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  • Archive for June, 2006

    Pundits as Foxes or Merely as Partisans

    Posted by Ginny on 7th June 2006 (All posts by )

    Isaiah Berlin’s contrast of the hedgehog & the fox is widely applicable, though I’m not sure it works as well as Philip E. Tetlock does when he applies it to pundits. He is, however, quite correct in his assumption that A) being extreme is likely to be more often wrong, and, B) also more interesting. Partisan pundits (or ones with a fixed idea) are seldom broad, deep, historical thinkers but rather hyperbolic, emotional ones.

    He is also right, few are asked to compare their prognostications with what actually came to pass. While our politicians, rightly, are held accountable for assessments and predictions of years ago, the pundits doing the critiques are seldom confronted with their unfulfilled prophesies of even a few months.

    Of course, bloggers, with access to a variety of search engines and a keen sense of competition with the “old” media, sometimes entertain themselves with just these discrepancies, but our imaginations prefer broad & graspable generalization rather than more ambiguous modified ones.

    This is discussed in more length in Tetlock’s Expert Political Judgment: How good is it? How can we know? (Thanks to A&L.)

    Posted in Media | 3 Comments »

    D Day, June 6, 1944

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 6th June 2006 (All posts by )

    I can remember the sky being full of aeroplanes pulling gliders, there were hundreds of them. The father of one of my friends was in the Army and she said ‘My dad is up there in one of those’, and we all started waving scarves, hats and hands and shouting ‘cherio Dad’ to all the planes as they flew very low over Watford. To most of us it didn’t mean very much to see all the planes up there. But the next week Kathleen came to school and said her father had been killed that day.

    National D Day Museum.

    The National D Day Memorial Foundation.

    The D Day Museum, Portsmouth, England.

    Travel Guide to D Day sites in France.

    Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Wild Animals, Confused People

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th June 2006 (All posts by )

    Some people seem to be unclear about their priorities.

    See also many links here.

    Posted in Society | 15 Comments »

    Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near

    Posted by James McCormick on 5th June 2006 (All posts by )

    Kurzweil, Ray, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, Viking, 2005, 672 pp.

    [cross-posted on Albion’s Seedlings]

    Every twelve to eighteen months, according to the common interpretation of Moore’s Law, the performance of our computers (measured against a fixed cost) doubles. It has done so for decades, and shows every indication of continuing for decades more. In the early 90s, chess grandmaster Kasparov disparaged computer chess programs. Yet a few years later, in 1997, Deep Blue (a fearsomely specialized computer built by IBM, running 256 customized modules) beat Kasparov. Five years later, Deep Fritz (running on eight ordinary networked personal computers) reached a draw with the then reigning grandmaster, Vladimir Kramnik. Sometime within the next few years, software running on ordinary PCs will reach a chess ranking of “2800,” and effectively pass all human players for good. For decades, during the early development of computers, the dream of a chess-playing program was seen as a fantasy or delusion. But the people watching the development of such programs, in tandem with the changes in information technology and material science, were actually watching two different curves and predicting two different futures.


    On the left, the linear progress of chess programs appeared pathetic for decades, but then suddenly the machines began beating novice and then mid-level players. As the “knee” of the development curve was reached, progress shifted from pathetic to awesome in a relative eye blink. Mapping development on a logarithmic plot during those bleak decades, however, such progress was both predictable and apparently inevitable. Computing pioneer Ray Kurzweil has spent the last four decades thinking about the implications of such logarithmic curves across the fields of computation, science, and economic development and developed a general Law of Accelerating Returns. Readers of Jim Bennett’s Anglosphere Challenge will recognize the significance of exponential development on the Anglosphere’s relative advantage in coping with rapid change. Kurzweil has now created a comprehensive presentation of the Singularity concept that is revolutionary in its implications and central to thinking about the Anglosphere.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 14 Comments »

    Sony’s Poor Awful Customer Service

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th June 2006 (All posts by )

    I have updated my earlier post to include latest developments, which are not satisfying.

    I suppose that some number of 2.5-week repair cycles from now I will have a camera that functions as it should. However, that’s small consolation for my missing a number of occasions of the type that in part I bought the camera to record, that are now slipping by. Of course I will use film instead, but film cameras can’t do video, and the renewed prospect of hours of drudgery to scan a few rolls of film is discouraging.

    BTW, googling “Sony customer service” yields many pungent links, including one to a complaint that says Sony’s customer support “sucks so much it will sap your will to live.” That seems about right.

    Posted in Customer Service | 9 Comments »

    Jihad and Miami Vice

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 4th June 2006 (All posts by )

    I was working the night shift at police HQ back in 1991 when they brought in a Japanese national to be fingerprinted.

    He had entered the country a few days before in Hawaii and immediately boarded a plane for Los Angeles. Once there he rented a car and made a marathon drive across the continental United States to my home town in Columbus, Ohio. Besides a hundred pounds of illegal drugs there were two suitcases full of cash in the trunk. The money was startup capitol earmarked to recruit a Columbus gang or two, the drugs merely a sample of the product that the locals would be expected to sell every month if they went international and joined the organization.

    Anybody out there watch Japanese detective movies? Then you know the stereotype of a Yakuza gangster. This guy was all that and more. Tattoos galore and a few fingers shy of a full set. He claimed to know no English but he followed every command given while he was processed. (“Turn left. Turn right. Face front. Give me your right thumb.”) He certainly knew his Miranda rights since the only thing we got from him was a whole lot of nothing. Must have learned that from American detective shows that he watched back in Japan.

    We got our own little Yak invasion in the Midwest because law enforcement had made great strides since the freewheeling Miami Vice days of untouchable drug cartels and flamboyant kingpins. Gangs had been infiltrated, smuggling routes closed off, and people had been arrested. The criminals were desperate to find a safe haven, an area where the cops were so ignorant of how the big volume drug trade worked that it would be business as usual right under their noses. The reason the criminals were getting caught no matter where they went was due to that fact that US law enforcement was smart enough to hound them mercilessly and deny them that haven.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Law Enforcement | 5 Comments »

    In Which I Repent

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 3rd June 2006 (All posts by )

    — of my delay in purchasing and reading David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, which I am now devouring.
    My apologies to 1) Lex; 2) anybody else on this blog; 3) anybody else in the blogosphere; and 4) anybody else anywhere over the past 17 years since its publication who has urged it upon me. Albion’s Seed is overwhelming. The pattern of cultural and linguistic influences in my own life — mostly Quaker/Delaware Valley, with a large (and thankfully benign) admixture of Border/Backcountry, and perhaps traces of the others (thanks to being born and mostly raised in Missouri, where worlds collide) — has shaped my political temperament, if not my specific beliefs; I’m a mild-mannered, moderate, quasi-anarchist.
    But you don’t graze in here to read about me (if you do: for God’s sake, get a life*). The real lesson of the book, although I imagine many of its readers will enjoy developing a greater insight into their personal backgrounds at least as much as I did, is about how much of present-day American political culture is directly traceable to the four founding migrations from the UK in the 17th and 18th centuries. From the luridly ascetic authoritarianism of the Puritans, the luridly hedonistic authoritarianism of the Cavaliers, the relatively sane (but deeply sexually repressed) “reciprocal liberty” of the Quakers, and the fantastically violent impulsiveness of the Borderlands colonists came everything from the high taxes and gun control laws of Massachusetts to the 80 mph Texas speed limit and 40-per-100,000 murder rate in south Dallas.
    Nor, I might mention, does Fischer stop at 1600. The four cultures themselves grew out of far earlier (first millennium) migrations to Britain itself, and from conflicts which had raged for several centuries before Jamestown, Plymouth Rock, et al. Antecedents may be seen in, among others, the kingdom of Alfred the Great — and the Nordic invaders he pacified; and if you try to guess which set of folkways would seem more congenial in early-21st-century America, you’ll probably guess wrong.
    This one earns a place of honor on my bookshelf next to GENERATIONS and The Nine Nations of North America. By way of reparation, therefore: Lex, barbecue’s on me if you’re ever in KC. The rest of you are on your own.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere | 6 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 3rd June 2006 (All posts by )

    If America is to accommodate the strong population and economic growth that lies in our near future, and still remain a highly mobile society, innovative thinking will be necessary. We must get beyond the notion of some mythical golden age. Forcing people to march back to an idealized early twentieth century pattern of dense, transit-dependent urbanity is not the solution.

    Ultimately, our goal as a nation should be to create a more mobile society, one that allows ever greater choices for people to live how they wish, whether in a dense city, a decentralized suburb, the countryside, or some hybrid. Today, a false dichotomy is being foisted on the public which suggests their only options are either long highway commutes from anonymous exurbs, or being packed together in dense developments next to mass transit stations. Those are not choices we have to be limited to—if we will show the courage to say no to those who wish to drive us relentlessly back to a vanished past.

    Joel Kotkin

    Posted in Society | 3 Comments »

    Iowahawk – The Master

    Posted by Ginny on 2nd June 2006 (All posts by )

    Iowahawk uses his Midwestern sensibility – wonderful, witty, wise – on the blogosphere & academia: “The Two Minute Snark.”

    Posted in Humor | 1 Comment »

    Friday Cat-blogging

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 2nd June 2006 (All posts by )

    For Sisu, who has complete mastery of this art.

    The squirmin' vermin himself

    You can't suck your thumb if you don't have one, idiot!
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    Photos from the Pacific War

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd June 2006 (All posts by )

    I neglected to post this in time for Memorial Day but I think it will still be interesting.

    The photos are here.

    I know nothing about them beyond what’s written in the brief explanation that appears at the top of the gallery. However, most of the images are self-explanatory.

    Posted in History | 1 Comment »

    Will An Open Marketplace Produce Consensus?

    Posted by Ginny on 1st June 2006 (All posts by )

    Many in this blog’s neighborhood are upset with Bush – the deficits, insufficient troops in Iraq, his immigration proposals. They are unlikely to find most Democratic positions attractive. Nor do many serious & long-time Democrats always like the choices they are offered or the issues on which those candidates intend to run. Congress’s poll numbers are as dismal as (and often worse than) Bush’s, indicating dissatisfaction with not only the President as spokesman for one party but both parties in general. Certainly, we often feel (as in the rather disproportionate shock at the search of Jefferson’s office versus at the length of time during which Jefferson ignored a subpoena) Congressional interests are more in their perqs than responsibilities. And we often feel we are watching grandstanding rather than problem solving.

    Fertile ground for a third party, as Instapundit notes. And so “Unity 08″, described by its founders, Hamilton Jordan and Doug Bailey, on Lehrer, hopes to meet that need. Its breadth & openness is breathtaking.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Politics | 5 Comments »

    The early stages of regulatory capture

    Posted by ken on 1st June 2006 (All posts by )

    It’s just a request for now…

    Leading Internet companies “requested” to keep histories of the activities of Web users for up to two years.

    The interesting thing is that none of this is being dressed up as a way to protect consumers from rapacious vendors. It’s explicitly meant as a way to thwart the possible nefarious designs of the consumers themselves. But it’ll all add up to the raising of barriers to entry, oligopolistic behavior, higher prices, worse service, and all the rest that we’ve come to expect from, well, just about every industry outside of IT where regulatory capture is firmly entrenched.

    Oh yeah, and remember how the Internet was supposed to make the “old media” obsolete and allow ordinary people to route around the old behemoths and get content that they weren’t willing to provide? Get a few laws in concerning who is and isn’t allowed to set up ISP’s and a laundry list of expensive requirements that all ISP’s must follow, and kiss that Internet revolution goodbye. The Old Guard will use those regulations to extend the same stranglehold on Internet media that it has today on other media.

    But it’s supposed to be a great way to combat the gravest threat facing America today. And also to stop radical Muslims from blowing things up.

    Posted in Predictions | 1 Comment »

    If you outlaw uranium

    Posted by ken on 1st June 2006 (All posts by )

    If you outlaw uranium, then only outlaws will have uranium. And they’ll use it to make bombs. That’s just a matter of time no matter what we do, unless we achieve complete long-term technological stagnation.

    If you let ordinary law-abiding folk have it, they’ll find much better uses for it. Especially after a few of them have experimented with it for a while. Some of those uses will end up making it much easier to survive the inevitable advent of nutcases with nuclear weapons. (Not to mention plagues, natural disasters, and global climate change). And, of course, all of them will add up to lots more liberty and wealth for everyone, which is always worth a certain amount of risk.

    Posted in Libertarianism | 2 Comments »

    1 June 1941: The Attack on Iraq’s Jews

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st June 2006 (All posts by )

    65 years ago today. (Additional commentary here.)

    (via Rachel)

    Posted in Iraq | 1 Comment »

    So, How Would You Teach a Course on World War I?

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 1st June 2006 (All posts by )

    A friend teaches at a State University. He is going to be teaching a one credit course on World War I, which he has never taught before. He described his students as moderately smart but not very knowledgeable about history. He plans to use All Quiet On the Western Front as his main text and a bunch of articles and excerpts, plus lectures. I offered my thoughts about how I would teach such a course. Since our readers seem to like posts which recommend books, I thought this might be of interest.

    A course on World War I taught to moderately intelligent undergraduates, using All Quiet on the Western Front, and some short articles or excerpts for the rest of the readings, could be done very nicely. Even a very limited intro to WWI will do any kid a lot of good. You cannot understand the modern world without understanding something about WWI.

    A number of thoughts spring to mind, especially Lord Acton’s timeless dictum, “study problems, not periods”. So, World War I should be taught as a tangle of problems within a framework of known facts (names, dates, locations and events, which WILL be on the test). Assuming twelve classes, here is my seat of the pants take on what I would do. Further mulling would of course lead to revisions, but this is what occurs to me.

    The comment you made about the war, which I agree with absolutely, would be the theme of the class: This is where it all went wrong.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, War and Peace | 41 Comments »