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  • Archive for September, 2007

    Wikipedia: The Definitive Critique

    Posted by Jonathan on 15th September 2007 (All posts by )

    I once wrote a ponderous blog post about Wikipedia’s flaws. Now I learn that there is a famous Onion article that makes my points in a much more amusing way. Enjoy.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Humor | 5 Comments »

    Local Governments vs Industry

    Posted by David Foster on 14th September 2007 (All posts by )

    Here’s an article about the attempt of Waukegan (IL) to drive out two companies that have been there for years: National Gypsum, which operates a wallboard plant, and Lafarge, which has a cement distribution center. The city wants to use the lakefront property for condos, restaurants, boating, and boutiques. It is attempting to use legislation to bar commercial vessels from the harbor, thereby cutting off NG’s source of supply and forcing it to close.

    Steve Rogers, who manages the plant, points out that the workers are “not going to get an $18- to $20-an-hour job making mocha frappuccinos” if they lose their jobs at NG.

    Most likely, the people pushing the redevelopment are very concerned about “working people” and are supportive of keeping manufacturing in the US. In theory.

    This article reminded me of a post I did a couple of years ago regarding similar events in Seattle.

    More at ShopFloor.org, including a link to an interesting video titled Made in Berkeley… apparently, artists and light industries have found common ground in the zoning wars of that city.

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Politics, Society | 8 Comments »

    A Great Journalist / Writer – Michael Lewis

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 13th September 2007 (All posts by )

    Recently on my travels to and from San Diego I had a few hours of uninterrupted time and I chose to read some interesting paperbacks. I usually pick something like a business book or a military history book but this time I decided to liven it up a bit and pick two books by Michael Lewis, one titled “Moneyball” about baseball and “The Blind Side” about football.

    I remembered Michael Lewis from reading “Liar’s Poker” in the 90’s about Salomon Brothers, the famous trading firm. The name of the book was from a game that traders would play involving betting on the digits on US currencies, a game that could be played for big stakes.

    Liar’s Poker is a fascinating book about a period of time when Salomon was essentially the “king of the world” to borrow a phrase from the highest grossing movie ever. If you are interested in what is happening in the sub-prime market with collateralized debt obligations (CDO’s) or the “securitization” of debt this is a great place to start since Salomon basically invented and popularized the practice for home mortgages.

    One interesting element of the book is that Michael Lewis actually was a bond salesman in real life, and this enabled his book to be far more “real” than it would be if written in an interview type format. This was his first book; I think at the time he started out planning to get into finance and then decided to write a book; in retrospect you could also see him going into this business as a writing opportunity. To contrast this with other journalists that we take swipes at from time to time, Lewis clearly understood his material as only a true “insider” could.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Business, Sports, The Press | 7 Comments »

    Who Attacked Us?

    Posted by Shannon Love on 12th September 2007 (All posts by )

    I find it revealing how we project our own prejudices on others, assuming that they think the way we do. From the Washington Post:

    They attacked us,” he says as the screen turns to an image of the second hijacked airplane heading toward the smoking World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. “And they will again. They won’t stop in Iraq.”

    Every investigation has shown that Iraq did not, in fact, have anything to do with the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Of course, the WP assumes that the solider used Iraqis as the unstated antecedent of “they” when, in context, a soldier fighting in Anbar almost certainly intended Al-Qaeda as the antecedent.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iraq, Media, Terrorism | 40 Comments »

    Shana Tova

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th September 2007 (All posts by )

    Best wishes for a sweet and good year to my friends, colleagues and fellow Internutians.


     

    Posted in Announcements | 24 Comments »

    9/11

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th September 2007 (All posts by )

    What can I add to other people’s eloquent writings on this topic.

    I was not surprised by the attack. I had been expecting WMD terrorism for years. I expect more of it. I am grateful that President Bush, instead of sending the FBI to Pakistan to take depositions, understood immediately that we were in a world war. IMO this was his defining act as president, from which everything else followed. If he had handled things differently then we might be in a much worse position now and for years to come.

    What surprises me is how quickly so many Americans have decided to put the 9/11 attack, the war and concerns about WMD terrorism behind them. We are probably safer now than we were immediately before 9/11. But we will probably remain a target because technology that can be used to make WMD is probably only going to become more widely available.

    Time will tell. In the meantime I want us to keep killing our enemies, to discourage attacks and to discourage other groups and countries from becoming our enemies.

    I invite discussion in the comments.

    UPDATE: David Foster has a related post here. See also here.

    Posted in National Security, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 12 Comments »

    How can you people not appreciate my genius?

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th September 2007 (All posts by )

    Quick! Get Bertrand Russell, Linus Pauling and this guy and put them in a room together so they can solve the world’s problems.

    There are reasons why people like this fellow are not running the country. “Everyone else is stupid” is not one of those reasons.

    The interview is a good illustration of a life principle: most people, even very smart people, have limited competence in areas outside of their primary area of expertise (typically, what they do for a living). Usually, the farther afield they go, the less they know. Wiser people understand this. Some extremely smart, accomplished people do not. There is a lot of wisdom in William F. Buckley’s famous quip about how he would rather be governed by random people selected from the Boston telephone directory than by Harvard faculty members.

    Posted in Academia, Predictions | 31 Comments »

    “Not helpful”

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th September 2007 (All posts by )

    That’s what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said when pressed to comment on MoveOn.org’s despicable “Betray Us” ad in the NYT.

    On the contrary, I think the ad was very helpful, since it makes crystal-clear its sponsors’ position on the war and on their country. Of course this kind of clarity is not politically helpful for today’s Democratic Party.

    Posted in National Security, Politics, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Saving Lives with Global Warming

    Posted by Shannon Love on 10th September 2007 (All posts by )

    Bjorn Lomborg explains how overall warmer weather from anthrogenic global warming will save lives.

    Posted in Schedules | 10 Comments »

    Predicting Technology

    Posted by Shannon Love on 10th September 2007 (All posts by )

    In an excellent report from Iraq, Michael J. Totten reports that:

    “To get paid by AQI for killing Americans,” Lieutenant Hightower said, “the attack must be videotaped. They often used tracer rounds so they could prove it was real. We found whole piles of these tapes when we cleaned the city out. We found and killed a sniper just northeast of the city. He had all kinds of video tapes of himself shooting and killing American soldiers.”

    Do you think that anyone who worked on developing compact, inexpensive video cameras ever imagined they would play a pivotal role in a major military conflict? Do you think they ever imagined that villains would use their creations to manage a small but powerful ad hoc army of mercenaries?

    People who think they can predict the course and effects of technology, like advocates of anthrogenic global warming, delude themselves.

    Posted in Tech | 6 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th September 2007 (All posts by )

    We are so self-congratulatory about our officially disarmed society, and so dismissive of colonial rednecks, that we have forgotten that within living memory British citizens could buy any gun – rifle, pistol, or machinegun – without any licence. When Dr Watson walked the streets of London with a revolver in his pocket, he was a perfectly ordinary Victorian or Edwardian. Charlotte Brontë recalled that her curate father fastened his watch and pocketed his pistol every morning when he got dressed; Beatrix Potter remarked on a Yorkshire country hotel where only one of the eight or nine guests was not carrying a revolver; in 1909, policemen in Tottenham borrowed at least four pistols from passers-by (and were joined by other armed citizens) when they set off in pursuit of two anarchists unwise enough to attempt an armed robbery. We now are shocked that so many ordinary people should have been carrying guns in the street; the Edwardians were shocked rather by the idea of an armed robbery.

    Richard Munday in The Times

    Posted in Britain, History, RKBA | 17 Comments »

    “The Victorians Were Supermen”

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th September 2007 (All posts by )

    That was Lex’s reaction to this photo:


    Chapper Rift Baluchistan

    Fred Bremner, Quetta/Karachi

     
    Click the photo to see it at larger size with historical information.
     
    More photos and information here.
     
    UPDATE: Much more info about the bridge and railway line here (courtesy of Lex). Also, see the comments for some juicy book references.
     
    UPDATE 2: Via Tim Worstall comes this fascinating story about railway construction across the Andes. (Check out the rest of the railway history site too.)
     

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, History, India, Photos | 32 Comments »

    What Year is This?

    Posted by David Foster on 7th September 2007 (All posts by )

    …because it increasingly seems that the first 3 digits must be one, nine, and three.

    Denis MacShane, a British member of Parliament, writes:

    Hatred of Jews has reached new heights in Europe and many points south and east of the old continent. Last year I chaired a blue-ribbon committee of British parliamentarians, including former ministers and a party leader, that examined the problem of anti-Semitism in Britain…Our report showed a pattern of fear among a small number of British citizens — there are around 300,000 Jews in Britain, of whom about a third are observant — that is not acceptable in a modern democracy. Synagogues attacked. Jewish schoolboys jostled on public transportation. Rabbis punched and knifed. British Jews feeling compelled to raise millions to provide private security for their weddings and community events. On campuses, militant anti-Jewish students fueled by Islamist or far-left hate seeking to prevent Jewish students from expressing their opinions.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Israel, Judaism, Leftism | 15 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th September 2007 (All posts by )

    Others make the mistake of endlessly re-fighting the past six years – who let al-Qaida grow?; who “lost” Osama bin Laden?; who fouled up postwar Iraq? – instead of concentrating on the storm ahead.
     
    Before 2001, the excuse for American complacence and in-fighting was naivete. But what will be the reason for the next successful strike against us by the jihadists?

    Victor Davis Hanson

    Posted in National Security, Predictions, Terrorism | 1 Comment »

    NY Times Fact Checkers Take a Nap, Incident#23,436

    Posted by Shannon Love on 6th September 2007 (All posts by )

    In an article on international productivity, the New York Times describes France’s reformist president Nicolas Sarkozy thusly:

    France, where President Nicolas Sarkozy has pushed for a reduction in the workweek to an average of 35 hours…

    Every other news story on the subject describes Sarkozy as a critic of the 35-hour work week who seeks to provide loopholes to allow workers to evade the work cap.

    Even the NY Times’s own reports say so:

    Although he provided few details, Mr. Sarkozy indicated that he would push for additional cuts in payroll taxes and ways to encourage people to work beyond the statutory 35-hour workweek.

    This is a minor error. Yet, when you think of the sheer volume of the NYT’s reporting and its disproportionate impact on public debate, a minor error every story or two really adds up.

    Posted in Media | 9 Comments »

    Photo

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 5th September 2007 (All posts by )

    Chicagoboyz celebrate diversity.

    Click photo for large version if you are interested. Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Humor, Photos, RKBA | 12 Comments »

    What?

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th September 2007 (All posts by )


    Why?

     

    Posted in Humor, Photos, Politics | 12 Comments »

    Sykes — Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots …

    Posted by James McCormick on 3rd September 2007 (All posts by )

    Sykes, Bryan, Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland, Norton: New York, 2006. 306 pp. [published as The Blood of the Isles in the UK]

    Oxford University professor of human genetics, Bryan Sykes, follows up his best-selling popular books on recent European DNA studies with a book specifically about the “Isles” — England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Casting a wide but useful net, he provides a grounding not only in the geography, climate history and human prehistory of the two islands … but describes the mythology about, and early scientific investigations into, the origins of the people there. These are far from just academic preoccupations. In past centuries, English kings made their claims for sovereignty based on tales of Trojan settlers and Arthurian prowess. Every medieval commentary and discovery was followed with intense royal interest. Well into the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the rights of kings were linked to ancient origins. Not surprisingly, later Victorian efforts at phrenological and morphological interpretation of the island’s peoples (the shape of their skulls and features of their bodies) comes in for some hard knocks in this book. But Sykes gives those pioneer scientists full points for effort, thoroughness, and a methodical approach. Their efforts might now be dashed upon the rocks of genetic information, but their tables, charts, line drawings and descriptions of hair colour, skin tone, and body shape across the British Isles reflect the sincere interest of generations past, attempting to answer the question “who are we?”. In many ways, Professor Sykes continues their efforts.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, History, Science | 7 Comments »

    Securities Analysis and the Housing Bubble

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 3rd September 2007 (All posts by )

    In the general field of securities analysis (predicting stock prices) there are two basic schools of thought, fundamental analysis and technical analysis. Fundamental analysis can be summarized as saying that stocks are worth a price based on their financial statements and that investors can profit by deeply understanding the details of said information. Benjamin Graham with his book “Securities Analysis” is an example of a fundamental approach to stock valuation.

    On the other hand, a different school of thought belongs to the technical analysis camp, which states that stock prices have patterns and can be bought or sold for profit based on these patterns. Technical analysts frequently chart stocks and are responsible for the myriad types of charts available at any financial web site (such as Yahoo!) including “Bollinger Bands” and the like.

    Without going into the relative validity of both theories (an endless topic in and of itself) I will glibly summarize the two models as “buy it because your detailed financial analysis says it will go up in value” vs. “buy it because it has been going up and other items similar to it are going up in price”.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 3 Comments »

    September 1939

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd September 2007 (All posts by )

    On September 1, 1939, Germany launched a massive assault on Poland, thereby igniting the Second World War.

    Britain and France were both bound by treaty to come to Poland’s assistance. On September 2, Neville Chamberlain’s government sent a message to Germany proposing that hostilities should cease and that there should be an immediate conference among Britain, France, Poland, Germany, and Italy..and that the British government would be bound to take action unless German forces were withdrawn from Poland. “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.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Europe, Germany, History, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Michael Lewis on Disaster-Risk Trading

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st September 2007 (All posts by )

    This is an interesting and entertaining article, a bit long but worth reading. I’m not sure that Lewis completely understands some of the concepts here (or maybe I don’t understand them), and I think that he overpersonalizes his discussion by framing it as a narrative about mostly one person, which I suppose comes with the territory in journalism. It’s still quite a good article, however.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, New Orleans Tragedy, Predictions | 8 Comments »