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  • Archive for January, 2014

    History Saturday – The Two Samuels

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th January 2014 (All posts by )

    (OK, so I am late with the my usual History Friday segment. Stuff to work on in the real world, you know.)

    The annexation of Texas to the United States – the culmination of nearly a decade of mostly-back-stairs campaigning by Sam Houston – kicked off a war with Mexico, which had never really gotten over the loss of Coahuila-Tejas. Nearly half the Mexican states had rebelled violently when General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had abrogated the Mexican constitution of 1824 and established himself as dictator. Santa Anna put down the resulting rebellion with particular brutality, but thanks to the luck and skill of Sam Houston, and Santa Anna’s own miscalculations, Texas slipped from his grasp, maintaining a precarious state as an independent republic. Mexico threatened war, if annexation was accomplished and when it was, practically everyone directly involved was spoiling for a fight. (Although many Americans were anti-war in this particular case, including many northern Whigs like soon-to-be statesman Abraham Lincoln, and abolitionists, all of whom detested the addition of a slave-state to the union.)

    Among those most keen to have it done and get it over with were the volunteer Texas Rangers. Jack Hays had recruited a Texas force to serve along with Zachary Taylor’s command as spies and scouts. Two veterans of Jack Hays’ legendary Big Fight were along with him – Samuel Walker and Robert Addison ‘Ad’ Gillespie – when Taylor’s army took Matamoros and Camargo, and converged in several columns on Monterray. That city-stronghold was protected by fortified heights; Independence Hill, Fort Soldado, the Bishop’s Palace – and there the U.S. Army fought a savage battle at the gates of the city and in the surrounding heights, until the Mexican commanders offered an 8-week long truce. They would surrender the city, if they would allow the American army to allow them to evacuate their surviving troops. At the start of the siege, the Rangers were reported to have amused themselves by riding out to the walls, making flamboyant demonstrations of their horsemanship, provoking the Mexican gunners into firing, and then skillfully dodging the resulting cannon-balls aimed at them. By the time the truce was over, many of the Rangers’s limited enlistments were up, and they returned home to Texas. (So did Ad Gillespie – fatally wounded in the assault on the Bishop’s Palace fortifications. His body was returned for burial in a cemetery in San Antonio; Gillespie County, in the Texas Hill Country, is named for him.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Diversions, History | 4 Comments »

    Are We Living in a Post-Literate Society?

    Posted by David Foster on 11th January 2014 (All posts by )

    Was 1950 the high point of literacy in North America?

    An interesting if depressing piece here: Post-Literacy and the Refusal to Read.

    The author notes that the post-literate individual resembles the person from a pre-literate oral culture in many ways, BUT:

    On the other hand, post-literacy is not a relapse into orality, which, in its intact form, has institutions of its own such as folklore and social custom that codify the knowledge essential to living.  Post-literacy can draw on no such resources, for these have only been preserved in modern society in literature, and post-literacy has not only lost contact with literature, but also it simply no longer knows how to read in any meaningful sense.  It cannot refer to the archive to replenish itself by a study of its own past.

    …which implies, of course, that people in post-literate societies are more susceptible to manipulation than are those in either oral or literate cultures.

    Note also the description of the private college which is so desperate for tuition revenue that it forces its professors to tolerate almost any level of bad performance and outright laziness from its students. As I’ve observed before, the idea that “non-profit” institutions are inherently morally superior to for-profit entities is ludicrous, and increasingly obviously so.

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Human Behavior, Media, Tech, USA | 32 Comments »

    History Friday: Operation Olympic – Something Forgotten & Something Familiar

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 10th January 2014 (All posts by )

    One of the objectives when I started writing my “History Friday” columns was to improve the public’s understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. A recurring focal point has been trying to answer the “counterfactual” or “What If” question “How would the American military have fought the Imperial Japanese in November 1945 if the A-bomb failed?” in ways that challenge current academic narratives about the end of World War 2 in the Pacific.

    This History Friday column returns to that theme by examining a technology forgotten and a technology familiar and using the combination to challenge the standing academic narrative of “If America invaded Japan in 1945 without the A-bomb, Japan had a chance of winning.” The “Forgotten” is the “Brodie Device” a “cableway” technology for launching and landing small fixed wing aircraft. The “Familiar” are small general aviation planes of the Piper Cub class and television. Early television created in the form of the “Block III” missile guidance seeker of R.C.A.’s WW2 era chief scientist Dr. Vladimir Zworykin. And taken together, they represented the qualitative aspect of the American materialschlacht – battle of material – that was actually on a sharp upward slope in the closing months of WW2. Creating for the cancelled Operation Olympic Invasion of Japan something that looked like a direct ancestor of the 2013 Robert J. Collier Trophy winning MC-12 Liberty. A Hawker Beechcraft King Air “Manned UAV,” which is flying combat missions over Afghanistan today.

    This is the Brodie Device in it's land based and alternate se based configurations

    This is the Brodie Device in its land based, freighter and LST configurations

    Brodie Device
    The “Brodie Device” was the invention of one Lieutenant, later decorated with the Legion of Merit and promoted Captain, James H Brodie of the USAAF Transportation Corps. Brodie’s day job was redesigning freighters in the Port of New Orleans to carry aircraft to the front. He saw any number of ships with his work torpedoed and sunk by U-boats, and unlike most, he could and did something about it. He designed a cableway device to give his freighters their own Piper Cub air spotters. With much politicking on his part, he was given $10,000 and designed a 7,000 lbs (3,175 kg) cableway launch and landing system that began testing in April 1943. By July 1943 he was pestering transient USAAF pilots to test fly an L-4 “Grasshopper” Piper Cub into his contraption. Finally he found a B-26 pilot, named Maj James D Kemp, with enough bravery and shear craziness to do both a take-off and landing on 3 Sept 1943.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, National Security, Okinawa 65, USA, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    Green

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th January 2014 (All posts by )

    Bright green plants form a colorful abstract background beneath the surface of a stream that crosses the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park, Florida. (© 2012 Jonathan Gewirtz / jonathan@gewirtz.net)

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    Is the Preferance Cascade Beginning?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th January 2014 (All posts by )

    All during late November and December of last year, I began seeing internet discussions of the looming disaster that is Obamacare – and yes, I will hang that name on the so-called Affordable Care Act, also known as the un-Affordable Care Act. The man behind the desk in the Oval Office pursued this as his singular achievement; his legislative allies rammed it through over protest, and his media allies have viciously abused those who advised caution. So it is only fitting and fair that his name get attached to it at every opportunity, especially if it brings down his whole political machine in a spectacular fashion, rather like a slow-motion Hindenberg collapsing.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Deep Thoughts, Health Care | 47 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman, “Purim & My Bangladeshi Friend”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 9th January 2014 (All posts by )

    Our good friend Seth Barrett Tillman has an excellent article, part personal narrative, part meditation on the basis of conflict between Arabs and Jews, based on thoughts on the book of Esther.

    The article, “Purim & My Bangladeshi Friend” may be found by clicking here.

    On the Jewish holiday of Purim the practice is to read the book of Esther. Purim is on March 15-16 in 2014. It is not a widespread practice, but I know Catholics who read the book of Esther on Purim, and I read it last year for the first time. If you have never read it, you should. It is only about 6,000 words, the length of a long article, not a book. You can find it here.

    As Seth notes, while the story is one of survival for the Jews, it also shows the sorrow and disgrace suffered by every defeated people at the hands of their conquerors.

    Every year at Purim, my co-religionists and I read Esther. The story, as customarily explained to children, is that Esther won a contest . . . something akin to the modern beauty pageant. The prize was that she was made queen – the wife of the Persian emperor. As a result, by pleading to her husband on behalf of her brethren, she was well-situated to save the Jewish community from the nefarious Haman, who actively plotted genocide against the Jews. Esther’s courage thwarts Haman and the community is saved, although it remained in exile. The story is presented as one with a happy ending.
     
    But, that is the story as it is told to our children.
     
    By contrast, an adult, who considered Esther, would understand that the story of Purim is also an intensely sad story.

    Highly recommended. RTWT.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Morality and Philosphy, Personal Narrative, Religion | 2 Comments »

    Mike Lotus Speaking About America 3.0 to the Chicago Republican Women’s Network, Thursday January 9, 2014

    Posted by Lexington Green on 8th January 2014 (All posts by )

    I will be speaking to the Chicago Republican Women’s Network on Thursday, January 9, 2014 about America 3.0. The event will be at the Third Coast Cafe and Wine Bar, 1260 N. Dearborn, Chicago at 6:30 p.m. (By then it will be a balmy 25º F, so you will want to go outside again.)

    It is free for CRWN members, but “first time attendees can come for free.” If you plan to come, please RSVP to events@crwn.org so that there will be an accurate head count.

    Warm thanks for CRWN for this invitation. I look forward to this event.

    Posted in America 3.0, Announcements | Comments Off on Mike Lotus Speaking About America 3.0 to the Chicago Republican Women’s Network, Thursday January 9, 2014

    Obamacare, the Wisdom of Rose Wilder Lane, and Why Nancy Pelosi Was Sort of Right

    Posted by David Foster on 7th January 2014 (All posts by )

    The “Affordable Care Act,” aka Obamacare, seems to be full of surprises.  For example, it seems that many Americans are being forced onto Obamacare exchanges where most plans provide only local medical coverage…a bit of a problem for people who travel, change jobs, or have vacation homes.  To take another example, this Washington Post article says Obamacare may make it impossible for people living in American territories (such as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands) to purchase health insurance policies at all. “Unexpected!” results of Obamacare seem to be almost daily news.

    These surprises especially strike those ordinary Americans who are the targeted users of Obamacare, of course…but  also, they seem to strike many of the creators of the program. Some members of the government classes, of course, simply lied about Obamacare’s effects…first and foremost this is notoriously true of Obama himself. But I also feel sure that there are many among those CongressCreatures who voted for this 2000-page bill who have been genuinely surprised by some or many of its outcomes. It is simply not possible to clearly predict in advance the effects of a piece of legislation so all-encompassing, so verbose, and so quickly pushed through.

    Rose Wilder Lane, still at that point a Communist, visited the Soviet Union in 1919. After she explained the benefits of central planning to a disbelieving village leader, he shook his head sadly and said:

    It is too big – he said – too big. At the top, it is too small. It will not work. In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God. A man has only a man’s head, and one hundred heads together do not make one great big head. No. Only God can know Russia.

    Indeed, one hundred or one thousand or ten thousand heads together in the form of CongressCreatures or health care bureaucrats did not suffice to make one great big head that would fully grasp the implications of Obamacare. Nancy Pelosi was sort of right when she said “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it”…she should have carried it further and said: “We have to pass the bill so that we can find out what’s in it.”

    It is precisely this difficulty in predicting the outcomes of sweeping change, on a society-wide scale, that makes such sweeping and radical change something to be usually avoided..and when indeed necessary, to be conducted with caution and careful forethought. British statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke made this point eloquently and famously. Nothing could be more anti-Burkean than Obama’s statement on October 30, 2008: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

    After coming to realize that the defects of Communism are inherent and not just due to problems with one particular implementation of it, Rose Wilder Lane also became convinced that:

    Centralized economic control over multitudes of human beings must therefore be continuous and perhaps superhumanly flexible, and it must be autocratic. It must be government by a swift flow of edicts issued in haste to catch up with events receding into the past before they can be reported, arranged, analyzed and considered, and it will be compelled to use compulsion. In the effort to succeed, it must become such minute and rigorous control of details of individual life as no people will accept without compulsion. It cannot be subject to the intermittent checks, reversals, and removals of men in power which majorities cause in republics.

    Note how this comment ties in with the Obama administration’s tendency to adjust the healthcare insurance program via quick and arbitrary administrative rulemaking, rather than via the legislative process. RWL would say that this kind of behavior is inherent in a program intended to establish government control over vast swaths of society.

    She also notes that:

    Nobody can plan the actions of even a thousand living persons, separately. Anyone attempting to control millions must divide them into classes, and make a plan applying to these classes. But these classes do not exist. No two persons are alike. No two are in the same circumstances; no two have the same abilities; beyond getting the barest necessities of life, no two have the same desires.Therefore the men who try to enforce, in real life, a planned economy that is their theory, come up against the infinite diversity of human beings. The most slavish multitude of men that was ever called “demos” or “labor” or “capital” or”agriculture” or “the masses,” actually are men; they are not sheep. Naturally, by their human nature, they escape in all directions from regulations applying to non-existent classes. It is necessary to increase the number of men who supervise their actions. Then (for officials are human, too) it is necessary that more men supervise the supervisors.

    …and discusses the temptations of power to a leader who believes in expansionist government:

    If he wants to do good (as he sees good) to the citizens, he needs more power. If he wants to be re-elected, he needs more power to use for his party. If he wants money, he needs more power; he can always sell it to some eager buyer. If he wants publicity, flattery, more self-importance, he needs more power, to satisfy clamoring reformers who can give him flattering publicity.

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Health Care, Law, Leftism, Obama, Political Philosophy, USA | 11 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 7th January 2014 (All posts by )

    A Winter’s Tale. An appropriate post given today’s temperatures.

    Saint Alexander of Munich. Alexander Schmorell, a member of the anti-Nazi student resistance group known as the White Rose, has been canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

    Deconstructing a Nazi Death Sentence. The transcript of the verdict passed by the “People’s Court” on members of the White Rose provides a window into the totalitarian mind.

    Despicable. US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Istanbul, compared the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing to the nine Turkish activists killed by the IDF as they tried to break Gaza’s naval blockade.

    Appropriate Reading and Viewing for Obama’s Surveillance State.

    Six Hundred Million Years in K-12.

    Some 3-D Printing Links.

    Aerodynamics, Art History, and the Assignment of Names.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Aviation, Christianity, Current Events, Education, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Israel, Obama, Philosophy, Religion, Tech | 1 Comment »

    Sonny Boy Williamson, 9 Below Zero

    Posted by Lexington Green on 5th January 2014 (All posts by )

    It is going to nine below zero at 3:00 a.m. tonight.

    Stand by for some serious cold, Chicago.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Video | 5 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 5th January 2014 (All posts by )

    The Power of Metaphor and Analogy. How verbal imagery affects decision-making.

    Not a Single One. Not a single Democratic senator managed to demonstrate enough judgment and courage to go against his Party herd and vote “Nay” on the Hagel confirmation. Also, interesting comments from a political science on the increasing tribalization of the electorate…strongly related to what I call the outsourcing of judgment and conscience.

    Coming Soon, to Places Near You? How French bureaucracy in the 1920s offers a preview of  rampant American bureaucracy in our present era.

    The Reductio ad Absurdum of Bureaucratic Liberalism. Swedish police were unable to suppress the riots, but they were able to issue parking tickets to burned-out cars…reminding me of an old SF story by Walter Miller.

    More on Bureaucracy. Peter Drucker explains why every government must be a “government of paper forms” if it is not to degenerate into a mutual looting society.

    Durbin, Tocqueville, and Freedom of the Press.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Israel, Leftism, Management, Media, Political Philosophy, Politics | 4 Comments »

    The Hillary Campaign, step two.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th January 2014 (All posts by )

    The New Yorker has an interesting short piece about al Qeada, this week by Lawrence Wright. It concerns the recent court rulings about NSA metadata collection.

    Judge Pauley invoked the example of Khalid al-Mihdhar, a Saudi jihadist who worked for Al Qaeda. On 9/11, he was one of the five hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. In early 2000, Mihdhar made seven calls from San Diego to an Al Qaeda safe house in Yemen. According to Pauley, the N.S.A. intercepted the calls, but couldn’t identify where Mihdhar was calling from. Relying on testimony by Robert Mueller, the former director of the F.B.I., Pauley concluded that metadata collection could have allowed the bureau to discover that the calls were being made from the U.S., in which case the bureau could have stopped 9/11.

    Fair enough but Wright has another point.

    But the Mihdhar calls tell a different story about why the bureau failed to prevent the catastrophe. The C.I.A. withheld crucial intelligence from the F.B.I., which has the ultimate authority to investigate terrorism in the U.S. and attacks on Americans abroad.

    In August, 1998, truck bombs destroyed two American Embassies, in Kenya and Tanzania, killing two hundred and twenty-four people. Three days later, F.B.I. investigators captured a young Saudi named Mohammad al-‘Owhali at a hotel outside Nairobi. He had fresh stitches in his forehead and bloody bandages on his hands. In his pocket were eight brand-new hundred-dollar bills. Two skilled interrogators, Steve Gaudin and John Anticev, persuaded ‘Owhali to write down the number he called after the bombing. It belonged to Khalid al-Mihdhar’s father-in-law, Ahmed al-Hada, and was one of the most important pieces of information ever obtained in the effort to prevent terrorist acts in the U.S. It became known as the Al Qaeda switchboard.

    The title of Wright’s piece is “The al Qeada Switchboard.”

    The N.S.A.’s tracking of calls to and from the Hada household allowed the F.B.I. to map the global network of Al Qaeda. But not all the information was shared. In 1999, Mihdhar’s name surfaced in one of the recorded calls, linking him to Al Qaeda. “Something nefarious might be afoot,” an N.S.A. analyst wrote, but Mihdhar’s name was not passed on to the F.B.I.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Islam, Law Enforcement, Middle East, Politics, Terrorism | 2 Comments »

    History Friday: Admiral Nimitz’s Kiwi Radars & Power Politics in the South Pacific

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 3rd January 2014 (All posts by )

    As I opened my previous column, I will state again, one of the strangest experiences doing historical research is following a trail of research on something you think you know, and then suddenly you go down Alice’s rabbit hole and find a “Detailed Reality” that was something completely different. This trip into “Detailed Reality” started as a search for how the US Navy used land based radar to control fighters in World War II (WW2) and turned into a story of institutional power politics between the American government and both its New Zealand and Australian allies. Power politics that resulted in another “convenient lie” from the US Navy, New Zealand and Australian governments being parked on General Douglas Mac Arthur’s post-war reputation.

    Radar in WW2 was a classified subject. Some portions of that Pacific theater’s wartime records for radar were declassified at the end of the war as a part of the normal jockeying for post war budgets. The US Navy emphasized, naturally enough, the ship based radars in its institutional history. Land based radars in the Pacific were a different matter. There were numerous US Navy, US Army, US Army Air Force and US Marne Corps radar units in the course of WW2 in the Pacific, and much of their story remained classified through the late 1980s and early 1990s. The failure of many historians to go there after that declassification was a methodological cue for me to follow up that line of investigation to “peer around the established institutional narrative.” The place to start with the land based radar narrative in the Pacific was Guadalcanal. It was here that the US Navy learned to use radar to fight ships at night, and to a lessor extent to use ship mounted radar to direct fighters. The key radar development at Guadalcanal, however, wasn’t either of those. It was the use of radar directed fighters by the “Cactus Air Force” out of Henderson Field in 1942-1943, which birthed all the wartime US Navy Department land-based radar organizations. And both the US Navy and USMC learned much of this trade from radars produced and maintained by the New Zealand Radio Development Laboratory (RDL) scientists and the radar controllers of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

    A New Zealand Long Range Air Warning (LRAW) Radar -- from Echos Over The Pacific

    A New Zealand Long Range Air Warning (LRAW) Radar, Alternative broadside aerial on left. Truck with double Yagi ‘assault’ aerial and equipment to the right, in front of radio truck. — Photo Dr R S Unwin from page 11 of “Echos Over The Pacific”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    History Friday Book Review: In the Garden of Beasts

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd January 2014 (All posts by )

    This is not so much a compendium of the experiences of those Americans present in Germany when the Third Reich began it’s ascent to power, but a character study of a particular family. There were a fair number Americans resident in Germany at that time, or just passing through; diplomatic personnel and their families, scholars, newspaper and radio reporters, travelers, businessmen, expatriates of all sorts, or even German-Americans paying extended visits to kin. The family of Ambassador William Dodd falls into the first category and Dodd himself into the second as well. He was an academic, a historian who earned his PhD at the University of Leipzig at the turn of the turn of the century, where he picked up fluency in the language and a deep affection for the country. He was a friend of Woodrow Wilson and when FDR’s administration was stuck to name an ambassador (when their first two choices declined) Dodd was tasked with the honor, which he took up from 1933-1937. Dodd was not a professional diplomat, and it soon emerged that those whom he had to work with at State Department didn’t think all that much of him. For one – he was not particularly wealthy and vowed to live in modest fashion while carrying out his assignment, which lasted from 1933 to 1937. This was rather a strike against him in the circles that he was expected to move; if the professionals had to put up with a patronage appointment, a rich one who would spend lavishly from his or her own purse while in pursuit of diplomatic objectives would make up in some fashion for the bother of conducting business with the host nation through an amateur.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Germany, History | 16 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd January 2014 (All posts by )

    Western Civilization and the First World War…with a very good comment thread.

    The Power of Metaphor and Analogy.

    The Normalization of Abusive Government.

    Would You Trust Your Financial Future to This Woman? Patty Murray, a U.S. Senator and an obvious moron and bigot..as the quotes in this post clearly demonstrate…is head of the Senate Budget Committee.

    Whose Interests Will Jack Lew be Representing? There were some rather interesting clauses in the Treasury Secretary’s employment agreement with Citigroup.

    Time Travel. Some personal connections with the past.

     

    Posted in Britain, Economics & Finance, Europe, France, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    My health care posts from 2013

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 2nd January 2014 (All posts by )

    David has a good idea. I often read the archives of my personal blog to see how I did in forecasting the future or understanding the present. A major concern of mine is, of course, health care and what is happening. When I retired from surgery after my own back surgery, I spent a year at Dartmouth Medical School’s center for study of health care. My purpose was to indulge an old hobby. How do we measure quality in health care ? I had served for years on the board of a company called California Medical Review, Inc. It was the official Medicare review organization for California. For a while I was the chair of the Data Committee. It seems to have gone downhill since I was there. First, it changed its name in an attempt to get more business from private sources. Then it lost the Medicare contract.

    Lumetra, which lost a huge Medicare contract last November, is changing its name and its business model as it seeks to replace more than $20 million in lost revenue.
    The San Francisco-based nonprofit’s revenue will shrink this year from $28 million last fiscal year, ending in March 2009, to a projected $4.5 million, CEO Linda Sawyer told the Business Times early this week.
    That’s in large part because it’s no longer a Medicare quality improvement contractor, formerly its main line of work. And in fact, the 25-year-old company’s revenue has been plummeting since fiscal 2007, when it hit $47 million.

    I see no sign that it is involved with Obamacare which is being run from Washington with a state organization that seems no better run than the parent organization.

    Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the Affordable Care Act no longer will provide federal grants to fund state health exchanges. In addition, California law prohibits using the state’s general fund to pay for the exchange.

    Anyway, for what it is worth, here are the links to the 2013 health posts.

    The Lost Boys

    Alternatives to Obamacare.

    Why the Obamacare Site Isn’t Working.

    Where Healthcare May be Going.

    Conservatives Invented the Mandate; say the Democrats.

    A Critical Insight.

    A Rolling Catastrophe.

    Why Health Care is in Trouble.

    Where Do We Go Now ?

    Building the Airplane During Takeoff.

    Posted in Blogging, Current Events, Health Care, Medicine, Obama, Politics, Systems Analysis | 17 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd January 2014 (All posts by )

    I’m reviewing my posts over the last year, and will be linking some of them here, in some cases with additional commentary. Here’s the first batch…

    The bitter wastes of politicized America, on the toxic social effects of ever-increasing government power.

    Also relevant to the subject of this post are some of Sebastian Haffner’s observations on inter-war Germany. He notes that during the Stresemann chancellorship, when a certain level of stability and normality was achieved, “there was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness”…BUT a return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

    A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddenly ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.

    I’m afraid that in America today, we also have a fair number of people who expect to have “the content of their lives delivered by the public sphere,” and this is another factor in the growing politicization of absolutely everything.

    The Dream(liner) and the Nightmare (of Social Toxicity). How reactions to the problems with the Boeing 787’s battery system exemplify the declining levels of trust in American society.

    Excusing Failure by Pleading Incompetence.  Hillary Clinton’s testimony on the Benghazi debacle clearly demonstrated her inability and/or unwillingness to understand the nature of executive responsibility. It is truly appalling that anyone could seriously consider this woman for the job of United States President.

    Respect her Authoritah. Nancy Cartman-Pelosi thinks it would be disrespectful to cut congressional salaries because it would reduce the dignity of lawmakers’ jobs.

    Connecting the World. Undersea cables, and their social & psychological impact.

    Posted in Aviation, Civil Society, Germany, Leftism, Management, Politics, Tech, Transportation | 1 Comment »

    Adding Up the Old Year, Looking Towards the New

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 2nd January 2014 (All posts by )

    In a meditation that I posted about this time last year – just as we came down to Christmas and the last frantic dash to the end of the year – I laid out the things that I wanted to do, or ought to do during 2013. Time to take stock and look at which ones I did manage … and those that I shall have to try harder to do in 2014.

    #1 – I was resolved to change my main bank account from Bank of America to a Texas institution. Check. Actually accomplished this the first week of the new year, and it went quite painlessly, changing the automatic deposit from DFAS and the automatic payment to the mortgage company. Check.

    #2 – Finish and publish The Quivera Trail in time for launching in November, 2013. Done and check. Also begin on the next book, or at least the research. I had thought it would be tentatively entitled The Golden Road, starring young Fredi Steinmetz and the usual cast of characters historical and created … half-check. Started research, but was detoured into writing another picaresque adventure, Lone Star Sons, which will be a short and adventurous bagatelle and a re-working of the Lone Ranger, as a historical adventure in 1840s Texas – which I am posting, chapter by chapter at the book blog and website, here. Lone Star Sons will be my November 2015 book … but I will be well along in writing The Golden Road by then.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Current Events, Personal Narrative, USA | 15 Comments »

    ETAOIN SHRDLU

    Posted by David Foster on 1st January 2014 (All posts by )

    I was trying to figure out the not-very-intuitive interface for presetting stations on my car radio, and remembered a car radio we had when I was a kid: it could “memorize” the frequencies of selected stations in an entirely mechanical manner. IIRC, you pulled out a setting button when the radio was on a station you wanted to “remember,” and when you later wanted to return to that station, you simply pushed the appropriate button in. (I believe this feature was mechanized via clamps gripping a continuous string that drove the tuning mechanism.)

    Which got me thinking: there was once a whole range of cunning mechanical devices that performed memory, logic, and arithmetic tasks that would now be done with a microprocessor or some other form of digital logic. Things that come to mind include railway signal interlocking systems, Linotype and other typesetting machines, mechanical calculators, mechanical analog computers, and ship and aircraft autopilots.

    Googling around, I found that there is actually a feature film about the Linotype:  a bit about the history of typesetting, the development of the Linotype machine, the basics of how it works, some of the social/economic implications, and much nostalgia from former Linotype operators (and also from younger operators, who are working to keep the trade/technology alive.) The film is available free to those who have an Amazon Prime membership.

    This video explains how the Linotype works and then goes into considerable detail about the mechanism.

    Regarding the social/economic implications, the first video notes that while Linotype reduced typesetting labor requirements by a factor of 6:1, it also drove an explosion in the volume of printed material, and a concurrent increase in literacy, and wound up actually increasing the number of people involved in the printing trade. I would also suspect that the high capital cost of Linotype equipment was one factor that drove a consolidation of the newspaper industry toward a small number of highly dominant papers in each city.

    One place where a Linotype can be seen in operation today is the Baltimore Museum of Industry, which has a machine which is periodically activated.

     

    Posted in History, Media, Tech | 11 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st January 2014 (All posts by )

    Caroline Glick, Khodorkovsky and the freedom agenda:

    Both the Iranian democracy activists then and the Ukrainian protesters today demonstrated through their actions that they do not seek the mere overthrow of unrepresentative, repressive governments. They seek freedom, and are willing to work for it. All the Iranians needed then, and all the Ukrainians ask for today, is assistance from foreign powers, just as George Washington’s Continental Army required French assistance to defeat the British Empire.
     
    While those are easy cases to understand, the lesson of Putin’s Russia and of post-Saddam Iraq is that freedom doesn’t sprout from thin air. The only way to plant democracy in nations unfamiliar with the habits of liberty is to cultivate them, relentlessly and unapologetically, over time.

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Iraq, Management, Political Philosophy, Quotations, Russia | 4 Comments »

    2013: “Let it be past and over, and among the things that I have put away.”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 1st January 2014 (All posts by )

    I set this post to go up at midnight.

    There is a faint freshness in the London night as though some strayed reveler of a breeze had left his comrades in the Kentish uplands and had entered the town by stealth. The pavements are a little damp and shiny. Upon one’s ears that at this late hour have become very acute there hits the tap of a remote footfall. Louder and louder grow the taps, filling the whole night. And a black cloaked figure passes by, and goes tapping into the dark. One who has danced goes homewards. Somewhere a ball has closed its doors and ended. Its yellow lights are out, its musicians are silent, its dancers have all gone into the night air, and Time has said of it, “Let it be past and over, and among the things that I have put away.”

    Lord Dunsany, Bethmoora

    As I said on a bygone New Years Eve:

    I wish all our ChicagoBoyz contributors, readers, friends, families, and all people of good will, a heaping portion of good luck in [2014] and a mere dash of trouble, just enough to flavor the dish.

    Fear God and dread nought.

    Happy New Year.

    Posted in Holidays | 5 Comments »