The Sentiments of Mr. Charles James Napier

The sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier on multicultural understanding and tolerance:

Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.

The sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier on effective government:

The best way to quiet a country is a good thrashing, followed by great kindness afterwards. Even the wildest chaps are thus tamed.

The sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier on how to win friends and influence people:

The human mind is never better disposed to gratitude and attachment than when softened by fear.

The sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier on colonialism:

So perverse is mankind that every nationality prefers to be misgoverned by its own people than to be well ruled by another.

The sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier on self-improvement:

Success is like war and like charity in religion, it covers a multitude of sins.

The sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier on life’s little setbacks:

Honorable retreats are no ways inferior to brave charges, as having less fortune, more of discipline, and as much valor.

Not a sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier regarding south Pakistani tourism:


The Cold Civil War

I can’t remember where the concept was first bruited about – someone else’s blog, probably one of the radical non-ranting centrists on the Chicago Boyz blogroll:  Belmont Club, Neo- Neocon, James Lileks, or Classical Values, perhaps. To be honest, I have as much of a bad memory for where I read about something or other as I do a dislike for crazy rants, name-calling, straw-man construction and other social ruderies. I’d rather hang out, on line and in the real world with thoughtful, fairly logical people, who can defend their opinion with a carefully constructed arguments and real-life examples and/or references. In short, I’d prefer the company of people who don’t go ape-s**t when another person’s opinion or take on some great matter differs from their own. Well-adjusted grownups, in other words – who are comfortable with the existence of contrary opinion – and do not feel the need to go all wild-eyed, and start flinging the epithets like a howler-monkey flinging poo.

Read more

Rethinking Unions

As they currently stand, Unions are dangerous dinosaurs. But that doesn’t mean that worker interests have no need for structures that serve their interest. If we’re serious about believing in liberty, we need to address how to create viable, sustainable, superior worker organizations. They might just end up keeping the “union” label if the brand isn’t irredeemably sullied by its present users.

So what characteristics would this new type of organization have?

Sustainably low cost
Concentrate on proactively improving worker situations
Unabashedly pro-capitalist
Interventionist in secondary education, aligning student production better with worker needs.

Anybody have some other features?

So This Is How Democracy Dies

[youtube GNAHjsAnTd4 How Liberty Dies]

How is this for a headline?

“Key Democrats call for Ending Democracy”

Some people subscribe to the idea that politicians are stupid. They shoot from the hip until reined in by their consultants during election season. There is probably a great deal of truth to that. On the other hand, the use of the “trial balloon” is a well-tested technique for gauging public reaction to an idea.

With that in mind, I submit today’s WSJ’s “Notable and Quotable” into evidence to let the jury decide.

“Most Americans complain that government is unresponsive to their wishes. But not everyone feels that way. In the space of two days, two prominent Democrats have called for less responsive government that ignores public input.
One of them, former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, penned a piece this week in the New Republic arguing, as the title says, “Why we need less democracy.” Orszag wrote that “the country’s political polarization was growing worse—harming Washington’s ability to do the basic, necessary work of governing.” His solution? “[W]e need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.” . . .
[S]imilar comments by Gov. Bev Perdue, D-N.C., are far more troubling. “I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover,” Perdue told a Rotary Club gathering in suburban Raleigh this week. “I really hope that someone can agree with me on that.”

Gaffe or Trial Balloon?

Read more

Preserve Yourself With Preservatives

Noting the passage of the creator of the Doritos chip who recently died at the ripe old age of 97, Glenn Reynolds quips, “I think the preservatives in junk food keep you young.”

Actually, there is reason to suspect that he might be right.

One of the most common preservatives is butylated hydroxyanisole also know has BHA or E320 in food labeling. BHA keeps foods from growing rancid by preventing the oxidation of fats by oxygen free radicals.

Say, what do you call a substances that controls oxygen free radicals? It’s right on the tip of my tongue…

… Oh, right, an anti-oxidant! You know, those things every other organic food product is advertised as having.

Benzoic acid, probably most commonly seen as Sodium Benzoate (E211) is another common bugaboo. In fact, its probably the poster child preservative being one whose name most people will recognize.

Read more

Quote of the Day

Now there was a time when we believed that what a human mind could accomplish was determined by genetic factors. Piffle, of course, but it looked convincing for many years, because distinctions between tribes were so evident. Now we understand that it’s all cultural. That, after all, is what a culture is – a group of people who share in common certain acquired traits.
Information technology has freed cultures from the necessity of owning particular bits of land in order to propagate; now we can live anywhere. …
Some cultures are prosperous; some are not. Some value rational discourse and the scientific method; some do not. Some encourage freedom of expression, and some discourage it. The only thing they have in common is that if they do not propagate, they will be swallowed up by others. All they have built will be torn down; all they have accomplished will be forgotten; all they have learned and written will be scattered to the wind. In the old days it was easy to remember this because of the constant necessity of border defense. Nowadays, it is all too easily forgotten.

Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer

(Previously quoted by me here)

The Diamond Age one of my all time favorite books. Among many other brilliant things in it, he invented the word “Anglosphere”:

After a simple dinner of beer and pasties in a pub on the fringes of the City, they rode south across the Tower Bridge, pierced a shallow layer of posh development along the right bank of the river, and entered into Southwark. As in other Atlantan districts of London, Feed lines had been worked into the sinews of the place, coursing through utility tunnels, clinging to the clammy undersides of bridges, and sneaking into buildings through small holes bored in the foundations. The tiny old houses and flats of this once impoverished quarter had mostly been refurbished into toeholds for young Atlantans from all around the Anglosphere, poor in equity but rich in expectations, who had come to the great city to incubate their careers.

I just re-read it for the third time. It is the only book I have read three times since I was in high school.

Here is a selection of quotes from The Diamond Age.

Stephenson is speaking tonight in Oak Park about his new book, Reamde. I will be there. And I will get my copy of The Diamond Age autographed, and I will buy the new one and get it autographed too.

UPDATE: It was pretty good. Stephenson read some passages from his new book and answered some questions. He said the science fiction writer who influenced him the most was Robert A. Heinlein. This not surprising, I see a lot of Heinlein in his writing. He also said that in terms of style, the “holy trinity of English prose” is “Gibbon, Dickens and Churchill.” (I need to read Gibbon. I need to read more Dickens. Churchill: Yes, absolutely. Churchill himself claimed the two writers who influenced him were Gibbon and Macaulay. But who now reads Macaualy?) It was a large and appreciative audience. A dweeby crowd, not surprising, given the author. I fit right in. My kind of people. The wife and I got ice cream afterwards. For us, that’s a big date.

UPDATE II: Interview with Neal Stephenson in the local paper.

Mapping our interdependencies and vulnerabilities [with a glance at Y2K]

[ cross-posted from Zenpundit — mapping, silos, Y2K, 9/11, rumors, wars, Boeing 747s, Diebold voting machines, vulnerabilities, dependencies ] | Send this image to your friend

The “bug” of Y2K never quite measured up to the 1919 influenza bug in terms of devastating effect — but as TPM Barnett wrote in The Pentagon’s New Map:

Whether Y2K turned out to be nothing or a complete disaster was less important, research-wise, than the thinking we pursued as we tried to imagine – in advance – what a terrible shock to the system would do to the United States and the world in this day and age.


My own personal preoccupations during the run-up to Y2K had to do with cults, militias and terrorists — any one of which might have tried for a spectacle.

As it turned out, though, Al Qaida’s plan to set off a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport on New Year’s Eve, 1999 was foiled when Albert Ressam was arrested attempting to enter the US from Canada — so that aspect of what might have happened during the roll-over was essentially postponed until September 11, 2001. And the leaders of the Ugandan Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, acting on visionary instructions (allegedly) from the Virgin Mary, announced that the end of the world had been postponed from Dec 31 / Jan 1 till March 17 — at which point they burned 500 of their members to death in their locked church. So that apocalyptic possibility, too, was temporarily averted.


Don Beck of the National Values Center / The Spiral Dynamics Group, commented to me at one point in the run-up:

Y2K is like a lightening bolt: when it strikes and lights up the sky, we will see the contours of our social systems.

— and that quote from Beck, along with Barnett’s observation, pointed strongly to the fact that we don’t have anything remotely resembling a decent global map of interdependencies and vulnerabilities.

What we have instead is a PERT chart for this or that, Markov diagrams, social network maps, railroad maps and timetables… oodles and oodles of smaller pieces of the puzzle of past, present and future… each with its own symbol system and limited scope. Our mapping, in other words, is territorialized, siloed, and disconnected, while the world system which is integral to our being and survival is connected, indeed, seamlessly interwoven.

I’ve suggested before now that our mapping needs to pass across the Cartesian divide from the objective to the subjective, from materiel to morale, from the quantitative to the qualitative, and from rumors to wars. It also needs a uniform language or translation service, so that Jay Forrester system dynamic models can “talk” with PERT and Markov and the rest, Bucky Fuller‘s World Game included.

I suppose some of all this is ongoing, somewhere behind impenetrable curtains, but I wonder how much.


In the meantime, and working from open source materials, the only kind to which I have access – here are two data points we might have noted a litle earlier, if we had decent interdependency and vulnerability mapping:


Fear-mongering — or significant alerts? I’m not tech savvy enough to know.


Tom Barnett’s point about “the thinking we pursued as we tried to imagine – in advance – what a terrible shock to the system would do to the United States and the world in this day and age” still stands.

Y2K was what first alerted me to the significance of SCADAs.

Something very like what Y2K might have been seems to be unfolding — but slowly, slowly.

Are we thinking yet?

Conversation Ender

A friend of mine posted the above on her Facebook page today. She is an extremely nice person, but believes in nonsense like accupuncture, and the vaccinations are bad for you woo-woo, and other things like that. She is also into all natural foods.

The above reminded me of my grandparents (my father’s parents), who I loved very much and had many great times with when I was a young boy. My Grandmother grew up in squalor in Munich, and my Grandfather did the same in Riga, Latvia. They met in Chicago. I have some photos of my Grandmother and her family in front of their rabbit cages – they raised them for meat. They had no indoor plumbing, of course. This was just after the turn of the century. I don’t have any photos of my grandfather when he was growing up. His father was killed in WW1 and he was shifted from relative to relative. I can only assume that a camera and photos were the last thing on his mind.

I was treated to the way that my grandparents ate when I spent summer weeks at their house in northern Wisconsin (Birchwood, for those who may be interested). We ate all sorts of shit that my friend of today would simply puke on if presented to her. Processed meats, fortified grains, you name it. Coming from the places they did, although they lived a comfortable retirement, they still wasted nothing. If we had chicken for dinner, we would make soup that night or the next day out of the carcass. It wasn’t even a question, we just did it. All the leftovers went into the soup.

I think my favorite was when after a roast or something was cooked, my grandmother would take the rendered fat and wait until it solidified, then scraped it up, put it in the fridge, and hauled it out for a lunch the next day. She would simply spread it on rye bread and that was it. Take it or leave it. My grandpa would wash that down with a beer or two.

This is what people, when they were poor, had to do to scratch it out every day. My comment, which ended all of the “hell yeas!” and “I agrees” in the Facebook thread above was:

I admit I miss the lard and rye bread sandwiches my grandmother used to feed us.

Lack of perspective cracks me up at times.

Dead Sea Scrolls & Nag Hammadi Codices online

[ corss-posted from Zenpundit — archaeology, Biblical scholarship, eschatology, digital literacy ]


Both the Dead Sea scrolls from Qumran and the Gnostic and associated codices from Nag Hammadi are now available for study online:


The Nag Hammadi Archive can be explored via the Claremont Colleges Digital Library, and the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls via the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Here’s a description of the War Scroll from Qumran, which “is dated to the late first century BCE or early first century CE”:

Against the backdrop of a long biblical tradition concerning a final war at the End of Days (Ezekiel 38-39; Daniel 7-12), this scroll describes a seven stage, dualistic confrontation between the “Sons of Light” (the term used by Community members to refer to themselves), under the leadership of the “Prince of Light” (also called Michael, the Archangel) – and the “Sons of Darkness” (a nickname for the enemies of the Community, Jews and non-Jews alike), aided by a nation called the Kittim (Romans?), headed by Belial. The confrontation would last 49 years, terminating in the victory of the “Sons of Light” and the restoration of the Temple service and sacrifices. The War Scroll describes battle arrays, weaponry, the ages of the participants, and military maneuvers, recalling Hellenistic and Roman military manuals.

You can see why I’m interested.

The Nag Hammadi texts are a little less well known but include — along with a variety of other texts, some of them self-described as “apocalypses” — the now celebrated Gospel of Thomas, which Bart Erhman reads as continuing a “de-apocalypticizing” of Jesus’ message which he finds beginning in Luke and continuing in John:

In the Gospel of Thomas, for example, written somewhat later than John, there is a clear attack on anyone who believes in a future Kingdom here on earth. In some sayings, for example, Jesus denies that the Kingdom involves an actual place but “is within you and outside you” (saying 3); he castigates the disciples for being concerned about the end (saying 18); and he spurns their question about when the Kingdom will come, since “the Kingdom of the Father is spread out on the earth and people do not see it” (saying 113).

Again, you can see why I am delighted that these texts are becoming available to a wider scholarly audience…

In both the Nag Hammadi codices and Qumran scrolls, we have texts that were lost for almost two thousand years and discovered, somewhat haphazardly, in 1945 and 1947 respectively, providing us with rich insights into the religious ferment around a time and place that have been pivotal for western civilization.

Now, more than half a century later, the web — as it becomes our global museum and our in-house library — brings us closer to both…

Two Easy Questions

1. Would Romney be a better president than Obama?

2. If a third party candidate ran to the right of Romney, if he were nominated, is there any chance of Obama NOT being reelected?

To me the answers to this are too obvious to need to be spoken aloud, but lets do it.

1. Of course Romney would be better than Obama. Does that mean I prefer Romney to any of the other GOP candidates? No. Does that mean I like the idea of Romney being president? No. Does it mean that pretty much any of the current Republican field, including Romney, is better than Obama? Hell yes.

2. It is going to be very, very hard to beat Obama as it is. The solid blue states get him most of the way there in terms of electoral votes. His supporters are united, mobilized, well-funded, and they will have a massive MSM barrage on their side. It is very difficult to unseat a sitting president. Even though the country is in an ongoing economic disaster, and even though Mr. Obama has done a miserable job as president, he is still barely below 50 on Intrade. Most likely he will bottom out long before the election. Odds are, he will win, as it is now. If the opposition is divided, Mr. Obama sails to victory, and we get four more years of this.

If there is any defect in that analysis, please tell me what it is.

(Do not engage in personal insults directed at me or I will delete any such comment. They do not advance the discussion. Save that for your own blog.)

Mitt? Rick? Herman? How much does it matter?

I am thinking more and more that the GOP presidential candidate is a distraction.

Whoever it is will be better much than Mr. Obama, so don’t worry about it. Mr. Obama makes Mitt Romney look like George Washington.

So, what does matter?

Making sure we have a Tea Party Congress in 2012 is the most important thing.

Then the 2013-15 political era will be a conflict between a corporatist Republican in the White House and a populist Congress down the street.

Some good could come of that.

(The Ds will be on the sidelines for a while if that happens. But they will soon be back.)

So what, concretely, starting now, can we do to make sure that we get a good, solid Congress in 2012?

Suggestions in the comments, please.

UPDATE: It occurs to me, this is another way of saying that the Tea Party / Insurgency is probably not yet politically mature enough to capture the presidency with one of its own. So, get as much as you can this go-around, but don’t worry too much about what is still beyond your grasp. Mass political movements in American history don’t usually capture the presidency less than three years after they start.


There was a lot of discussion earlier this year and in a great many different writing and general interest venues regarding the success of indy writer Amanda Hocking  – which, however you slice it, remains a self-published and e-book success story. Candidly, I think that we need another zombie-werewolf-vampire saga like Custer needed another Indian, but hey- that’s just me. Not my cuppa, but if it floats yer boat . . .  To paraphrase the lyrics of a certain old pop song – I can barely run my own life, why the hell should I want to run yours? Yeah – Sunshine, go away and get those kids off my lawn!

Anyway – as an indy-POD-author, untrammeled by the shackles of the literary-industrial complex, I had to give the Ms. Hocking all kinds of mad respect, for writing savvy,  plus marketing skills and the sheer neck to go out and just do it. 450,000 copies of nine books, each at a price of .99-2.99 and the author getting 30-70% in royalties  . . .  is  . . .  a  . . .  a lot of turnips.*

I’m an English major, dammit! But I appreciate the business aspects of it all.

Read more

Generation X To The Rescue?

I like writing about things I know little about, because typically I learn a lot from the commenters, and get humbled at times. I am sure that the following will be one of those types of posts.

I have had this thought rolling around in my head for quite some time, and wanted to air it out to see what type of play it will get.

Our entitlement programs steam ahead into oblivion here in the US. In particular Social Security, while not exactly a Ponzi Scheme (but close enough), is on the Highway to Hell, if something isn’t done to fix it.

The only time I remember that something was honestly tried to fix SS was when GW Bush attempted to let a tiny portion (was it 4%?) of new inputs be allowed to be managed in a private account. Not many will remember that debate, but it was ridiculous. Literally, I heard over and over that the OLD PEOPLE WERE GOING TO BE THROWN OUT INTO THE STREETS AND FREEZING COLD. The noise was incredible, and very little logical, well thought out debate was presented. I am still disgusted when I think of how that debate was framed.

Every time that I get my pay stub I look at those numbers leaving my net pay and cringe knowing that MY PROMISE will be broken. This is a system that will most likely be insolvent by the time I get to the age of collecting. I have taken it for granted, and so have many of the folks I have talked to that are my age. My age – Generation X.

Loosely, Gen X is described as the post Boomer generation, the 13th to be raised under the flag of the good ‘ol USA. The birth years (again, loosely) are said to vary from definition to definition, but center between 1961 and 1981. I fall almost smack dab in the middle of it. So does my wife. And most of my friends. We talk about things like this.

This time period saw some of the lowest birth rates in the US. We don’t have enough of us to support all of you (I’m talkin’ to you, Boomers!). We are paying into a system (Social Security) that is designed, mathematically, to fail. Of course SS is just one of our many entitlement programs that are going to be under intense pressure in the future – if nothing changes. That is a big if.

The thrust of my thinking here is that it will be up to my g-g-g-Generation to fix this mess. As I look at all the grey hairs in the Senate and House (there are exceptions, of course) my thinking is that these things aren’t about political parties, they are age and culture differences. The folks I hang around with – Democrat, Republican, Tea, whataver, want things fixed, and done right. This isn’t universal, of course, but I hear a lot more common sense out of younger people and younger CongressCritters than the Old Guard.

Paul Ryan is a Gen X’er. I think the guy is fantastic and a breath of fresh air, and I firmly believe that his message and belief system is held in check a LOT by the Old Guard (I am pointing that finger at you again, Boomers). Sarah Palin is also a Gen X’er. Have you heard anyone else in politics say things like this? Again, this isn’t a party thing, it is a generational thing. I sort of feel like in a lot of respects, we have our own old person combine in Washington DC.

If we stay on the current course there will be hell to pay for anyone who hasn’t saved their dough, as far as retirement goes. But most of us (at least the people my age that I talk to) aren’t that stupid. Some of us are.

I guess I am tired of the Old Guard who screwed up the system telling me and others like Ryan how bad it could get screwed up if attempts are made to fix it. To me, it isn’t about parties, it is about generations. Generation X might end up being the folks that have to fix…everything.

The Juggernaut – Revisited

 The juggernaut was-and still is, according to a quick internet search, an enormous, towering wagon with the image of a deity or two enthroned at the very peak under a vast canopy. This structure is taken out for a grand procession once yearly, pulled by devotees through the streets of a certain city in India: no quick spin around the block and back again: this wagon is enormous, clumsy, and heavy. Picture Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, arriving to meet Mark Anthony, or the Persian emperor Darius grand entrance in 300; it’s an arresting visual, and often used as a metaphor to indicate a certain sort of power, will and devotion. 

Read more

Media Malfeasance, Media Credibility

Rex Murphy offers a summary of the ways in which the traditional media supported Obama’s candidacy:

Much of the Obama coverage was orchestrated sycophancy. They glided past his pretensions — when did a presidential candidate before “address the world” from the Brandenberg Gate in Berlin? They ignored his arrogance — “You’re likable enough, Hillary.” And they averted their eyes from his every gaffe — such as the admission that he didn’t speak “Austrian.”

The media walked right past the decades-long association of Obama with the weird and racist pastor Jeremiah Wright. In the midst of the brief stormlet over the issue, one CNN host — inexplicably — decided that CNN was going to be a “Wright-free zone.” He could have hung out a sign: “No bad news about Obama here.”

If a company filing an Initial Public Offering were to conduct a campaign of misinformation, disinformation, and lying by omission on the level of what the dinosaur media did for Obama, that company and its officers would certainly face legal action, quite probably involving criminal as well as civil charges.

Will the traditional media be taken seriously as a source of information in the upcoming election season? Elizabeth Scalia thinks maybe not:

A while back, I asked my very frustrated mother-in-law why she voted for Barack Obama, and she shrugged, “I could only go by what I heard.”

She meant the nightly network news shows, which she and Pop watch or listen to while they bustle around the kitchen…Information worth listening to was the provenance of the press. For her generation, the press was meant to be listened to and trusted.


At a large, multi-generational family gathering this past weekend, inevitable discussions arose about the economy, jobs, and the bleak outlook for the immediate future. The general consensus was that our president is a failure, the congress is a wreck, and there is no authenticity or originality in our leadership, nor in our press. A majority in attendance—both Democrats and Republicans—had voted for Barack Obama (a few grudgingly, as they had supported Clinton) but while everyone expressed disappointment (there was not a single voice raised in support of the president) the senior citizens confided a deep sense of betrayal—of their trust being shattered.

Both links are worth reading in full.

Norway Prices & the US “peso”

I recently took a trip to Norway. In addition to being interested in a debate about transmission lines strung high above picturesque fjords I was also astounded at how high their prices were (when converted into US dollars).

A drink at the crappiest, “dive-iest” bar in Bergen (Norway’s 2nd largest city) will set you back $11 USD. A drink at a regular restaurant or a hotel will frequently cost you much more. Above you can see one glass of wine and one beer (admittedly a good pour from a local brewer) and 200 Norwegian Kroner. At current exchange rates 200 Kroner is about $35-$40 (let’s say $40, because it makes the math easier and is close enough) or each Krone is worth 20 US cents. That means that these two drinks, with tip (if you leave one, optional) costs about $40.

Here’s another sign of how upside down it is. I saw this cool mini-bar self dispensing fridge in a friend of ours’ hotel room. The prices in the mini-bar in a Hilton were competitive with those of a regular bar! I guess at some point you reach an absolute price ceiling on alcohol and the fact that a hotel mini-bar is competitive with outside prices means that you are there.

There are other factors at play with alcohol in particular; the government levies high taxes in order to deter consumption. The long arctic nights apparently encourage heavy drinking and if nothing else the government is compensated for your sins (it didn’t seem to do much to deter the locals from drinking, but it worked a bit for me).

It isn’t just alcohol that is almost prohibitively expensive when you are paying with the US “peso” (or Euros – the Norwegian currency is punishingly high against everyone unless maybe you were paying in Swiss, Brazilian, Chinese, Canadian or Australian dollars). I split a “Deal Meal” in McDonalds with someone (it was 2 Quarter Pounders plus fries and one drink) because it too was around $20 USD when you did the conversion (I think it was 125 Kroner). Let’s compare that with the US…

There are other odd indications of a currency upside down, or where the local economy has become so un-moored from the rest of the world that things are just “different”. Why not drive a 5 series BMW AS A CAB? I think our trip from the airport to downtown Bergen was something like 700 Kroner… I guess that is about $140 USD or so (we took the bus back when we returned, we can learn). So at that rate you might as well drive a 5 series BMW, which must be brought in country at a prohibitively high exchange rate, as well.

One thing about America; apparently it is very cheap to 1) get drunk 2) buy tons of unhealthy food 3) take a cab. I had a great time in Norway by the way it was a beautiful and exceedingly well-run country with a highly educated workforce. I still don’t know how they can pay the bills, though, unless local salaries are completely outrageous.

Cross posted at LITGM

Down the rabbit hole: researching the “jikhad”

[ a meander on the perils and promise of research, jihad, typos, books and more ]

It begins with an email from Lexington Green saying I might be interested in a tweet he had posted earlier this morning:

The Insurance Journal tells us:

Defendants named in the complaint were Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, The Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Saudi Joint Relief Committee for Kosovo and Chechnya, Saudi Red Crescent Society, National Commercial Bank, Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Company. Also included as defendants are three Saudi citizens connected to these organizations, Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Suleiman Abdel Aziz Al Saud and Yassin Al Qadi.
The case is Underwriting Members of Lloyd’s Syndicate 3500 v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 11-00202, U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania.

Okay, I’m curious. I go to the complaint [.pdf] and start reading… and on page 9, I find:

Read more

I Learn Something New Every Day

I say “I learn something new every day” all the time. Because I do.

With skyrocketing fuel costs, I have begun to do research on more fuel efficient ways to deliver product to my customers. I live in a rural area, so we are forced to reach out and get the business. I work about a sixty mile radius.

I came upon the Ford Transit Connect. This is an interesting vehicle because of the relatively low initial cost and the 27 mpg on the highway. I did a bit of cocktail napkin math and this vehicle would pay for itself in fuel savings alone in about two years when comparing it against some of my gas guzzling diesel trucks.

While doing research on this vehicle, I discovered what the Chicken Tax was. I read about it on wiki.

To circumvent the 25% tariff on imported light trucks, Ford imports all Transit Connects as passenger vehicles with rear windows, rear seats and rear seatbelts.[9] The vehicles are exported from Turkey on cargo ships owned by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, arrive in Baltimore, and are converted into commercial vehicles at WWL Vehicle Services Americas Inc. facility: rear windows are replaced with metal panels and rear seats removed (except on wagons).[9] The removed parts are then recycled.[9] The process exploits a loophole in the customs definition of a commercial vehicle. As cargo does not need seats with seat belts or rear windows, presence of those items exempts the vehicle from commercial vehicle status. The conversion process costs Ford hundreds of dollars per van, but saves thousands over having to pay the chicken tax.[9] Partly because of this, only the long-wheelbase, high roof configuration is exported to North America. In most places, the high-roof Transit Connect, like most Ford Econoline vans, is unable to access multi-story parking because of its height (6′-6″).

I understand what was written, but was baffled as to why on earth a tariff on light trucks would be called a Chicken Tax.

I got curious, so I ran the wiki on the Chicken Tax.

The Chicken tax was a 25% tariff on potato starch, dextrin, brandy, and light trucks imposed in 1963 by the United States under President Lyndon B. Johnson as a response to tariffs placed by France and West Germany on importation of U.S. chicken.[1] The period from 1961–1964[2] of tensions and negotiations surrounding the issue, which took place at the height of Cold War politics, was known as the “Chicken War”.[3]
Eventually, the tariffs on potato starch, dextrin, and brandy were lifted,[4] but over the next 48 years the light truck tax ossified, remaining in place to protect U.S. domestic automakers from foreign light truck production (e.g., from Japan and Thailand).[5] Though concern remains about its repeal,[6][7] a 2003 Cato Institute study called the tariff “a policy in search of a rationale.”[4]
As an unintended consequence, several importers of light trucks have circumvented the tariff via loopholes—including Ford (ostensibly a company the tax was designed to protect), which currently imports the Transit Connect light trucks as “passenger vehicles” to the U.S. from Turkey and immediately shreds portions of their interiors in a warehouse outside Baltimore.[1]

I guess there is no real point of this post, other than to point out that yesterday’s thing that I learned was an interesting one. I now know what the Chicken War is, and also know what the Chicken Tax is.