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  • Archive for September, 2009

    Shana Tova: 5770

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th September 2009 (All posts by )

    Best wishes for a sweet and healthy year to all of my friends, colleagues and readers.

    (Photo: Melissa Goodman)

    Posted in Announcements, Holidays, Judaism | 6 Comments »

    Xenophon Roundtable: The Shadow of Herodotus

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 17th September 2009 (All posts by )

    Cunaxa is an interesting counter-point to the three traditional pillars of Herodotus’s Histories, Marathon, Salamis, and Plataea. While those three confrontations took place in or near Attica, the cradle of democracy, Cunaxa happens in Mesopotamia, the cradle of despotism. Herodotus skillfully built a narrative of the clash of East and West, Freedom and Slavery, Democracy and Despotism out of the Persian attempts to conquer an obscure people on the fringes of the Known World. His account looms over those of his successors, even the works of the prickly Thucydides, who considered himself superior in every respect to the world traveling gossip from Halicarnassus.

    Xenophon was no exception. The Anabasis almost reads like a strange mirror version of the Histories. Instead of the Ascent of Darius, Xerxes, or Mardonius into the heart of Hellas, it’s the descent of the Greeks into the heart of Achaemenid power. The squabbling Greeks, under the less than inspired figures of Clearchus, Proxenus, and Menon, appear rather shabby compared to the heroic generation of Miltiades, Themistocles, and Pausanias. Cyrus in his foolish death and disfigured body and Artaxerxes II in his pettiness and undignified scramble to keep his throne fall far short of the power and majesty of Darius and Xerxes, so exalted that Herodotus portrayed them as living embodiments of hubris, pride that not only rivaled but threatened that of the gods themselves.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Middle East, War and Peace, Xenophon Roundtable | 8 Comments »

    The Ghetto Ways: “The Na Na Na” (2005)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 17th September 2009 (All posts by )

    Posted in Music, Video | 6 Comments »

    Michigan Employment

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 17th September 2009 (All posts by )

    When I was back in college they had on campus interviewing. At the time in the very late 80’s we were in a midst of a recession and I was pretty open to talking to virtually any company.

    I received a call from a recruiter and he started talking to me about an opportunity with Ryder trucking. Then he said something that I’ll never forget

    “It’s in Detroit and don’t hang up”

    The words ran together very closely and with urgency so it is obvious that this was a common problem, even then – as soon as people even heard the word “Detroit” they simply hung up the phone as a non-starter. I didn’t hang up on the guy (I was too polite back then) but I certainly viewed it as some sort of last ditch, about-to-be-homeless type of opportunity.

    I have since worked near Detroit (in the vast suburbs) and I don’t want to slam the place based on stereotypes. The suburbs are very nice and the whole area seems to function OK – you might go into the city proper for a sporting event (which has security) but that’s about it.

    This Wall Street Journal article reminded me of that time with the recruiter as it describes how white collar employees, often managers with years of experience in fields like marketing and technology, are finding themselves being laid off from the auto makers and related industries in Michigan. I’m sure that many, if not most, are hard working people just trying to do their best in a difficult situation. Since the housing market in Detroit has pretty much collapsed as well, people can’t sell their houses (except at a huge loss), and it isn’t obvious where they’d go, so they are just remaining in the state and are trying to make ends meet however they can. One former manager that they profile is now a janitor.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Taxes | 26 Comments »

    Xenophon’s Ascent

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

    The title of the book under consideration is, in English translation, The Anabasis of Cyrus. The title has two key words, a noun “anabasis” and a proper name “Cyrus”.

    The identity of Cyrus is unambiguous. We know Cyrus was the younger brother of the King of Persia (really an emperor of many kingdoms). Cyrus was the satrap of Lydia and Phrygia, but he aspired to seize the throne of his brother the King for himself. Cyrus raised an army, led it against the King, and died in battle at Cunaxa, in 401 BC.

    The other key word in the title is “Anabasis”, which is transliterated, but not translated, from the Greek. The translator tells us this about the word:

    This noun has the root meaning of “a going up,” and it is used to indicate such ordinary ascents as the mounting of a horse or a way of going up a hill. In the sense of a march upcountry, it is used first by Xenophon, only in this work, and only in [certain passages] … It is used three times in Plato’s Republic to indicate the ascent from the cave. The related verb anabaino is used of an “ascent” from the coast to the interior by Herodotus … and by Plato … as well as by Xenophon. I generally translated the verb as “to ascend” and its opposite as “to descend”.

    Book I contains the tale of the assembly of the army, and its “march upcountry”, from coastal Ionia, where the Greek mercenary portion of the host came ashore into Asia, and its march into the interior, upcountry from Sardis, Cyrus’s capital, until the two armies meet at the battle of Cunaxa. At the battle, the Persian King’s army in part was defeated, on the section of the battlefield where it faced the Greek mercenaries. The Greek mercenaries “won” their part of the battle of Cunaxa. But elsewhere on the battlefield, due in part to the rashness of Cyrus, and his resulting death, the King’s army defeated the rest of Cyrus’s army. At that point, the Greeks, despite tactical success, were marooned in the middle of a hostile country.

    Thus we are faced with a bit of a puzzle from the outset.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Xenophon Roundtable | 5 Comments »

    Alexander and Cyrus: Two Different Routes to Babylon

    Posted by spressfield on 16th September 2009 (All posts by )

    by Steven Pressfield

    Great initial post about logistics!  Here’s a related piece–a comparison between Alexander the Great and Cyrus the Younger and their different strategic/logistical solutions to a similar problem: how to bring an invading army to bear against a defending army awaiting the assault in the vicinity of Babylon, in what was then Mesopotamia (today Syria and Iraq.)

    Some of what follows is speculative, as no one knows for certain what Alexander was thinking at every juncture.  But it’s based on my research for The Virtues of War, a novel about Alexander.  Here’s my take on how the great Macedonian, invading Persia seventy years after Cyrus (and armed with Xenophon’s Anabasis, which he and his generals studied in great depth) chose a different route and strategy than that taken by his predecessor, bound for Cunaxa.

    Both Cyrus’ army and Alexander’s crossed the Euphrates at Thapsacus, three or four hundred miles north of Babylon (see map in our Anabasis).  Cyrus was coming from the north, Alexander from the south, via Damascus–from Egypt, where he had been crowned Pharaoh and son of Ammon.  Alexander was marching to confront Darius III, (grandson of Artaxerxes II, against whom Cyrus and Xenophon campaigned) who was raising an army of a million men.  Contingents of horse and foot had been summoned from all over the empire, from as far away as Afghanistan.  Alexander’s force numbered about 50,000.  Alexander had previously defeated Persian forces twice–at the Granicus River, near Troy, with Darius absent; and at Issus with Darius present and commanding.  This coming fight would be for all the marbles.

    Alexander held up at Thapsacus and debated with his generals whether they should follow the Cyrus/Xenophon route straight down the Euphrates.  Alexander decided against it for a number of reasons.  First (here’s where it starts to get speculative), such a choice was expected.  Darius would have time to prepare a field that tilted in favor of the Persians’ preferred weapons, their massive numbers of infantry and cavalry and their scythed chariots.  Second, the Euphrates route would not compel Darius to move.  The Great King could simply sit tight and await Alexander, secure in his bastion at Babylon, with an abundance of riverborne supplies for his troops.  Third, the Euphrates route would bring the two armies together too soon for Alexander’s taste.  He wanted to stall.  He was banking on impatience and discontent gnawing at the morale of Darius’ eager tribal levies, who were not a disciplined modern army but rather horseborne raiders and pillagers.

    Alexander’s concept of operations was different from Cyrus’s.  Babylon (Cunaxa) was not his ultimate goal.  Babylon wasn’t even Persia, it was Mesopotamia, a province.  Alexander’s aim was Persepolis in modern Iran, the royal capital of the empire–and the lands further east.

    What Alexander feared, entering the heartland of the Persian empire, was having to fight his way across two great and defendable rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris.  He also had no taste for besieging Babylon, which had walls 150 feet high and fifty feet thick and a circuit of forty miles.

    Alexander went north and east from Thapsacus instead of south.  He didn’t follow the Euphrates.  Instead he struck for the foothills of the mountains of southern Armenia.  The season was summer coming into fall.  Alexander preferred to get provisions for his army by sacking unwalled villages, where the harvest would be stored in garners, rather than cities where the year’s grain would be fortified behind walls.  He wanted his horses and pack animals to drink water from mountain streams rather than the silty, unwholesome Euphrates.  And he didn’t want his men and beasts marching in 110-degree heat.  He also feared the dikes and irrigation channels of the country north of Babylon, by which he must approach his enemy.  This kind of terrain could  be flooded easily by the defenders, which would create hellish problems for an army advancing across it.

    Alexander wanted to get on the far side of the Tigris (to the east of the Euphrates) without having to make a crossing under fire.  Once across, he reasoned, Darius would be compelled to come out to meet him, thus fighting according to Alexander’s timetable and on unprepared turf.  If Darius failed to face Alexander, he would leave  Persepolis and the eastern empire open to the invader’s depredations.  More importantly, he would lose prestige in the eyes of his own troops and those of the subject nations serving under him.

    The final objective Alexander hoped to achieve by taking the northern route was to vanish off Darius’s scope.  He wanted to make the Great King sweat.  Where was Alexander?  What was he up to?  Surely, Alexander reasoned, Darius would be holding many war councils with the impatient, hot-blooded tribal contingents of his empire.  Let them sweat too.  Let them second-guess Darius.  Let them complain about pay and food.  Let them demand action.

    In the end, Alexander’s plan worked out a little better than Cyrus’s.  The Macedonian’s tactics did indeed force Darius to march out from his bastion at Babylon.  Darius was compelled to cross the Tigris himself, march his army north some two or three hundred miles to Gaugamela, where he faced Alexander on turf of his own choosing, yes, but not the favored manicured field he was hoping for, at Cunaxa or some other arena closer to home.

    Gaugamela became one of the epochal battles of history.  Darius’ defeat made him, in the end, the last Great King of Persia.  The Achaemenid line as rulers ended with him, as did the Persian empire.

    Posted in Xenophon Roundtable | 8 Comments »

    Lewis vs Haldane

    Posted by David Foster on 16th September 2009 (All posts by )

    J B S Haldane was an eminent British scientist (population genetics) and a Marxist. C S Lewis was…well, you probably already know who C S Lewis was.

    In 1946, Haldane published an article critiquing a series of novels by Lewis known as the Ransom Trilogy, and particularly the last book of the series, That Hideous Strength. Lewis responded in a letter which remained unpublished for many of years. All this may sound ancient and estoteric, but I believe the Lewis/Haldane controversy is very relevant to our current political and philosophical landscape.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Conservatism, Leftism, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Society | 11 Comments »

    Don’t Be COI

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 16th September 2009 (All posts by )

    All the bad press has prompted ACORN to act decisively in order to improve their standing.

    Are they going to start to follow the law? Fire people who advise clients on ways to commit crimes, even if they aren’t caught on camera doing so? Maybe even refuse to commit fraud?

    No, none of that. They are just going to change their name. Goodbye ACORN, hello Community Organizations International.

    Because Conservatives are just too dumb to figure it out if you call it “Shinola“!

    (Hat tip to Glenn.)

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Politics | 1 Comment »

    Jimmy Carter: “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man …”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 15th September 2009 (All posts by )

    Jimmy Carter weighs in.

    As predicted, the idea here is to try use Mr. Obama’s race as a weapon to intimidate the opposition into silence.

    Won’t work, Jimmy.

    No one, repeat NO ONE is going to shut up because Jimmy Carter or anyone else says that opposing Mr. Obama is “racist”.

    There is nothing special about Mr. Obama. He is just another politician. They are a dime a dozen.

    Nor does anyone have to be polite about it. We saw the level of courtesy extended to Mr. Bush. That is the “new normal”, the Democrats and their allies chose those rules. Get used to it.

    Mr. Obama is a president trying to aggressively expand the power of government and impose gigantic new and unnecessary burdens on the American people.

    Thank God, lots of people are opposed to this and trying to stop him.

    God willing they, we, will stop him.

    If someone lies about you and calls you a racist for acting like a responsible citizen, for exercising free speech and peaceable assembly, to oppose Mr. Obama’s programs, that is an insult that should be responded to as an insult. Nothing more.

    These people are pretty desperate if they are playing this card already.


    Posted in Politics | Comments Off on Jimmy Carter: “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man …”

    Photos from Afghanistan

    Posted by onparkstreet on 15th September 2009 (All posts by )

    “1st Lt. Benjamin Millard, Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team civil affairs member (center), Gulam Nabi, Narang Sub-Governor (center right), and other elders from Qaleh Wonah travel from a school that is in the final stages of completion to the local well to inspect its capabilities, Sept. 8, in Narang, Afghanistan.”


    [Jonathan adds: Click “Read the rest” to see the photo at full size.]

    from the PRT-Kunar blog, via Registan.

    Update: Photo was taken by Tech. Sgt. Brian Boisvert

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Military Affairs, War and Peace | Comments Off on Photos from Afghanistan

    Glad I Don’t Live In Maryland

    Posted by Shannon Love on 15th September 2009 (All posts by )

    In Texas, if you kill a burglar in your home, no matter how gruesomely, they pin a medal on you. The police very rarely take you in for questioning, and the D.A. doesn’t leave you dangling for weeks while they consider whether to press charges against you for defending yourself and your property. All you have to face for certain is an automatic grand jury review of your actions. Since the jury is a bunch of Texans, something really has to be amiss for you to get in trouble.

    I feel for the kid in this story. It really sounds like they’re going to make him sweat while they take their sweet time deciding if he should have screamed like a school girl and locked himself in a closet when confronted by a life-long criminal.

    [via Wheels within Wheels]

    Posted in Crime and Punishment | 4 Comments »

    How Did They Know?

    Posted by Shannon Love on 15th September 2009 (All posts by )

    Rockwell County Line asks a good question about the journalist who uncovered the Acorn scandal:

    My question is, how did the film makers know what questions to ask?  Did they have inside information from former workers who had left in disgust when they found out about the perversity of the place?  Had they tried other tacks of questions and never found a limit before (possible drug dealers, counterfeit records for illegals, etc.) so they were escalating until they found something to outrageous that they couldn’t fathom its being supported?

    Since this is definitely far from the first time Acorn has enabled criminal activity, I feel certain that the journalist heard stories and decided to follow them up. Apparently, there has been deep suspicion about Acorn in the non-profit world for many years. No doubt the journalist started there.

    I do have to give them credit for following up. Frankly, if I had heard reports that a leftist activist organization was involved in base criminality I wouldn’t have believed them. I used to be a lefty myself, and I’ve know too many leftists with great personal integrity, so I don’t associate them with this kind of failure. I wouldn’t have carried out this investigation.

    This is a good example of why we need strong partisanship in at least part of the media. At times, we need people who will readily believe something outrageously bad about their political opponents, and who will be motivated to investigate things that will be ignored by the less partisan. We can safely assume that 99% of partisan journalists will produce nothing but noise, but that 1% of the time they will score a hit will make tolerating all that noise worthwhile.

    Posted in Leftism, Media | 12 Comments »

    My Response

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

    I’m going to start pasting the following in threads whenever I encounter the casual and ritualized accusations of racism from leftists.

    No matter what
    You do or say
    They’ll call you racist

    Abuse of a word or concept robs it of its power. Once the accusation of racism was devastating, now it’s just annoying and merely signifies that a leftist disagrees with you. It only has real impact when made by a non-leftist.

    Instead of making the equally ritualized and pointless “No, I’m not a racist” retort, I will use my new phrase to point out the robotic nature of the accusation. Everyone else should consider doing it as well. Maybe we can train them to stop abusing the word or at least force them to come up with something new.

    Posted in Leftism, Rhetoric | 16 Comments »

    Xenophon Roundtable: Xenophon was a Professional

    Posted by Fringe on 14th September 2009 (All posts by )

    An army marches on its stomach – Napoleon Bonaparte

    While we have no real idea how much insight Xenophon possessed when he joined the invasion of Persia, the Anabasis is written by a professional with a profound appreciation of the issues of logistics (as is the Agesilaus). From beginning to end, the Anabasis is replete with not just the story of the Persian expedition, but how the Greek forces managed to maintain themselves in supply, from the time of their entry into Persia, until their retreat is complete. Xenophon understands that other professionals will be interested in this as much as in anything else that he relates. It is likely that Alexander read these logistical details with great attention. For instance, if you re-read the Anabasis from the perspective of a logistician, you will find that it serves as a nearly complete narrative of the logistics of the Persian expedition. In most instances, you are far more certain of how the Greeks remained in supply than of what happened to them in battle. If you compare it to other histories you have read, you may well find that there is, well, no comparison.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Xenophon Roundtable | 23 Comments »

    Xenophon Roundtable: List of Contributors

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th September 2009 (All posts by )


    Our Xenophon Roundtable begins this week.

    Xenophon’s Anabasis of Cyrus was written roughly 2,400 years ago. Yet it is still of interest and value today, for many reasons. It is an exciting tale of adventure. It is the first war memoir. It is a firsthand account of a military campaign that goes badly wrong, and of a man taking command and saving himself and his army from destruction. It is a travel book about exotic locales and natives. It depicts leadership under life and death circumstances. It contains remarkable examples of oratory and persuasion, where Xenophon had to convince because he could not compel. It is a portrait of conditions in the era following the victory of Sparta in the Peloponessian War. It is a comparison between the Greek way of political and military organization, and that of the Persians and other “barbarians”.

    There is a lot in this very old book. I and the other participants will be putting up several posts in the next three weeks about it. I look forward to what the others will have to say.

    UPDATE: Zenpundit’s announcement has some good comments about the translation we are using.

    Our distinguished roundtable participants are the following:

    Disraeli1867 is a graduate of the College and the Business School at the University of Chicago. He works in venture capital and equity research. He was a European History major, and he is a Certified Mongolian Warrior (for real) and spends his spare time curling, sailing and reading history.

    josephfouche” is a software engineer and system administrator slaving away for a technology startup somewhere in flyover country. He’s been reading military history since age nine and talking about it since his fourth grade teacher, asking a pro forma question, inquired if any student in the class knew anything about the Crimean War. (She got more than she bargained for.) He blogs at The Committee of Public Safety, a group blog dedicated to understanding the subtle interplay of human nature, culture, war, and power.

    Fringe is a University of Chicago Alum, and is employed as an academic. He has been a student of military history and military affairs since his childhood. He knows strategists, and understands the difference between a strategist and a student of strategy. He has published on many topics and in many venues, including articles about modern warfare.

    Lexington Green is a lawyer in Chicago. His common core humanities class freshman year at the University of Chicago was Greek Thought and Literature. It was the only A he got that year. He blogs at ChicagoBoyz.

    HistoryGuy99 is a historian, and U.S. Army veteran of the war in Vietnam. After having a 30 year career in global logistics, he earned an advanced degree in history and began to teach. Currently he is an adjunct history professor with the University of Phoenix and Axia College. He blogs as historyguy99 and hosts HG’s World, a blog devoted to history, connectivity, and commentary. He is a co-author of soon to be published, Activist Women of the American West and contributing author to The John Boyd Roundtable.

    Steve Pressfield is the author of “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” “Gates of Fire,” “The Afghan Campaign” and other historical fiction set in the Greco-Macedonian era–but nothing about Xenophon! Currently blogging about mil/pol issues in Afghanistan on It’s the Tribes, Stupid

    Purpleslog is a Milwaukee-area blogger looking to enjoy and learn from an ancient true-life adventure story. He blogs at PurpleSlog.

    Mark Safranski was the editor of The John Boyd Roundtable: Debating Science, Strategy, and War, and a contribution author to Threats in the Age of Obama, both published by Nimble Books. Mark blogs at Zenpundit. Mark can also be found at several well-regarded group blogs including, ChicagoBoyz, Progressive Historians and at a U.K. academic site, The Complex Terrain Laboratory. Mark is a free-lance contributor to Pajamas Media.

    Seydlitz89 He is a former Marine Corps officer and US Army intelligence officer who served in a civilian capacity in Berlin during the last decade of the Cold War. He was involved as both an intelligence operations specialist and an operations officer in strategic overt humint collection. This experience sparked his serious interest in strategic theory. He is now involved in education. He participated in the Clausewitz Roundtable on ChicagoBoyz. He blogs at MilPub.

    Dr Helen Szamuely is a political researcher and writer. She edits the Conservative History Journal and writes its blog. She also blogs on EUReferendum and Your Freedom and Ours, as well as writing occasionally for Chicagoboyz.

    Mitchell Townsend says “I majored in English as an undergraduate. I didn’t know any better, since this was the first time one of us had gone to college. I got a low-level government job during the Carter administration, which turned me into a knuckle-dragging, kitten-torturing, right-wing death beast. While this hideous transformation was in process, I went to remedial education classes to learn accounting and eventually became a CPA. I grew up in Connecticut (not the Gold Coast, the part where they hate the Yankees) and live in Massachusetts. I have no connection with Chicago at all; I just joined ChicagoBoyz because I liked reading it. In fact, every time I go, I am amazed at how flat and rectilinear the place is. Chicago, that is, not the blog, which is flat and rectilinear because it has to be.”

    Posted in Xenophon Roundtable | 7 Comments »

    Terrorism’s Heart of Darkness

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th September 2009 (All posts by )

    This post, entitled Assessing Counter-Terror Since 9/11 is worth reading. But one line jumped out at me.

    Successful terror attacks require real skills at surveillance, security, and usually explosives manufacture. None of these skills are easy to acquire. Most successful attacks have involved someone with real training, usually acquired in Pakistan. By monitoring movements to and from Pakistan (and other areas that could be training centers) and extensive sharing between national intelligence agencies suspect activity can be identified and monitored.

    (emphasis added) It is axiomatic that terrorism usually requires state sponsorship to be effective, and this post makes a strong case that this axiom has ongoing validity — and that the worst state sponsor is Pakistan. (This is consistent with other things I have read.) In fact, according to this post, it is so bad that you can monitor terrorists generally by monitoring who comes and goes from Pakistan. That, if true, is intolerable.

    I had a good visit this weekend with our colleague Zenpundit. One of the things we talked about was the seeming lack of strategy underlying American policy. It has been spasmodic and reactive. We contrasted the current “three wars” — The Global War on Terror, the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, none of which have a goal or an articulated means to reach that goal (i.e. a strategy) which is worthy of the name.

    Contrast this with two very successful strategies. In World War II our strategy was “Germany First”. Two words, and all else flowed from it. In the Cold War our strategy was “Containment” or “Containing Communism”. This over-arching aim held through thick and thin and we eventually succeeded in our aim of containment.

    In the current conflict we seem to be floundering around. The goal in both Iraq and Afghanistan is to arrange things so we can leave. In other words, we are admitting that we should not have invaded either place and that we cannot accomplish much of anything of value by being there. We just don’t want to make things worse by the way we leave. This reminds me of the sort of prestige-based decision-making that kept us in Vietnam. The current vision of population-centric COIN appears to be way too expensive and time consuming to be worth doing on a big scale in Afghanistan. Gen. Krulak’s recent letter to George Will is one example of a proposed different course. As Afghanistan becomes “Obama’s War” I hope we will see some creative thinking.

    In the meantime, I am thinking more and more that the focus should be on state sponsors of terrorism. The main sponsor of terrorism is Pakistan. Of course, there is no “Pakistan” but rather factions within Pakistan. Nonetheless, if we are going to focus our military and political energy anywhere, it should be on ending Pakistan as a source of terrorism.

    I am not yet committed to the idea, but I suggest “Pakistan First” as our strategy. I do not mean conquer and occupy Pakistan. I mean compel the government there, but whatever combination of carrots and sticks, to stop supporting terrorism and to actively work to stop terrorism originating within its borders.

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, Politics, Terrorism, Vietnam | 28 Comments »

    Three Times is Slavery and Treason

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

    Back when I did computer tech support, we had a rule of thumb for evaluating the significance of reports of unusual and previously unreported failures .

    • One report of a failure is a fluke.
    • Two reports of a failure is a coincidence. It might just be two users making the same error.
    • Three reports indicates a pattern of failure that arises from the hardware or software itself.

    This rule of thumb evolved after observing the failures of millions of computers. We learned that three separate computers would only suffer the same failure if the failure arose from a common source in the computers themselves. Just three machines out of millions told us we most likely had a systemic problem.

    This brings me to the Acorn child prostitution scandal.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Leftism, Media, Politics | 50 Comments »

    Ghost Fleet of the Recession

    Posted by In-Cog-Nito on 13th September 2009 (All posts by )

    From the Daily Mail.

    The biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history lies at anchor east of Singapore. Never before photographed, it is bigger than the U.S. and British navies combined but has no crew, no cargo and no destination – and is why your Christmas stocking may be on the light side this year.
    It is so far off the beaten track that nobody ever really comes close, which is why these ships are here. The world’s ship owners and government economists would prefer you not to see this symbol of the depths of the plague still crippling the world’s economies. So they have been quietly retired to this equatorial backwater, to be maintained only by a handful of bored sailors. The skeleton crews are left alone to fend off the ever-present threats of piracy and collisions in the congested waters as the hulls gather rust and seaweed at what should be their busiest time of year.

    Ghost Fleet

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance | 12 Comments »

    Black Storm Clouds and Brilliant Lightning Flashes

    Posted by David Foster on 13th September 2009 (All posts by )

    Today there are once more saints and villains. Instead of the uniform grayness of the rainy day, we have the black storm cloud and the brilliant lightning flash. Outlines stand out with exaggerated sharpness. Shakespeare’s characters walk among us. The villain and the saint emerge from primeval depths and by their appearannce they tear open the infernal or the divine abyss from which they come and enable us to see for a moment into mysteries of which we had never dreamed.

    –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    (For those who are not familiar with Bonhoeffer–he was an important leader of the anti-Nazi resistance in Germany. He was executed in 1945.)

    I was reminded of the above passage by something Cara Ellison wrote a couple of days ago in discussing the 9/11 anniversary:

    I guess I thought they were all gone, those types of monsters, stranded on reels of black and white film.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Terrorism, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Back to Business

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 13th September 2009 (All posts by )

    I usually read articles about business management the way my dog watches us eat dinner: with hope – never quite crushed, no matter how seldom fulfilled – that some toothsome morsel will come to me. This one was a nice meaty steak, fresh from the grill. If you have anything to do with corporate IT, whether as a member, manager, or customer, read it. The premise is that geeks value competence, logic, and contribution, and reward these attributes with respect. Looking at that statement logically, you can see that the contra-positive must also be true: if you are not getting respect from your IT department, you should look to yourself to see why not. If you ask a good IT person to do something dumb, illogical, or counter-productive, he will object. If you force the issue, you may get compliance but you will certainly forfeit respect. This is where a good IT department will start to rot. IT people tend to view management incompetence as a bug, and if they cannot fix it, they will come up with a work-around. If the bug is in corporate management, the IT department will pursue paths that they believe are better for the company’s interests than what they were told to do. If the bug is in IT management, there will be subversion, factionalism, and low morale, since the IT staff knows that IT management is not effectively representing them to the rest of the company. Either situation causes a split between IT and the rest of the company which may not even be recognized until there is a major failure.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Internet, Management | 9 Comments »

    I Want to Be Like Norm

    Posted by Shannon Love on 13th September 2009 (All posts by )

    This panel below is from a the web comic “Escape From Terra”.  It’s a pretty good hard science fiction story which examines how a libertarian/anarchist society might function in space. The centeral conflict revolves around those in space trying to keep their freedoms in the face of ever-present encroachment from the statist world-government of Earth (it’s modelled on the EU).

    In the story, two pilots deliver a chunk of a comet to a self-made billionaire who is hiding out on his own little artificial habitat. The billionaire has to hide because he keeps creating disruptive technologies that empower ordinary people to live their lives independently of the state, and the government doesn’t like that — to the point it wants to see him dead.

    In this panel, the billionaire explains his motivations:

    [Click for full size]



    Every geek in the world should strive to emulate the late Norman Borlaug. Geeks and business people have done more good for the world than all the politicians and wannabe-politicians combined.

    In 1969, the people who changed the world for the better weren’t left-wing, pro-communist-victory “activists” but the engineers and scientists who landed men on the moon and fired up the first two nodes of the Internet. People who view “progress” in terms of politics first and foremost have done far more harm than good. Yet, as the comic points out, we know their names while the names of those who made our lives so much better are erased from common history .

    People in the developed world (and increasingly the rest of the world as well) have lives of physical comfort, social equality and political freedom mostly because of the efforts of geeks like Borlaug who use knowledge and hard work to turn dirt and water into happiness.

    When artists whip out posters of people like Borloug instead of the glorious leader du jour, we will know we have become a truly wise civilization.

    Posted in Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, Science, Society, Tech | 1 Comment »

    Norman Borlaug, 1914-2009

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 13th September 2009 (All posts by )

    Via Pejman Yousefzadeh, I hear that Norman Borlaug has passed; NYT obit.

    In the face of caviling from scarcity-mentality “environmentalists,” he saved a billion lives. Requiescat in pace.

    Posted in Bioethics, Environment, India, Latin America, Obits | 5 Comments »

    Blog Maintenance

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th September 2009 (All posts by )

    The blog may be intermittently available or down for a brief period, beginning 11:57 PM CST, Saturday.

    UPDATE: 12:44 AM: Done! Everything should work again now.

    Posted in Announcements | Comments Off on Blog Maintenance

    An Important Qualifier

    Posted by Shannon Love on 12th September 2009 (All posts by )

    Via Instapundit comes a major (albeit British) media report that the Tea Party protest in Washington turnout could be as high as two million.

    As impressive as that no doubt upper-limit estimate is, I think that the raw number leaves out an important qualifier. To be  truly accurate, the report should say:

    Two million people with jobs

    Getting hundreds of thousands of kids, the professionally unemployed and government workers to show up isn’t that hard (especially if someone buys the bus tickets). Getting two million middle-class, middle-aged people with jobs, careers, children and businesses is way, way more impressive.

    We can safely assume that for every individual who made it to the protest that there are dozens of people whose grown-up obligations prevented them from attending.

    That thought should keep Obama and Pelosi up at night.

    [update (2009-9-13 10:17pm): I should point out that I don’t think anyone really believes that two million people showed up in Washington. One percent of the entire U.S. population is 3 million people so two millions gets you two thirds of the way to one percent of the entire population. I don’t think there is a city in world that could handle that big an influx of people. Washington D.C. itself only has a population for 590,000 so having nearly four times the population of the city show up is really not credible no matter what the senior Democratic leadership thought. On the other hand, having hundreds of thousands of people, most who have never protested before, show up is significant and puts the tea party in the big leagues no matter how you cut it.]

    [update (2009-9-13 6:53pm): For unknown reasons, all comments by Hippeprof were deleted from the thread below. This issue is being investigated and we will try to recover the comments. If anyone else saw their comments disappear please email me at the link to the upper right.]

    [update (2009-9-13 8:02pm): 20 comments were found to have been removed by the spam filter. We have restored them and I will be cleaning up duplicates and removing the “hey, what happened to my comments?” post in order to keep the thread clean.]

    [update (2009-9-12-10:16): The technical problems have resurfaced. Your posts may not show properly. We may have to freeze the comments. If you have an important point to make  you can email at the link to the upper right and I will add your comment to thread manually as time permits.]

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Health Care, Leftism, Politics, Taxes, The Press | 115 Comments »

    The Who, “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” (1965)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 11th September 2009 (All posts by )

    Posted in Music, Video | 3 Comments »