expense of other parts.  For example, if you put product management in the engineering organization, you will optimize communication between product management and engineering at the expense of product management and marketing.  As a result, as soon as you roll out the new organization, people will find fault with it, and they will be right…Think of the organizational design as the communications architecture for your company.  If you want people to communicate, the best way to accomplish that is to make them report to the same manager.  By contrast, the further away people are on the organizational chart, the less they will communicate. The organizational design is also the template for how the company communicates with the outside world.

    The book was inspired by this thought:  “Every time I read a management or self-help book, I find myself saying, ‘That’s fine, but that wasn’t really the hard thing about the situation.'”  For example:

    The hard thing isn’t hiring great people.  That hard thing is when those ‘great people’ develop a sense of entitlement and start demanding unreasonable things…The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.

    Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy, by Tim Harford.  Includes not just the sort of things that would typically show up in an ‘inventions’ list, but also such things as double-entry bookkeeping, tradable debt, the welfare state, and the department store.

    Regarding the latter, Harford credits Harry Gordon Selfridge, who worked for Marshall Field, with creating the concept.  Key to the new stores was the idea that “just looking” was okay, indeed was to be positively encouraged.

    Selfridge swept away the previous shopkeepers’ custom of stashing the merchandise in places where sales assistants had to fetch it for you…he instead laid it out in the open-aisle displays we now take for granted, where you can touch a product, pick it up, and inspect it from all angles, without a salesperson hovering by your side…Shopping had long been bound up with social display: the old arcades of the great European cities, displaying their fine cotton fashions–gorgeously lit with candles and mirrors–were places for the upper classes not only to see but to be seen.  Selfridge had no truck with snobbery or exclusivity.  (When he opened his London store), His advertisements pointedly made cleaer that the ‘whole British public’ would be welcome–no cards of admission are required.”

    Harford also mentions an Irish immigrant to America named Alexander Turney Stewart.  It was Stewart who introduced “the shocking concept of not hassling customers the moment they walked through the door. He called this novel policy ‘free entrance.”  Stewart also introduced the concept of the clearance sale and established a no-haggle pricing policy for his good.

    Discussion of inventions such as the department store provides a useful reminded that so many of the things we take for granted–with ‘things’ including assumptions about ways of doing things as well as tangible objects–haven’t always existed; somebody had to think of them and drive them into reality.

    This post to be further continued.

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    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Customer Service, Entrepreneurship, Europe, Germany, History, Management, Organizational Analysis, Tech | 4 Comments »

    Technology, Work, and Society – The Age of Transition

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

    I recently read an intriguing book concerned with the exponential advances in technology and the impact thereof on human society.  The author believes that the displacement of human labor by technology is in its very early stages, and sees little limit to the process.  He is concerned with how this will affect–indeed, has already affected–the relationship between the sexes and of parents and children, as well as the ability of ordinary people to earn a decent living.  It’s a thoughtful analysis by someone who clearly cares a great deal about the well-being of his fellow citizens.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Business, Capitalism, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, History, Society, Tech | 14 Comments »

    Pearl Harbor Day

    Posted by David Foster on 7th December 2017 (All posts by )

    A post from 2006 by Neptunus Lex

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    Posted in History, Japan, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    What Has Changed – and What Hasn’t?

    Posted by Ginny on 21st November 2017 (All posts by )

    When historians consider the 20th century as it turned into the 21st, what will they find unique. I’m looking forward to others’ opinions. What are deep and permanent changes? What are minor and transient ones? I’ll throw out my opinion, though it isn’t original; Henry Adams posited it as the last century began.
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    Posted in Americas, Environment, History, Human Behavior, USA | 31 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

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

    A law professor writes about undoing the dis-education of Millenials.

    Small liberal arts colleges:  self-destruction via runaway administration.

    Ammo Grrrll doesn’t share the obsession about ‘people who look like me’.

    Are we living in the dystopia that Young Adult fiction warns us about?

    The Assistant Village Idiot has some thoughts about local aristocracy and the nationalization of culture.

    Bolshevism and Militant Islam.  Some thoughts about historical parallels from Niall Ferguson, with comments by Stuart Schneiderman.

    The current Senate tax bill draft contains some very bad ideas about taxation of employee stock options and restricted stock grants.

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    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Education, History, Islam, Leftism, Russia, Society | 3 Comments »

    Rerun- Memo on Royal Families

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 8th November 2017 (All posts by )

    To: The Usual Media
    From: Sgt.Mom
    Re: Use of a Particular Cliche

    1. I refer, of course, to the lazy habit of more than a few of you to refer to the Kennedy family, of Hyannisport, late of the White House, and Camelot, as “royalty”, without use of the appropriate viciously skeptical quote marks. Please cease doing this immediately, lest I snap my mental moorings entirely, track down the most current offender, and beat him/her bloody with a rolled-up copy of the Constitution. This is the US of A, for god’s sake. We do not have royalty.

    2. We did, once, as an agreeable and moderately loyal colony of His Majesty, Geo. III, before becoming first rather testy and then quite unreasonable about the taxation and representation thingy, but we put paid to the whole notion of hereditary monarchy for ourselves some two centuries and change ago. There is a certain amount of respect and affection for certain of Geo. III’s descendants, including the current incumbent; a lady of certain age with the curious and old-fashioned habit of always wearing distinctive hats, and carrying a handbag with no discernible reason for doing so. (What does Queen E. II have in her handbag, anyway? Not her house-key to all the residences; not her car keys; not a checkbook and credit cards, not a pocket calendar or business card case, not a spare pair of stockings— I understand the lady-in-waiting takes care of that — handkerchief, maybe? In the case of her late mother, a flask of gin?) Oh, anyway, back to the subject: royalty, or why we, a free people, should feel any need to grovel before the descendants of particularly successful freebooters, mercenary businessmen, and social climbing whores of both sexes. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Britain, Conservatism, Culture, Deep Thoughts, History, Reruns | 23 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: The U.S. has a rich tradition of politicians selling memoirs/books while holding elected federal positions…

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th November 2017 (All posts by )

    On Twitter:

    The emoluments suits represent an attack by the elite, master word-smiths, who claim a monopoly on all the positions of state, against a public who, from time-to-time, elects people who don’t live in the world of words and texts. Instead, these people make things and do deals.

    Seth Barrett Tillman Tweet 20171106

    Also: Tales of the Unexplained. From Plaintiff’s Opp’n to the DOJ’s motion to dismiss in the DDC emoluments case. see page 34 n.24: /1

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    Posted in History, Law, Obama, Trump | 1 Comment »

    100th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution

    Posted by David Foster on 1st November 2017 (All posts by )

    …appropriately remembered via photographs of prisoners in the Gulag.

    Via Sarah Hoyt, who has some thoughts and a comment thread.

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    Posted in History, Leftism, Russia | 17 Comments »

    The Grounding of USS Darter — A Case Study of an Operational Security Disaster

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 29th October 2017 (All posts by )

    The Okinawa campaign in WW2 has often been described as marking the end old style total war. Where “cork screw and blow torch” close combat to the death between American attackers who fought to live and Japanese defenders who died in order to fight played out its last dance.

    Upon closer examination, as this first article in a series planned to run through August 2018 will demonstrate, the Imperial Japanese were a fell World War 2 high tech foe, punching in a weight class above the Soviet Union. In high tech warfare, as in everything else, the Samurai clan dominated Japanese military was smart, driven, capable, and deadly. Their culture was obsessive about doing everything their own way, partly copying, but always obsessive about the Japanese originality of the design. Whether we are looking at the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighter, the 72,000 ton and 18-inch gun armed Yamato Class battleships or the I-8 and I-400 class submarine aircraft carriers.   These innate skills as high tech warriors meant Okinawa was in many ways far better described as a high tech war for the electromagnetic spectrum between peer competitors.

    Point in fact, Okinawa was a “secret radar war” where two opposing command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) sensor networks were directing land, sea and air forces in a series of moves and counter moves. And while the less technologically advanced, and organizationally deficient, Japanese military lost Okinawa proper. It still took advantage of US Navy institutional biases, American inter service rivalries, political weaknesses, US Naval high command unwillingness to learn from “non-approved” sources and most especially its operational security failures to defeat the US Navy’s original plan to overrun the Ryukyu’s.  Denying the American military the Northern Ryukyu air bases it originally sought to cover the proposed Operation Olympic landings.

    The first block in that Japanese Pyrrhic electronic warfare victory at Okinawa was laid at Bombay Shoal, off Palawan in the Philippines. Where the USS Darter sank Japanese Admiral Kurita’s flagship the heavy cruiser IJNS Atago during the greatest naval victory in America’s History, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.  And Japan had its biggest windfall of captured American secret radar documents in World War 2 — and second biggest secret document windfall over all — from Atago’s killer.

    USS Darter (SS-227) grounded on Bombay Shoal off Palawan on 4th patrol, 24 October 1944

    Figure 1: USS Darter (SS-227) grounded on Bombay Shoal off Palawan, the Philippines on 4th patrol, 24 October 1944. The shell holes from a Japanese destroyer, several US Navy submarines, and a Japanese air attack. This included 55 point-blank hits from the 6-inch deck gun of the Nautilus (SS-168) on 31st October 1944.  Unfortunately, Darter was boarded prior to that shelling by an away team from a Japanese destroyer and the entire unburned contents off her classified  technical library were seized for analysis by Imperial Japanese Naval Intelligence. Visible on the top of the conning tower are the undamaged radar, radio and identification friend or foe antenna’s. Photo credit — Navsource.org

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    Posted in History, Military Affairs, National Security, War and Peace | 14 Comments »

    “If we want an intact Iraq, the price of having one without fostering long-term strife across the Middle East is pushing Iran back out of Iraq.”

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th October 2017 (All posts by )

    J.E. Dyer: Turning point: Iran’s influence in Iraq tipping to dominance:

    In 6 years, Iran has dramatically transformed the operational landscape of Mesopotamia and the Levant. For multiple purposes, she now dominates and/or can use territory more than 200 mi. closer to key locations on the Med. coast. She has also built a formidable outpost in Syria and Lebanon.

    A troubling and I suspect accurate analysis. Worth reading in full.

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    Posted in Current Events, History, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, Trump, War and Peace | 29 Comments »

    Josh Blackman: DOJ Shifts Position: “The Government Has Not Conceded That POTUS Is Subject to the Foreign Emoluments Clause”

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

    Excerpt:

    As it stands now, there is absolutely nothing that the Plaintiffs and their Amici have submitted to the court to rebut our position that the President is not bound by the Foreign Emoluments Clause. (The Legal Historians did make such a claim, but subsequently withdrew it.) Count I concerning the Foreign Emoluments Clause must be dismissed.

    FTW

    (Via Seth)

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    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump | Comments Off on Josh Blackman: DOJ Shifts Position: “The Government Has Not Conceded That POTUS Is Subject to the Foreign Emoluments Clause”

    The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Viewed from a Soviet Launch Facility (rerun)

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

    This month marks the 55th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.

    Several years ago,  I read  Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I reviewed here.

    Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.

    At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.

    Chertok was greeted by his friend Colonel Kirillov, who was in charge of this launch facility. Kirollov did not greet Chertok with his usual genial smile, but with a “somber, melancholy expression.”

    Without releasing my hand that I’d extended for our handshake, he quietly said: “Boris Yevseyevich, I have something of urgent importance I must tell you”…We went into his office on the second floor. Here, visibly upset, Kirillov told me: “Last night I was summoned to headquarters to see the chief of the [Tyura-Tam] firing range. The chiefs of the directorates and commanders of the troop units were gathered there. We were told that the firing range must be brought into a state of battle readiness immediately. Due to the events in Cuba, air attacks, bombardment, and even U.S. airborne assaults are possible. All Air Defense Troops assets have already been put into combat readiness. Flights of our transport airplanes are forbidden. All facilities and launch sites have been put under heightened security. Highway transport is drastically restricted. But most important—I received the order to open an envelope that has been stored in a special safe and to act in accordance with its contents. According to the order, I must immediately prepare the duty combat missile at the engineering facility and mate the warhead located in a special depot, roll the missile out to the launch site, position it, test it, fuel it, aim it, and wait for a special launch command. All of this has already been executed at Site No. 31. I have also given all the necessary commands here at Site No. 2. Therefore, the crews have been removed from the Mars shot and shifted over to preparation of the combat missile. The nosecone and warhead will be delivered here in 2 hours.
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    Posted in Book Notes, Cuba, History, Russia, Space, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Culture, Innovation, Victory, and Defeat

    Posted by David Foster on 21st October 2017 (All posts by )

    (Today being Trafalgar Day, it seems like a good time to rerun this post)

    In 1797, a Spanish naval official named Don Domingo Perez de Grandallana, wrote a thoughtful document on the general subject “why do we keep losing to the British, and what can we do about it?”  His thoughts were inspired by his observations while with the Spanish fleet off Cape St Vincent,  in a battle which was a significant defeat for Spain, and are relevant to a question which is very relevant to us today:

    What attributes of an organization make it possible for that organization to accomplish its mission in an environment of uncertainty, rapid change, and high stress?

    Here are de Grandallana’s key points:

    An Englishman enters a naval action with the firm conviction that his duty is to hurt his enemies and help his friends and allies without looking out for directions in the midst of the fight; and while he thus clears his mind of all subsidiary distractions, he rests in confidence on the certainty that his comrades, actuated by the same principles as himself, will be bound by the sacred and priceless principle of mutual support.

    Accordingly, both he and his fellows fix their minds on acting with zeal and judgement upon the spur of the moment, and with the certainty that they will not be deserted. Experience shows, on the contrary, that a Frenchman or a Spaniard, working under a system which leans to formality and strict order being maintained in battle, has no feeling for mutual support, and goes into battle with hesitation, preoccupied with the anxiety of seeing or hearing the commander-in-chief’s signals for such and such manoeures…

    Thus they can never make up their minds to seize any favourable opportunity that may present itself. They are fettered by the strict rule to keep station which is enforced upon then in both navies, and the usual result is that in one place ten of their ships may be firing on four, while in another four of their comrades may be receiving the fire of ten of the enemy. Worst of all they are denied the confidence inspired by mutual support, which is as surely maintained by the English as it is neglected by us, who will not learn from them.

    The quote is from Seize the Fire, by Adam Nicholson.

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    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Human Behavior, Management, Military Affairs, Society, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Good Lawyers & Good Books: My Personal Difficulties During the Recent Hamilton-Signatures Dispute

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

    These five experts did a very brave thing. They knowingly took on the cause of historical truth in spite of the fact that a social media mob had already descended on me, and in spite of the fact that they don’t (as far as I know) have any particular love for the administration. (Indeed, one of them loathes the President, but nevertheless took on this project because it was the right thing to do.) They have all written extensively on Hamilton, the Constitution, the Founding Era, and/or the Early Republic. As a personal favor to me, and if you value what has been accomplished to date, I would ask you to buy their books. If you cannot buy a book or two, please ask your local library or university library to do so. Of course, cite to their publications in your articles and elsewhere. That’s a valuable thing too. If you want honesty in our courts, in legal practice, and in the wider intellectual marketplace of ideas, then honest researchers have to be able to make a living. So if you can, help.

    Read the whole thing.

    Seth is gracious to people who helped him. He deserves great credit for his original and important scholarship, and for standing firm in the face of scurrilous personal attacks

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    Posted in History, Law, Trump | 3 Comments »