Obama and the Muslim World

Jim Miller nails it:

But all these — and many more practical objections — are small considering the grandiose stupidity of his central idea, that our differences with radical Muslims can be worked out in an “honest discussion”. A significant minority in the Muslim world does not want to talk to us, but wants us to submit and, preferably, convert. Most Muslims do not want that, but most Muslims are not our problem. Our strategy must be to separate the radicals from the moderates, not to unite all Muslims to demand things from us.

(See also this post.)

Left and Right both err fundamentally by treating Muslims as monolithic. The Left imagines a harmonious Islam that the West has offended and should now appease. The Right is concerned about a monolithically hostile Islam that the West must defend itself against. In fact there are all kinds of Muslims, many of whom are friendly to the West, many of whom are part of the West. If our leaders don’t understand the important distinctions between Muslims then we will have great difficulty in responding effectively to events in the Muslim world.

Obama’s statements on foreign affairs reveal both foolishness and arrogance. Foolishness because appeasement as a strategy is never effective against committed enemies. Arrogance because it’s not all about us: there is big change underway in the Muslim world, it’s been going on for decades, and while we are now deeply involved and have a lot of power and influence, we didn’t start it. At best we can protect ourselves and help reasonable Muslims to prevail over the killers. But to do that effectively we need to draw clear distinctions between good guys and bad.

The Jonathan Corollary

This started out as an email to Jonathan, but I think morphed into something that is post worthy.

 A few days ago Jonathan proposed Angie’s Law, and along with it the Jonathan Corollary.  As a reminder, the Jonathan Corollary is put forth thusly:

People who argue a political point by telling me to read an article or book that they link to are generally not worth arguing with.

 That is pretty wise.  Today I see a related post at Althouse, where a 911 “truther” challenges Ms. Althouse to a debate and she says to get Bill Clinton to debate you instead.  Pretty funny.

 Even better is a comment in the thread from one Simon, and it could very well be considered the quote of the day:

Lookit, just because someone has a right to believe something unbelievably uneducated that flies in the face of physical laws doesn’t mean that they deserve the dignity of being treated like their loony idea is worth taking seriously enough to debate. That’s something these 9/11 “truth” folks – as, with unbearable arrogance, they term themselves – need to realize. They’re like flat earthers demanding that intelligent people meet them on the field of debate – or the High School football team from nowhere, KS, who demand that the New England Patriots are clearly an inferior football team since they won’t come out to Kansas to prove that they’re better. (bold mine – dfm).

Turning the Sow’s Ear into a Silk Purse

Lately I’ve been struggling with the concept of “educated beyond one’s intelligence”. Testing and education is supposed to separate the meritorious from the masses. Unfortunately, education serves only to cut off the very bottom, obviously inept cohort, but seems to have less ability to separate truly good people from mediocre intellects and fakers. This has direct implications beyond Academia, as David Foster pointed out when he noted the reliance of businesses on paper trail rather than accomplishments as a means of filtering potential new hires.

I’m now starting to construct a mental model for why education seems to be failing at this central task, and a few terms spring immediately to mind.

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Obama’s Achilles Heel?

Coming up as he did in Chicago’s notoriously, ah, shall we say, “creative” political machine, one does have to wonder if the Rezko association is the only possible source of scandal lurking in Obama’s past or present.

I get the distinct impression that the media and even his Democratic opponents haven’t looked as closely into the potential for scandal as they might have for another candidate. Do any Chicagoboyz with more immediate experience with Chicago politics have any more insight into this?

P.J. O’Rourke on the Daily Show

Viacom put the entire archive of Daily Show with Jon Stewart online last October. I haven’t seen many bloggers mention this, and no conservative blogger, so at least part of our readers may not heard about this yet. The Daily Show may be a bit too liberal for the taste of most Chicago Boyz contributors and readers, but there is a lot of good stuff there.

For example, there is this clip of P.J. O’Rourke presenting his new book, On the Wealth of Nations. O’Rourke has done something many eminent economists never managed or got around to, he worked his way through Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, or ‘The Wealth of Nations’, as it is more commonly called. And O’Rourke actually managed to get such a good grasp on this difficult subject matter that he was able to write a book of his own that makes it accessible to the general public.

The book is highly recommend, an excerpt from the first chapter can be found here.

(The first link to the Daily Show leads to the index page there, but it directly leads to the clip with P.J. O’Rourke, too, at least when I click on it).

Urban Archaeology: The Detroit Public Schools Book Depository

A beautiful and interesting photo set with an explanatory blog post.

A lot of the commenters on the photos infer sad or even tragic meanings from them. I’m not so negative. Sometimes a ruin is just a ruin, and at least the warehouse can be partially recycled as an art object before it is ultimately razed and replaced by something else. It isn’t the Parthenon or even Aerojet, merely a decrepit warehouse owned by an inept municipal bureaucracy. It fits into the bigger story of Detroit’s many abandoned buildings, which is a story that interests the person who made the photos, but that is not a story that can be understood merely by looking at photos. But they certainly are nice photos.

(via John Brownlow)

Quote of the Day

So conservatives “might” have had a point about the Clintons’ character? The Clintons “seem” to have a feeling of entitlement to power? I should say so. What conservatives saw in the Clintons wasn’t based on any remarkable and hard-to-discern insights. After all, the Clintons’ character problems were not being hidden from public view; they were, in fact, out there for all to see, often flashing in bright neon lights. Yet people like Chait were, for political and ideological reasons, blinded to the ruthlessness and corruption of the Clinton Machine. Now that the Clintons are using their tactics on an inspiring liberal figure like Barack Obama, the scales are suddenly falling from their eyes. We are now seeing the zeal of the recent converts in action.
Better late than never, I suppose.

Peter Wehner


I think it’s great that many Democrats are coming to see the Clintons as Clinton opponents do. However, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, the people who now complain about the Clintons’ tactics will almost certainly rally behind her against the Republican candidate. Why wouldn’t they? Republicans will rally behind John McCain if he is nominated, even though many Republicans despise him.

New Orleans Bleg

When my wife and I were planning our wedding 13 years ago we reached the point where it started to get hairy.  You know what I mean…where is so and so going to sit, what color will the linens be, who will do the toast at the reception, etc, etc, etc.

 I will give you the very short version of the ending – the planning process started to involve way too many people and quickly spiraled out of control.  I remember to this day sitting on the couch in our apartment (yes, we lived in sin!) and saying to my fiance at the time, still my wife to this day the following:

Do you want to get the heck out of here and elope to New Orleans?

 The answer was an enthusiastic YES.

And so we did.  That was back in 1995.

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Some cool, flash based physics engines

Physics engines simulate physical processes in a more or less realistic way. Simulations that come up with results that are accurate enough for research purposes aren’t available in real-time yet, but faster computers and specialized hardware for just this purpose should make that possible in the near future.

These two flash based ones are two-dimensional and work in real-time, but results are certainly realistic enough for what they are supposed to do:

This one is especially cool, draw some shapes with your mouse and watch them fall and interact with each other. You can also errect simple structures on the ground and combine them to gte larger buildings.

This is one I had found a while ago via Reddit.com. It offers demonstrations of bridges, rag doll physics, compound shapes as well as simple engines and mechanisms.

I simply can’t wait for the three-dimensional versions that are sure to follow.

Classy, dear Rupert, real classy

Ike Turner died last December. Besides being famous as a Rock ‘n’ roll musician, Turner also was notorious for the physical abuse of his ex-wife Tina.

So what kind of headline does the New York Post go for? The headline in the worst possible taste, of course:


The bar for tabloids is set at a subterranean level anyhow, but the New York Post dug right under it with ease.

Quote of the Day

Technological advances, from the light bulb and telephone, to the car and airplane, to the transistor and internet, are discontinuities from life as previously known. So are penicillin, the C-section, Lipitor and MRI’s. So are innovations like the corporate org chart, capital and expense accounting, the experience curve, and consumer marketing. All these innovations constitute the infrastructure of wealth and longevity.
Within the general trend of increased global wealth and longevity are periods of decidedly negative impact as well. The Black Death of 1348 wiped out half of Europe, the 1918 influenza epidemic killed 30 million people, and World War II reduced the earth’s population by 2.5%. Mao and Stalin also killed tens of millions of their people. There have periods of economic death as well. The 75 years of the USSR’s existence comes to mind, and of course the Great Crash, when the Dow Jones Industrials went from 299 to 41, and a quarter of America went unemployed. We would note that few of these negative discontinuities were foreseen (heck, the New York Times may still think that the USSR was a model of economic success!).
We really don’t know what is going to happen in the future, in part because the West is fat, dumb and happy, and has been so for a very long time now, at least since World War II. So we do not know what will happen when the West, and other parts of the world, experience the inevitable and severe stresses associated with the massive discontinuities that inevitably happen from time to time. The West has been super lucky in that the post-WWII discontinuities have almost all been on the positive side so far. It would be a mistake to blithely extrapolate that endlessly into the future.



Go see it. Five stars. I loved it.

New York gets whacked again, this time by some kind of alien assault. If you remember 9/11, this will look familiar.

The movie gives a picture of what it would look like if open conflict occurred in America. Could happen.

The movie harks back to many classics: Alien, War of the Worlds, Godzilla, Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, others I haven’t thought of yet. There is definitely an H.P. Lovecraft element to it, as well. In its way it is a cinematic homage to the unhallowed but totally great B-List of Hollywood SF and disaster films.

Hollywood lost a fortune depicting the American Army as a bunch of rapists and war criminals. This movie shows the Army going straight on against some God-awful things from outer space (I suppose), with cold professionalism. The fantasy film is closer to the reality of what the Army does — put its life at risk to kill America’s enemies, whether human or alien.

The (main) monster was cool. Query: If tank main-gun rounds couldn’t put the thing away, maybe it is made of some kind of alien gelatin, like Cthulhu, and the shells just go throught it? Only directorial misstep: showing the monster too clearly. Better to have left it at glimpses.

The movie also has a good depiction of a metrosexual yuppie guy acting like a man amidst danger and destruction, when the chips are down. Nice to see that, too.

This movie says more things about America that are true than most of what is packaged as slice-of-life drama.

I hope it makes a fortune for the people who made it. I am sure it will do a raging business in the Middle East, where the sight of New York being blown-up is a proven crowd-pleaser, and the audiences can cheer for the monsters.

Katyn & Nationalism

Arts & Letters links to Anne Applebaum’s “A Movie that Matters”, a review of Andrznj Wajda’s Katyn, published in the NYRB. (The review is worth reading.) Katyn was a tragedy – compounded by the fabric of lies so unconvincingly told during the long Soviet occupation. Applebaum also explores the nature and need for that great passion, patriotism. She quotes Wajda, who argues that the movie was made for those who didn’t remember – the generation that did is mostly gone.

Instead, he said, he wanted to tell the story again for young people—but not just any young people. Wajda said he wanted to reach “those moviegoers for whom it matters that we are a society, and not just an accidental crowd.”

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Bush and the Republican Party

George Moneo raises the issue raised by Peggy Noonan, about Bush’s responsibility for what is shaping up to be a Republican electoral debacle, which gets me thinking…

W is like Bill Clinton in many political, though not personal, ways. The Republican base decided to overlook Bush’s flaws, which were obvious long before 2000, because they thought he was the only halfway-conservative candidate who could get elected. The Democrats’ left wing made a similar bargain WRT Clinton, even though he was clearly unprincipled and, as President, cut deals with Republicans, because they knew that their favorite lefty candidates didn’t stand a chance in any general election.

In both cases the parties’ committed members did the best they could, choosing electability over principle and hoping that things would work out well enough down the road that they would be able to hold their majorities.

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I was walking through a mall recently when I saw a sign that used to be quite common but is now rather rare. They were closing the store to take “inventory” overnight, and the store was scheduled to re-open in the morning.

As an accountant, the word “inventory” immediately perks me up. Way back when I started in accounting, computers were in use for a variety of purposes, such as plant accounting and financial reporting, but they hadn’t really penetrated inventory at retail. Why? Because computing power was expensive, and they didn’t have a solid methodology for tracking individual items (i.e. the bar code sticker and reader).

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Sub-Prime Time

Before this is through, nearly everyone on the planet will have expressed an opinion on the sub-prime mortgage crisis. It’s a little late, but I thought I should get mine in. Here are some points about the issue that I don’t think have been given much discussion.

Mortgage-backed derivatives are not new. Some 20 years ago, FNMA introduced the REMIC (Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit). These were pools of mortgages that were split into various tranches or classes of maturity and quality, which were then sold separately, similar to the way today’s collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) are sold.

There were some important differences between this first generation and its descendants. I would like to point out some of the differences, since they may highlight the reasons behind the collapse.

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Quote of the Day

I think that a better approach for convincing the judge to get tougher would be to show more clearly the parallels between the quasi-religious views that lie behind today’s progressive agenda and the thinking behind past mistakes. In my view, they are linked by faith in unproven scientific fads, faith in technocratic elites, and faith that those who share progressive ideology have superior wisdom and moral standing that justifies ruling over others. I believe that the best way to insulate oneself against romanticizing the state is to recognize these faiths and their dangers.

Arnold Kling, reviewing Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.

Cool Photo Site

Mirror World — Photographs Of Unknown Origin. This site is packed with interesting found photos, many of them old. I recognize some of them (e.g., von Richtofen) as published works, but many appear to be postcards or obscure snapshots.

The site reminds me a bit of the snapshot exhibition at the National Gallery, except that Mirror World is less edited, more diverse, more profane and full of interesting surprises. Worth a look.

(Lex found it at Coming Anarchy)

Hunting the Five-Pound Butterfly

(This is an old Photon Courier post which I dug out in responding to a post about skill shortages in manufacturing and thought might be of interest to the Chicago Boyz readership.)

The Wall Street Journal (11/16/05) covers the growing tendency of companies to do hiring based on a long string of highly-specific requirements. The article deals specifically with engineering jobs, but the same trend can be seen–though maybe not quite to the same level–in other fields, such as marketing and sales.

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Angie’s Law

In the spirit of Patca’s Law, I now propose Angie’s Law:

In my experience, people who tell me to read, learn, or think are almost invariably less well-informed than I am.

There is also Jonathan’s Corollary to Angie’s Law:

People who argue a political point by telling me to read an article or book that they link to are generally not worth arguing with.