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  • Archive for February, 2009

    You Are Doing it Wrong

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 22nd February 2009 (All posts by )

    The headlines proclaim that Obama wants to reduce the Federal deficit in half by the end of his first term.

    He is off to a crappy start.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Politics | 3 Comments »

    The franchise and the career unemployed

    Posted by Verity on 21st February 2009 (All posts by )

    As we have been talking about chavs, it’s interesting to note that there are around 3m unemployed in Britain – out of a total population of 60m. Some of them are so unemployed that they have never actually had a job in their lives. But the 3m figure is deceptive, because there are other categories of welfare dependency – one of them, getting oneself classified as “disabled”. I don’t have the figures, but there are tens of thousands on disability “benefit” the socialist, non-judgemental term for passengers. This is different from unemployment benefit. Every once in a while there will be a story of someone on “disability” benefit for years whose hobby is riding mountain bikes on the weekends. Another one, a soccer fan, has been photographed refereeing soccer matches. That’s just the stupid ones, though. Then there is “family benefit” for each child born.

    Then there’s publicly-funded accommodation – the projects, in Americanese – which gets more spacious with each new child. There are five- and six-children fatherless “families” living in four bedroom homes, paid for by the local taxpayers. Single mothers in these enclaves refer to two children born from the same father as “the twins”. The more responsible mothers in these areas walk their children to school, although they don’t change out of their pajamas and robes to do so. These people have a vote.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Politics, Society | 42 Comments »

    On the (Metaphorical) Road

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th February 2009 (All posts by )

    upside down view

    Gain perspective through travel.

    (More photos at the continuation of the post below.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative, Photos | 2 Comments »

    Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book V: General Comments

    Posted by seydlitz89 on 19th February 2009 (All posts by )

    At first glance, from a general theory perspective, Book V doesn’t offer much, focusing as it does overwhelmingly on the tactical, that is the level of warfare most open to change, most influenced by the epoch in question.  Still there are various points which from a general theory perspective are worth noting.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 2 Comments »

    Bailing Out Speculators

    Posted by Shannon Love on 19th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Obama plans to bail out people who took out mortgages they cannot repay [h/t Instapundit]. This sucks. Why? Why would I be so heartless as to oppose helping people whose home ownership stands at risk due to the banking crisis?

    Simple, an individual’s ability to pay their mortgage has nothing to do with the solvency of the lender who issued the mortgage. Money flows from the borrower to the lender. The fact that the lender made too many dubious loans does not in any way affect any particular individual’s ability to pay their own mortgage. Only the individual’s income and budgeting controls whether they can pay. 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Leftism, Politics | 26 Comments »

    What’s it all about, Alfie?

    Posted by Verity on 18th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Has any country ever fallen at such velocity as Britain?

    Over the past 12 of 13 years, the Labour government has created a gigantic welfare/client voting block whose beneficiaries are, shall we say, low on ambition, and public housing is swilling with “single mums” with five, six, seven or more children by different fathers who have long since left the building. There are now families of three generations in which no one has ever held a job. Chavs, we call them. Their uniform, men and women, is tennis/sport shoes, sweat pants and a t-shirt.

    A member in good standing of the client bloc is the father of little Alfie Patten, now 13, a wan-looking, confused little boy. Alfie’s father has been in touch with well-known publicist Max Clifford, who arranged for Alfie – supposedly the father of a week-old baby – to be featured in The Daily Mail. He hardly looks nine and his voice at the time of the supposed conception hadn’t broken. The girl in question is 15.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Society | 14 Comments »

    Mean Dogs

    Posted by Shannon Love on 18th February 2009 (All posts by )

    My Grandfather used to say that if you wanted to take the measure of a man, look at his dog.

    A person’s personality gets expressed in their interactions with their dogs, which in turn shows up in the dog’s behavior. Someone with mean dogs is probably mean themselves even if they wear a great big smile. Someone with cowardly dogs is most likely a bully. Someone with uncontrollable dogs, is probably undisciplined themselves. 

    Like a lot of folk wisdom, it works better in small communities where people get to watch an individual deal with a lot of dogs over time. It’s harder to make the judgment with just one meeting but even so I’ve found the advice a good rough rule of thumb for evaluating people I’ve just met. My initial impressions from their dogs seem to prove true more often than not. I even query people about their dog’s history so I can judge just how much influence they had on it. If they got it from the pound as an adult, then the animal’s behavior probably doesn’t reflect their own. If they raised the dog as a puppy, then it probably does.  

    Unfortunately, this goofy little study doesn’t demonstrate what the article’s title claims. The study doesn’t actually seek to correlate training with behavior but merely correlates owners’ responses to their behavior. The study doesn’t take into account the very real possibility that dogs with genetic aggression or aggression induced by the previous owner evoke an aggressive form of training in response. 

    Posted in Science | 7 Comments »

    The Perfect Enemy

    Posted by David Foster on 18th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Suppose you wanted to create a perfect enemy. An enemy so vile that its evil would be recognized by almost everyone. An enemy that would inspire people to come together in order to ensure its defeat.

    To be more specific: suppose you were a screenwriter with the assignment of creating a suitable villain-organization for a major motion picture. The marketing plan for this movie suggests that it will be marketed primarily to a certain demographic and that, hence, your villain-organization should be particularly appalling to members of that demographic. The demographic in question consists of people who are affluent, highly educated (college with at least some postgraduate education), not particularly religious, and who consider themselves politically liberal or “progressive.” The plot of the movie demands that the audience must see the necessity for Americans–of many beliefs, occupations, and social backgrounds–to come together in order to defeat the enemy.

    Oh, and one other thing. The year in which you are given this assignment is 1999.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Film, Iran, Religion, Terrorism | 17 Comments »

    Clausewitz, “On War”, Book 4: the center of gravity

    Posted by Kotare on 18th February 2009 (All posts by )

    In Book 4 Clausewitz puts battle at the heart of war…

    “since the essence of war is fighting, and since the battle is the fight of the main force, the battle must always be considered as the true centre of gravity of the war.” [4.9]

    There’s little doubt that “the battle” – the clash of armies at a particular site over a limited time period – was the center of gravity during the Napoleonic Wars. But this idea doesn’t hold for modern conflicts. Battle, where it occurs, may be the most dramatic event, but it is not the center of gravity.

    What does “center of gravity” mean? I take it to mean the situation where the outcome of the campaign or war is ultimately decided. In the First and Second World Wars, the center of gravity was the use of resources. The nations that won were those that most effectively mobilized, coordinated and utilized their human and material resources.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 3 Comments »

    “Well, at least it’ll get the lush off the front page …”

    Posted by Verity on 17th February 2009 (All posts by )

    After reports that the Japanese Finance Minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, was helplessly drunk during the meeting of the G7, doubtless the announcement that the Japanese Prime Minister is the first head of government to be invited to meet Obama lowered the heat slightly in Tokyo. But other than that particular circumstance, does it really matter who’s the first to have a meeting with the new American president any more? Are other leaders round the world sobbing into their hankies? Immediately after WWII, it mattered which nation was so favoured; and after the Berlin Wall came down, the message conveyed by their head of government’s place in the queue to meet the new incumbent mattered to the new former Eastern bloc democracies, but does it mean anything today?

    Posted in International Affairs | 7 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War Book 3: A consideration of cyber strategy

    Posted by selil on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Our long dead Prussian friend understood that tactics change with time and technology, and that strategies remain similar even if the metaphors change.  When he tells us that strength of will is more to make a change in strategy versus tactics) p. 178) he recognizes that which is the parasitic force of decision. He identifies in one paragraph they “why” of how cyber warfare has existed and been known for nearly four decades yet has no mind share among generals. Only recently has the public picked up on the issues and the media reported incidents closely aligned with cyber warfare. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable, Internet | 1 Comment »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book VI: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

    Posted by Shane on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )

    The most ambitious of all eight books in On War, Book VI is more than triple the length of the other books – equally any three of them in sheer volume. In this book, entitled simply “Defense”, Clausewitz offers practical lessons for the 19th century warfighter: operations on a flank (with diagrams), defensive mountain warfare, entrenched positions, and – prescient of France’s Maginot Line of the early 20th century – the importance of a network of interlaced cordons to a nation’s security.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | Comments Off on Clausewitz, On War, Book VI: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

    Clausewitz Book IV: Still Relevant.

    Posted by Mathew Borton on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Going into book IV I expected to receive a lesson in general tactics. This is not the case. Instead what Clausewitz has in store for us is a discussion of the engagement as an extension of strategy, a sort of demonstration of applied theory. Modernists and critics would be quick to site this book when attempting to prove Clausewitz’ irrelevance to current warfare, citing ideas that may appear at first glance to be relics of earlier generations of warfare.

    Clausewitz sites rough terrain and night as being two factors that can impede military operations to the point of bringing them to a halt. In the case of night operations especially, Clausewitz shows great concern, stating that only in the most extreme cases are operations at night warranted due to the lack of control that brings with it a high probability of failure (p. 273-275). Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | Comments Off on Clausewitz Book IV: Still Relevant.

    Clausewitz, Book V: Military Forces (Circa 1830)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Book V is a case study of the armed forces, not of their employment in battle, but rather how they are organized and their “relationship to country and terrain”. It rather like describing how each chess piece is allowed to move on the board, less about how it is used in actual play.

    Book V, like all of On War, has many points of interest. In particular, it is a good example of Clausewitz’s own method of analysis, and thinking through how the various elements of the “modern” military forces of his day actually worked. This approach could be fruitfully emulated by application to modern militaries. However, since it is a “drill down” on armies as they were in Clausewitz’s own day it contains a relatively lower proportion of “high grade ore” than some of the other books, particularly the refined material in Book I.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | Comments Off on Clausewitz, Book V: Military Forces (Circa 1830)

    “Shovel Ready” Transmission

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )


    There has been a lot of discussion lately about the nations’ electrical transmission grid. The transmission grid connects the power stations to the local distribution network. The transmission grid also allows utilities to “interconnect” and exchange / sell power between different entities.

    Upgrading the transmission grid would have many advantages to the United States. Many of the lines are older and don’t have much spare capacity, or they are less efficient than new modern designs and waste less electricity along the way.

    The transmission grid also does not connect to where the “new” sources of generation may lie. For example, the grid was designed to match fossil fuel / nuclear generating stations to major population centers, or to bring power from large hydroelectric facilities to the cities, as well. In some instances the grid was designed to “interconnect” major power companies to one another, such as on the East Coast.

    As you can imagine, these reasons for building the original grid aren’t ready-made for new, “renewable” sources of energy. If you want to connect up a wind farm or a set of solar panels in the desert, it doesn’t matter how much power you can generate unless it can be brought onto the grid and transmitted to the cities (without excessive line loss).

    When I was in the utility industry working as a consultant one time I went to an EEI conference (the big electrical utility conference) where I heard one of the CEO’s at the time talk about the transmission grid. The topic was how to value the transmission grid assets. His response was

    The value of the transmission grid is infinite and unmeasurable, because we could never obtain those rights-of-way to rebuild them at any price


    Since the greens and democrats have come into power energy topics are back in vogue. For a little while there was a romance with nuclear power (which will never materialize, see here) and now we see a wave of interest in transmission. Now that the democrats have to govern the country they realize that they have to actually govern and not just throw stones at a republican administration and that these are issues that require policy and resolution.

    This map below shows a proposed transmission line in California (from The Economist dated February 14, 2009), designed to bring power from the desert where solar cells will be installed to the rest of the line and major cities. Note that this line is PROPOSED – this writer and most readers will likely be deceased before this line ever is accepted, built, and comes into service.

    But you can see from the PROPOSED line how many compromises are needed in the current political climate. The line has to snake around any sort of park or Indian tribal area. The line is clearly not the most efficient route from point A to point B, and since you pay for transmission lines by the mile, this is going to make the cost of the line much higher than it would be otherwise.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation | 6 Comments »

    When Dads Are Left Alone With Kids

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Click for larger.

    Not pretty, but functional – it kept her hair out of her face for a whole hour of gymnastics.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Humor, Photos | 4 Comments »

    [When] Will Voters Punish the Democrats?

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )

    I take encouragement from Jim Bennett’s great comment:

    The Ghost Shirt Democrats are doing their dance, but the vast herds of union-member Democrat-voting buffalo will never return to the plains, and [the] magic ghost shirts will not turn the ballots of angry voters into water [in] 2010 and 2012. Of course, the Republicans could still blow it, but even if they do, the Democrats have shown in a few short weeks that they have no idea how to govern the country, just to loot it. They will be replaced, if not by Republicans, then by somebody else.

    and also from Jim Miller (writing about Michael Barone, and recent polls that show recent Republican gains in opinion polls):

    Barone is surprised by this result, but he shouldn’t be. Almost all of Rasmussen’s generic numbers since the election are better for Republicans than the generic numbers in the months before the election.
    That pattern makes it unlikely that this result is an outlier, one of those bad results that every pollster gets from time to time.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Elections, Politics | 8 Comments »

    Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book III: Calculation

    Posted by Zenpundit on 16th February 2009 (All posts by )

    I have to apologize to my fellow roundtable participants for my lengthy absence. I will endeavor to catch up, starting with this post.

    My background is in 20th century diplomatic and economic history, with an emphasis in the Cold War and related Soviet Studies. Our former Communist adversaries, especially the doctrinaire ideologues among them, were fond of employing a term “correlation of forces” to describe the geopolitical situation as being favorable or unfavorable to some proposed course of action. While it was woodenly uttered Marxist jargon, “correlation of forces” was far from meaningless as a phrase. It was a reminder in that grotesquely ideological world that it was important in affairs of state to calculate rationally. Even the old monster Joseph Stalin was known to bark at his henchmen” This is not a propaganda meeting!” when matters of war were being discussed in council.

    Clausewitz devoted Book III of On War to matters of general strategy and he has an important section on the nature of calculation ” Possible Engagements are to be Regarded as Real Ones because of Their Consequences“:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 4 Comments »

    Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book IV (and VI): Contingency

    Posted by seydlitz89 on 15th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Even the ultimate aim of comtemporary warfare, the political object, cannot always be seen as a single issue.  Even if it were, action is subject to such a multitude of conditions and considerations that the aim can no longer be achieved by a single tremendous act of war.  Rather it must be reached by a large number of more or less important actions, all combined into one whole.  Each of these separate actions has a specific purpose relating to the whole.

    Chapter 3

    Here we are looking at the political object and its supporting military aim as being close together.  The applicability of the military instrument is something of a sliding scale which increases the more the political purpose and the military aim are the same.  This tracks along very well with the ideal type of absolute war.  At the same time this sequence of actions/decisions is very much tied to the specifics of the political purpose and how the phenomenon of war acts upon/changes/develops it.   So we have a very basic concept of contingency here, that being a sequence of purpose-driven actions/decisions being made over time and being influenced in turn by a complex ever evolving environment.

    The concept of contingency as connected to the general theory does not end there however, and by referring to affinitive Weberian concepts can be even expanded upon.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 9 Comments »

    A few thoughts on the Geert Wilders affair

    Posted by Helen on 15th February 2009 (All posts by )

    After all, I am becoming involved in this discussion and a posting might be preferable to responses on the discussion forum. This is cross-posted from the BrugesGroupBlog, which I run in parallel to my work on EUReferendum. As I explain elsewhere on it, the intention had been to make this blog a part of a structured research programme but that is not going to happen. So, it continues as a more or less personal political blog until I set up another one as part of a network Richard North and I envisage.
    On EUReferendum my colleague, Richard North (often referred to by me as the boss) and I have expended a very large number of words on the Geert Wilders affair. It would, therefore, be seemly to call a halt to the flood and so I shall (albeit temporarily) as soon as I have discussed a couple of related issues.

    My colleague has already written about the Conservative Party’s ridiculous reaction but there have been some developments there as chronicled by ToryBoyBlog, a.k.a. Conservative Home.

    At first the Conservatives, laughably known as Her Majesty’s Opposition, kept quiet on the matter of a Dutch parliamentarian being stopped from taking up an invitation by two members of the House of Lords to explain his political views because another member of the House of Lords, who is waiting to be sentenced for dangerous driving that resulted in a death, was threatening violence. The threats were unlikely to have turned into reality but that is a separate issue. They were made. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Civil Liberties, Immigration, Islam, Terrorism | 9 Comments »

    Miami Harbor With Fog

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Miami Harbor and Virginia Key

    (Click the image to see a larger version.)

    Posted in Photos | 5 Comments »

    The Great Leader — A Brief Dialogue

    Posted by leifsmith on 14th February 2009 (All posts by )

    He said, “Yes We Can!” meaning, for each us, “Yes You Will!”

    We answered, “No We Won’t!” saying, to each us, “Yes You Can!”

    Posted in Political Philosophy, Politics | 7 Comments »


    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 14th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Obama Print

    I recently saw this print in a Chicago window that neatly encapsulates the delusions of the fervent Obama supporter. I love the fact that it is in a storefront strewn with nuts, quite appropriate in the context of this bizarre love affair.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Humor, Political Philosophy | 12 Comments »

    The Chinese Are Going to Kick Our Asses

    Posted by Shannon Love on 14th February 2009 (All posts by )

    We’re going to power our economy with scavenged energy[PDF] from intermittent, low-density solar and wind power. The Chinese are going to power their economy with eight-packs of nuclear reactors that they roll off assembly lines in vast numbers. 

    We have a culture that holds engineers and inventors in contempt and views new technologies first and foremost as threats to be mitigated. The Chinese nearly worship engineers and inventors and adopt new technologies with a reckless disregard of all but the most gross dangers. 

    Our best and brightest dream of going into politics or “non-profits” that exist largely to suppress commerce and invention. The Chinese best and brightest go into engineering and business and try to figure out how to make and sell things. 

    Our intellectual class spends its time trying to generate contempt of our institutions, history and traditions and to shatter our belief in our own capabilities. China’s intellectual class spend its time creating and instilling a fierce confidence in their institutions, history and traditions and building a belief that they can accomplish anything. 

    The Chinese have become the lean and mean, energetic barbarians sweeping down on a fat, decadent and leaderless civilization. They have the same cowboy attitude towards technology and commerce that drove America to the top in late 1800s. They are going to do to us what we did to Europe in the pre-WWII era and for the same reason. The difference this time is that the Chinese share no cultural bond to the rest of the world as America did to Europe. 

    They will face political challenges in the short term, especially in a global recession, but long-term they will dominate for the simple reason that they will be able to keep the lights on and we won’t. 

    I suppose we’ll learn to adopt an attitude of superior impotence just as the Europeans have done. China will do great things while we will claim we’re too wise and mature to attempt such things. 

    We shall live in interesting times.

    Posted in China, Energy & Power Generation, History, Predictions, Society, USA | 32 Comments »

    Pure laser … cutting and illuminating

    Posted by Verity on 14th February 2009 (All posts by )

    On the Hugh Hewitt radio show, Mark Steyn referred to the Obama presidency so far as “Jimmy Carter at warp speed”.

    Posted in Politics | 6 Comments »