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  • Archive for February, 2012

    Hoffer on Scribes and Bureaucrats

    Posted by David Foster on 21st February 2012 (All posts by )

    Nothing is so unsettling to a social order as the presence of a mass of scribes without suitable employment and an acknowledged status…The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated. They hanker for the scribe’s golden age, for a return to something like the scribe-dominated societies of ancient Egypt, China, and the Europe of the Middle Ages. There is little doubt that the present trend in the new and renovated countries toward social regimentation stems partly from the need to create adequate employment for a large number of scribes…Obviously, a high ratio between the supervisory and the productive force spells economic inefficiency. Yet where social stability is an overriding need the economic waste involved in providing suitable positions for the educated might be an element of social efficiency.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Education, Political Philosophy | 3 Comments »

    Hunter, Princess, Bear (politically incorrect rock, paper, scissors)

    Posted by TM Lutas on 21st February 2012 (All posts by )

    Fascinating dynamics, my kids have just invented their own rock, paper scissors variant called hunter, princess, bear. Bear kills the princess (it eats her), hunter kills the bear (he shoots it), and princess kills the hunter (he has pity on her and she back-stabs him). The image of the manipulative, back-stabbing princess comes from one of my girls, actually.

    Posted in Human Behavior | 6 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st February 2012 (All posts by )

    The morning sky reflects on the surface of a pond located near the beginning of the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park. (Jonathan Gewirtz)

    Posted in Photos | Comments Off on

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th February 2012 (All posts by )

    A comment by “Buck O’Fama” in response to this post by Victor Davis Hanson:

    Years ago, the kid next door was bouncing his ball against the side of my house, occasionally hitting a storm window in the process. I came out and said to him, “Don’t do that, you’ll break my storm window.” He replied, “No I hit it already and it didn’t break.” It never occured to him that he may have just gotten lucky previously, or perhaps the cumulative micro damage from the previous strikes would soon cause the window to yield, or maybe he just hadn’t hit it hard enough. Regardless, he broke the damn thing within the hour.
    America is at that point now. All the abuse the nitwits and the idiots have done to the culture and the economy over the past decades have failed to break the country, and they now assume it is unbreakable. This leads me to suspect we are shortly to find out that it is not.

    Posted in Big Government, Political Philosophy, Quotations, Tea Party, USA | 23 Comments »

    Hoffer on Hope & Change

    Posted by David Foster on 19th February 2012 (All posts by )

    The millions of immigrants dumped on our shores after the Civil War underwent a tremendous change, and it was a highly irritating and painful experience. Not only were they transferred, almost overnight, to a wholly foreign world, but they were, for the most part, torn from the warm communal existence of a small town or village somewhere in Europe and exposed to the cold and dismal isolation of an individual existence. They were misfits in every sense of the world, and ideal material for a revolutionary explosion. But they had a vast continent at their disposal, and fabulous opportunities for self-advancement, and an environment which held self-reliance and individual enterprise in high esteem. And so these immigrants from stagnant small towns and villages in Europe plunged into a mad pursuit of action. They tamed and mastered a continent in an incredibly short time, and we are still in the backwash of that mad pursuit.

    Things are different when people subjected to drastic change find only meager opportunities for action or when they cannot, or are not allowed to, attain self-confidence and self-esteem by individual pursuits. In this case, the hunger for confidence, for worth, and for balance directs itself toward the attainment of substitutes. The substitute for self-confidence is faith; the substitute for self-esteem is pride; and the substitute for individual balace is fusion with others into a compact group.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, History, Immigration, USA | 7 Comments »

    New Book Review up at PRAGATI: George F. Kennan: an American Life

    Posted by Zenpundit on 18th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted at

    PRAGATI – the Indian National Interest Review has published my review of John Lewis Gaddis’ biography George F. Kennan: An American Life.

    The creative art of strategy 

    ….Into the breach strides eminent diplomatic historian John Lewis Gaddis, offering a magisterial 784 page biography, a quarter- century in the making, George F. Kennan: An American Life. Gaddis, a noted historian of the Cold War and critic of revisionist interpretations of American foreign policy, has produced his magnum opus, distilling not only the essence of Kennan’s career, but the origins of his grand strategic worldview that were part and parcel the self-critical and lonely isolation that made Kennan such an acute observer of foreign societies and a myopic student of his own.

    Gaddis, who is a co-founder of the elite Grand Strategy Program at Yale University, had such a long intellectual association with his subject, having been appointed Kennan’s biographer in 1982, that one wonders on theories of strategy at times where George Kennan ends and John Lewis Gaddis begins. Giving Kennan the supreme compliment among strategists, that he possessed in the years of the Long Telegram and the Policy Planning Staff, Clausewitz’s Coup d’oeil, Gaddis does not shy away from explaining Kennan’s human imperfections to the reader that made the diplomat a study in contradictions….

    Read the rest here.

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, History, India, International Affairs, Media, National Security, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    How to Fold a Suit

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 18th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Knowledge you can use, via LifeHacker:

    Posted in Video | 12 Comments »

    Labels, Stories, and Personal Experience

    Posted by David Foster on 17th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Erin O’Connor links to George Eliot:

    It is an interesting branch of psychological observation to note the images that are habitually associated with abstract or collective terms — what may be called the picture-writing of the mind, which carries on concurrently with the more subtle symbolism of language. Perhaps the fixity or variety of these associated images would furnish a tolerably fair test of the amount of concrete knowledge and experience which a given word represents, in the minds of two persons who use it with equal familiarity. The word railways, for example, will probably call up, in the mind of a man who is not highly locomotive, the image either of a “Bradshaw,” or of the station with which he is most familiar, or of an indefinite length of tram-road; he will alternate between these three images, which represent his stock of concrete acquaintance with railways. But suppose a man to had successively the experience of a “navvy,” an engineer, a traveller, a railway director and a shareholder, and a landed proprietor in treaty with a railway company, and it is probable that the range of images which would by turns present themselves to his mind at the mention of the word “railways,” would include all the essential facts in the existence and relations of the thing. Now it is possible for the first-mentioned personage to entertain very expanded views as to the multiplication of railways in the abstract, and their ultimate function in civilization. He may talk of a vast net-work of railways stretching over the globe, of future “lines” in Madagascar, and elegant refreshment-rooms in the Sandwich Islands, with none the less glibness because his distinct conceptions on the subject do not extend beyond his one station and his indefinite length of tram-road. But it is evident that if we want a railway to be made, or its affairs to be managed, this man of wide views and narrow observation will not serve our purpose.

    Probably, if we could ascertain the images called up by the terms “the people,” “the masses,” “the proletariat,” “the peasantry,” by many who theorize on those bodies with eloquence, or who legislate for them without eloquence, we should find that they indicate almost as small an amount of concrete knowledge — that they are as far from completely representing the complex facts summed up in the collective term, as the railway images of our non-locomotive gentleman. How little the real characteristics of the working-classes are known to those who are outside them, how little their natural history has been studied, is sufficiently disclosed by our Art as well as by our political and social theories.

    Read the whole Eliot passage plus Erin’s post.

    See also Peter Robinson’s post about Khrushchev and Soviet management practices, which I see as being pretty related.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Management, Political Philosophy | 7 Comments »

    Lone Star Glory

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th February 2012 (All posts by )

    It was always hoped, among the rebellious Anglo settlers in the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas that a successful bid for independence from the increasingly authoritarian and centralist government of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna would be followed promptly by annexation by the United States. Certainly it was the hope of Sam Houston, almost from the beginning and possibly even earlier – just as much as it was the worst fear of Santa Anna’s on-again off-again administration. Flushed with a victory snatched from between the teeth of defeat at San Jacinto, and crowned with the capture of Santa Anna himself, the Texians anticipated joining the United States. But it did not work out – at least not right away. First, the then-president Andrew Jackson did not dare extend immediate recognition or offer annexation to Texas, for to do so before Mexico – or anyone else – recognized Texas as an independent state would almost certainly be construed as an act of war by Mexico. The United States gladly recognized Texas as an independent nation after a decent interval, but held off annexation for eight long years. It was political, of course – the politics of abolition and slavery, the bug-bear of mid-19th century American politics.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Anglosphere, History, Politics, USA | 3 Comments »

    More on the Lunchbox Inspectors

    Posted by David Foster on 17th February 2012 (All posts by )

    A thoughtful essay by Richard Fernandez about the costs of the effort to establish top-down control over all aspects of human life.

    Posted in Civil Society, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 2 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th February 2012 (All posts by )

    The full moon rises above the eastern horizon opposite the setting sun, as seen from the Shark Valley observation tower in Everglades National Park, Florida on January 8, 2012. (© Jonathan Gewirtz,

    Posted in Photos | Comments Off on

    Relatively Expensive

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 16th February 2012 (All posts by )

    In this post, I link to a brief news item that discusses the most expensive cities in the world to live. knirirr was kind enough to leave a comment.

    Interesting – I was surprised to see London so low down the list.

    knirirr makes his living as an academic. He works at a prestigious college in the United Kingdom. Even adjusted for different currencies, his pay lags about 25% behind what a comparable American prole slaving in the Ivory Tower would earn. And professor salaries in the UK are considered to be pretty posh compared to most of the world.

    If anyone is wondering as to the reason for this disparity, it is because the US government has guaranteed loans that college students take out to finance their educations. With all that money coming in, centers of higher learning have applied themselves to spending the wealth. Hence, academics in America earn significantly more than their foreign cousins.

    There is a lot more to the issue, enough to warrant a few other posts on the subject. But the main reason I mention it here is that knirirr’s comment got me to thinking about disparity of income.

    How would those cities on the list fare if one factored in the per capita GDP of the countries where they are located? According to this list, a few revisions would have to be made.

    Perhaps surprisingly, cities in the top spots would still be even more expensive places to live if one considers average per capita income.

    According to the article, the cost of living in Zurich is 176% compared to New York City. This means Zurich is the most expensive city to call home in terms of money spent to live there. But since the average wage of the Swiss people is five to ten percent less than citizens of the United States, the cash shelled out for rent and food would take a greater percentage of their pay checks.

    The same goes for the number two city. It might cost 166% to live in Tokyo, Japan than it would to dwell in New York, but the average Japanese citizen earns about 72% of the wage that the average American takes home. If GDP was included in the calculations, then Tokyo would climb above Zurich so far as relative expense was concerned.

    The real shakeup, of course, comes at the very bottom of the list. Karachi, Pakistan is supposed to be the least expensive place to live as one could make a home for only 46% of the cost to live in New York. But considering that the average yearly wage in Pakistan is about 5% of the average wage earned in the US, and suddenly it is obvious that the vast majority of Pakistanis can only think of living there to be an impossible dream.

    (Cross posted at Hell in a Handbasket.)

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 9 Comments »

    The Intelligence of the Crow

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 16th February 2012 (All posts by )

    A while back I read a book called “Ravens in Winter” and found the lives of crows and ravens to be very interesting. The book describes how they communicate food sources to one another through some type of unknown mechanism and their general high intelligence level.

    When I was in Norway I came across a Carrion Crow (or at least I think it is; I looked it up on wikipedia) that found a clam-shell container that usually contains take out food. The crow obviously knew that it was correlated with food and poked it with its beak and shook it about deliberately before throwing it to the ground in disgust. I took a video and uploaded it and you can see it in HD here which I find very humorous.

    Before 9/11 I traveled to Tasmania and had an encounter with what I believe was a Forest Raven, although once again I am not an ornithologist. The bird was AMAZINGLY persistent – when our car pulled up to a clearing it jumped on the side mirror (the window was open) and looked me right in the face (with big yellow eyes) and started cawing for food. I rolled up the window and it sat right on the hood of the car staring at me through the dashboard. I have never seen an (ostensibly wild) bird so unafraid of humans.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Book Notes, Diversions, Humor, Photos, Video | 13 Comments »

    Chicago Leads the Nation in Corruption

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 16th February 2012 (All posts by )

    I tell you, I had to pick myself up off the floor when I read this bit of news. Not.

    Federal prosecutors secured a total of 1,531 public corruption convictions in the Northern District of Illinois since 1976, said Dick Simpson, head of the university’s political science department.

    Meanwhile, Illinois logged 1,828 public corruption convictions, the third most of any state, according to the report. Only California and New York had more.

    But those states are much larger than Illinois. On a per-person basis, only the District of Columbia and Louisiana had more convictions than Illinois, according to the report.

    Four governors, two congressmen, a state treasurer, an attorney general, 11 state legislators, numerous judges and dozens of aldermen have been convicted since the 1970s, according to the report, dubbed Chicago and Illinois, Leading the Pack in Corruption.

    “For a long time — going back at least to the Al Capone era — Chicago and Illinois have been known for high levels of public corruption, Simpson said. “But now we have the statistics that confirm their dishonorable and notorious reputations. . . . . The two worst crime zones in Illinois are the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield and the City Council Chambers in Chicago.”

    “Chicago is the most corrupt city in the country, and Illinois is probably the third-most corrupt state in the nation,” Simpson said at a City Hall news conference.

    I never really came from a background where hush money or protection had to be paid. I wonder if you still have to pay people to “protect” your business “in case something happens” in Chicago.

    If so, it is a disgrace. The corruption is a disgrace anyways. I wonder when (if) the people of the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago will ever get sick of it.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Crime and Punishment | 11 Comments »

    The Art of the Remake V

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 16th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Morning Dew, by Bonnie Dobson. She wrote it, and she did the original recording, which is just her and an accoustic guitar, live. This version, recorded later, in the studio, has a more emotional vocal performance. A beautiful evocation of the period, in my not so humble estimation.

    There have been an enormous number of covers of this song.

    This version by Nazareth takes an earnest folk song about nuclear war, and turns it into a blisteing, trippy, fuzz blues, acid-rock jam. Such strange permutations.

    The weirdest thing is that until about 48 hours ago I had never heard of “Morning Dew”. I have been a devotee of rock and pop of the 1960s for the last 35 years or so, but this song, which has the status of a standard, has been under my radar all these years.

    In a way, it is good to know that I have not exhausted the riches of that era.

    Posted in Music, Urban Issues, Video, War and Peace | 30 Comments »

    Sunset Sky With Balloons

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th February 2012 (All posts by )

    At the balloon festival in Abilene, Texas – 2010

    Posted in Americas, Miscellaneous, North America, Photos, Tech, Transportation | 5 Comments »

    Europe’s Crazy Girlfriend

    Posted by Telegram from Innisfree on 15th February 2012 (All posts by )

    There she is. Sobbing on the phone. Making threats. Trashing her bedroom. And of course, making all sorts of promises to stay in the relationship.

    Meanwhile, Ireland is holding her breath and crossing her fingers. News radio here is breathless and buzzing with anticipation with whether this is the “Big One” – whether today’s teleconference will push Greece further to the brink, or indeed – over it. The way it has been painted is that if Greece goes, Portugal could be next. And then, Gd help us – what happens to Ireland?

    Hmm. Better pick up a few more pound notes when I go get the kids today…

    Posted in Europe | 14 Comments »

    What does life look like with $8/gallon gas?

    Posted by Telegram from Innisfree on 15th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Drudge is reporting that the US is headed to $5/gallon for gas. When I mention US prices to my Irish friends, they usually are either shocked or laugh. Our gas prices are still bargain basement compared to Ireland. Currently gas is about EUR1.55 per liter. Multiply by 4 to approximate a gallon = EUR 6.20. Multiply again by $1.30, and voila = $8/gallon gas.

    When petrol is this pricey, it’s time to ditch the car. Yes, we lead the green life, although very unwillingly. Husband commutes nearly 2hrs to work each way – a ride that takes only 35 min by car. The kids and I walk to school daily, 23 minutes each way.

    A few observations: 1. The idea that one somehow gets more fit from all of this walking is a joke and I am a living, breathing, zaftig testament to this truth; 2. Walking and taking public transit drains an enormous amount of time from one’s day, and one’s productivity; 3. Because I can only carry so much in my shopping trolley, I have to act as a hunter-gatherer, getting only so much food per day. Again – big drain on productivity. 4. Because we can’t afford a car, we’re not supporting all of the many businesses that build up around car ownership – insurance, gas, car washes, oil change services, tires, etc. So they lose out as well.

    Here’s your future, America. May I recommend getting some good shoes?

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Transportation | 20 Comments »

    Just Unbelievable

    Posted by David Foster on 14th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Government lunchbox inspectors in North Carolina

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, USA | 6 Comments »

    Chicago, Hog Butcher for the World

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 14th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Posted in Chicagoania | 11 Comments »

    Photo Software Deal

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Adobe Lightroom 3 is on sale, today only, at $79.95 with free shipping.

    This is great software. There’s a new version coming out soon, but at this price for the current version you can’t go wrong.

    Posted in Announcements | Comments Off on Photo Software Deal

    Dan Hannan, through the Looking-Glass

    Posted by Telegram from Innisfree on 14th February 2012 (All posts by )

    “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas — only I don’t exactly know what they are!”

    So there I sat at the table after Saturday morning services at the little Irish synagogue, talking with the one raging conservative in the room. (Actually there are a number of raging conservatives in Dublin. But very few know it yet. My acquaintance is one of the few self-acknowledged ones). “So what do you think about Daniel Hannan?” says I. “Nope, never heard of him” says my friend, reaching for another gefilte fish ball.

    Now, this is a well-read fellow who reads The Irish Independent and can reel off any number of American right-leaning politicians. He is head over heels for Chris Christie. But he has never heard of Dan Hannan?

    It’s no surprise. Dan Hannan gets very little play in his home media – or in Irish media — and yes, the Irish do follow other British politicians. But not this one.) Meanwhile, he is renowned in the US. Why does CPAC give Hannan a soapbox to stand on, but he is barely heard from on the eastern side of the Atlantic?

    1. I think in general MEPs tend to get a lot less coverage – a reflection of the unhappy truth that the Parliament is Brussels is a high school debate club with a gargantuan expense account. Which is why I think UKIP gets as many votes as it does for European elections. Since voters feel the EP is less consequential, they feel more free to vote for less popular parties.

    2. Hannan also represents an unpopular line of thinking – against Big Government, against (European) Union, and incredibly – I mean incredibly – pro-American. And it’s hard to get his ideas play in a culture (here in Ireland and I would reckon in the UK as well) that for the most part still treats political discussion as ill-mannered. And as for the media? Here in Dublin the only British radio station I can being in is BBC Radio 4. (Well, OK that and a Liverpool sports station) Like they’re going to give Hannan a chance to even heavy-breathe on their mikes.

    So, sorry, Smitty — please don’t take Dan Hannan away. We need him here. (While we’re on the topic, tell Rupert to send us a Fox News Channel too…)

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Europe, USA | 4 Comments »

    Just sayin’

    Posted by Telegram from Innisfree on 13th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Does this mean Justice Breyer is now a mugged liberal?

    Posted in Humor | 5 Comments »

    Syria, Iran and the Risks of Tactical Geopolitics

    Posted by Zenpundit on 13th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from

    Mr. Nyet 

    World affairs are much more like spider’s web than the neat little drawers of an apothecary’s cabinet. In the latter,  the contents of each drawer are cleanly isolated and conveniently compartmentalized. What you do with the contents of one drawer today has no bearing on what you do next week with those of another. By contrast, with a spider’s web, when you touch a web at any point, not only do you find it to be sticky in a fragile sort of way, but your touch sends vibrations through every centimeter of the lattice.

    Which alerts the spiders.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, China, Europe, International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, Politics, Russia, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Nicely Put

    Posted by David Foster on 13th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Even in the freest society power is charged with the impulse to turn men into precise, predictable automata. When watching men of power in action it must be always kept in mind that, whether they know it or not, their main purpose is the elimination or neutralization of the independent individual – the independent voter, consumer, worker, owner, thinker – and that every device they employ aims at turning man into a manipulatable ‘animated instrument,’ which is Aristotle’s definition of a slave.

    On the other hand, every device employed to bolster individual freedom must have as its chief purpose the impairment of the absoluteness of power. The indications are that such an impairment is brought about not by strengthening the individual and pitting him against the possessors of power, but by distributing and diversifying power and pitting one category or unit of power against the other. Where power is one, the defeated individual, however strong and resourceful, can have no refuge and no recourse.

    There is no doubt that of all political systems the free society is the most “unnatural.” Totalitarianism, even when it goes hand in hand with a modernization of technique, constitutes a throwback to the primitive and a return to nature. It is significant that the “back to nature” movements since the days of Rousseau, though generous and noble in origin, have inevitably tended to terminate in absolutism and the worship of brute force.

    Eric Hoffer, The Ordeal of Change

    Posted in Book Notes, Political Philosophy | 13 Comments »