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  • Archive for August, 2018

    Summer Rerun: Catalist, “The 480”, and The Real 480

    Posted by David Foster on 30th August 2018 (All posts by )

    There was much discussion in 2014 of Catalist, a database system being used by the Democratic Party to optimally target their electioneering efforts…see Jonathan’s post here.  I’m reminded of Eugene Burdick’s 1964 novel, The 480.  The book’s premise is that a group within the Republican party acquires the services of a computing company called  Simulation Enterprises, intending to apply the latest technology and social sciences research in order to get their candidate elected.  These party insiders have been inspired by the earlier work of the 1960 Kennedy campaign with a company called Simulmatics.

    Simulmatics was a real company.  It was founded by MIT professor Ithiel de Sola Pool, a pioneer in the application of computer technology to social science research. Data from 130,000 interviews was categorized into 480 demographic groups, and an IBM 704 computer was used to process this data and predict the likely effects of various alternative political tactics.  One question the company was asked to address by the 1960 Democratic campaign, in the person of Robert F Kennedy, was:  How best to deal with religion?  There was considerable concern among some parts of the electorate about the prospect of choosing a Catholic as President.  Would the JFK campaign do better by minimizing attention to this issue, or would they do better by addressing it directly and condemning as bigots those who would let Kennedy’s faith affect their vote?

    Simulmatics concluded that “Kennedy today has lost the bulk of the votes he would lose if the election campaign were to be embittered by the issue of anti-Catholicism.  The simulation shows that there has already been a serious defection from Kennedy by Protestant voters. Under these circumstances, it makes no sense to brush the religious issue under the rug.  Kennedy has already suffered the disadvantages of the issue even though it is not embittered now–and without receiving compensating advantages inherent in it.”  Quantitatively, the study predicted that Kennedy’s direct addressing of the religion issue would move eleven states, totaling 122 electoral votes, away from the Kennedy camp–but would pull six states, worth 132 electoral votes, into the Democratic column.

    It is not clear how much this study influenced actual campaign decision-making…but less than three weeks after RFK received the Simulmatics report, JFK talked about faith before a gathering of ministers in Houston.  “I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end,”  Kennedy said,  “where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind.” (Burdick’s novel also suggests that the Kennedy campaign used Simulmatics to assess the effects of a more-forthright posture on civil rights by the campaign, and furthermore to analyze Kennedy’s optimal personality projection during the debates–I don’t know if these assertions are historically correct, but the religion analysis clearly was indeed performed.)

    Considerable excitement was generated when, after the election, the Simulmatics project became publicly known.  A Harper’s Magazine article referred to to the Simulmatics computer as “the people machine,” and quoted Dr Harold Lasswell of Yale as saying, “This is the A-bomb of the social sciences.  The breakthrough here is comparable to what happened at Stagg Field.”  But Pierre Salinger, speaking for the Kennedy campaign, asserted that “We did not use the machine.”  (Salinger’s statement is called out as a lie in the recent book, The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.)

    In Burdick’s novel, the prospective Republican candidate is John Thatch, head of an international engineering and construction company.  Thatch has achieved popular renown after courageously defusing a confrontation between Indians and Pakistanis over a bridge his company was building, thereby averting a probable war.  Something about Thatch’s personality has struck the public imagination, and–despite his lack of political experience–he looks to be an attractive candidate.  But initially, the Republicans see little hope of defeating the incumbent Kennedy–“the incumbent is surrounded by over four years of honorific words and rituals,” a psychologist explains.  “He seems as though he ought to be President.  He assumes the mantle.”  This outlook is deeply disturbing to a Republican senior statesman named Bookbinder, who strongly believes that defacto 8-year terms are bad for the country…but if it is true that Kennedy is unbeatable, then the best the Republicans can hope to do is lose as well as possible.  Things change when Kennedy is assassinated and the election becomes a real contest.

    Bookbinder and Levi, another Republican senior statesman, are introduced to Simulation Enterprises by a young lawyer named Madison (Mad) Curver and his psychologist associate (quoted above), a woman named Dr Devlin.  Mad and Dr Devlin explain that what Sim Enterprises does is different from the work done by garden-variety pollsters like the one they have just met, Dr Cotter:

    “The pollster taps only a small fragment of the subject’s mind, attention, background, family influence, and habits.  The Simulations thing, just because it can consider thousands of elements influencing the subject, even things he may not know himself, gets much better results.”

    “And one further thing, Book,” Mad said.  “Simulations Enterprises can predict what people will do in a situation which they have never heard of before.  That was the whole point of the UN in the Midwest example.  No one has gone out there and asked them to vote on whether we should get out of the UN, but Dev outlined a procedure by which you can predict how they will react…if they ever do have to vote on it.

    Again Bookbinder had the sharp sense of unreality.  Unreal people were being asked invented questions and a result came out on green, white-lined paper…and when you got around to the real people six months later with the real question they would act the way the computer had said they would.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Book Notes, Elections, History, Human Behavior, Politics, Polls, Predictions, Tech, USA | 18 Comments »

    Where is health care going ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 28th August 2018 (All posts by )

    UPDATE: A new analysis of Obamacare’s role in the conversion of American Medicine to an industry with corporate ethics.

    The health system is now like a cocaine junkie hooked on federal payments.

    This addiction explains why the insurance companies are lobbying furiously for these funds alongside their new found friends at left-wing interest groups like Center for American Progress. The irony of this alliance is that the left-wing allies the insurers have united with hate insurance companies and want to abolish them. The insurance lobby is selling rope to their hangman.

    Hospital groups, the American Medical Association, the AARP and groups like them are on board too. They are joined by the Catholic Bishops and groups like the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. (If you are donating money to any of these groups you might want to think again.) This multi-billion dollar health industrial complex has only one solution to every Obamacare crack-up: more regulation and more tax dollars.I practiced during what is more and more seen as a golden age of medical care. Certainly the poor had problems with access. Still, most got adequate care, either through Medicaid after 1965, or from public hospitals, many of which were wrecked by Medicaid rules and by the flood of illegal aliens the past 40 years.

    Obamacare destroyed, probably on purpose, the healthcare system we had. It had been referred to by Teddy Kennedy, the saint of the Democrats Party as “a cottage industry.” As far as primary care was concerned, he was correct. What we have now is industrial type medicine for primary care and many primary care doctors are quitting.

    So why is there waning interest in being a physician? A recent report from the Association of American Medical Colleges projected a shortage of 42,600 to 121,300 physicians by 2030, up from its 2017 projected shortage of 40,800 to 104,900 doctors.

    There appear to be two main factors driving this anticipated doctor drought: First, young people are becoming less interested in pursuing medical careers with the rise of STEM jobs, a shift that Craig Fowler, regional VP of The Medicus Firm, a national physician search and consulting agency based in Dallas, has noticed.

    “There are definitely fewer people going to [med school] and more going into careers like engineering,” Fowler told NBC News.

    There are several reasons, I think. I have talked to younger physicians and have yet to find one that enjoys his or her practice if they are in primary care. That applies to both men and women. Women are now 60% of medical students. This has contributed to the doctor shortage as they tend to work fewer hours than male physicians.

    A long analysis of physician incomes shows that 22% of females report part time work vs 12% of males.

    Physicians are the most highly regulated profession on earth. The Electronic Health Record has been made mandatory for those treating Medicare patients and it has contributed a lot to the dissatisfaction of physicians.

    THE MOUNTING BUREAUCRACY
    This “bottleneck effect” doesn’t usually sour grads on staying the course, Fowler finds, but he does see plenty of doctors in the later stages of their careers hang up their stethoscopes earlier than expected. Some cite electronic health records (EHRs) as part of the reason — especially old school doctors who don’t pride themselves on their computer skills. New research by Stanford Medicine, conducted by The Harris Poll, found that 59 percent think EHRs “need a complete overhaul;” while 40 percent see “more challenges with EHRs than benefits.”

    If I remember my arithmetic, that adds up to 99% unhappy with the EHR.

    Most primary care physicians I know are on salary, employed by a hospital or a corporate firm. They are require to crank out the office visits and are held to a tight schedule that does not allow much personal relationships with patients. The job satisfaction that was once a big part of a medical career is gone.

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    Posted in Health Care, Medicine, Obama, Politics | 43 Comments »

    China, Taiwan, and the Third World

    Posted by David Foster on 28th August 2018 (All posts by )

    China has been making many investments in third-world countries, often in exchange for resource concessions.  There is growing concern that some of these projects leave the host country with too much debt–indeed, last December, Sri Lanka sold control of its port of Hambantota to a Chinese state-owned company after falling behind in repaying $1.5 billion in loans from Beijing.  Further such situations seem likely.  (See interesting article about Chinese investment in Malaysia here.)

    China has also been accused of using aid and investment funds to influence other countries’ policies toward Taiwan, an accusation that they unsurprisingly deny…and Taiwan is now down to only one diplomatic ally in Africa, the kingdom of eSwatini  (prevously known as Swaziland.)  El Salvador, too, has recently dropped diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

    See also my recent post about Chinese influence efforts targeted at other nations, including the limiting of US film content and the firing of an American employee of Marriott for liking a tweet which offended the regime.

     

     

    Posted in Business, China, Economics & Finance, Transportation | 10 Comments »

    Smashing Pumpkins in 2018 and 1991

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 27th August 2018 (All posts by )

    The Smashing Pumpkins came to Portland on Saturday, August 25th at the Moda Center (the arena where the Portland Trail Blazers play). It was a good show and the sound was excellent (we recently saw a show at the Veterans Arena adjacent to the Moda Center and the sound was so terrible we walked out half-way through the show).

    They played the hits – most of the show was based on their first few albums – Gish, Siamese Dream, and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and a bit of their next two.  There wasn’t a lot of their most recent work – the local paper described the show as “Give the Gen X’ers What They Want”.

    The whole band was there except for original bassist D’Arcy.  Like (nearly) everyone else, I had my story of when I ran into the Smashing Pumpkins back in Chicago – James Iha and D’Arcy were behind me in line at Best Buy purchasing CD’s a long time ago.

    While I love the Smashing Pumpkins unconditionally, I can see how Billy Corgan’s “woe is me” routine would be grating.  He had a bad childhood and it was highlighted from the very first song “Disarm” where he had pictures of himself as a child with annotations and they weren’t happy, for sure.

    Posted in Music, Oregonia | 5 Comments »

    Suspicion and the Corruption of the Liberal Mind.

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 27th August 2018 (All posts by )

    I had a cartoon on my office door in the 80’s. An elderly man, sitting in a beach chair next to an elderly woman, looks out over the ocean with a frown.  “I’ve come full circle.  I think things are what they seem.”

    I begin to see why it has pleased me so much

    *******

    I point you to yet another Quillette article, Suspicion and the Corruption of the Liberal Mind, by Stephen Harrod Buhner. I have grown fond of the site, and need to discipline myself to go over there more often. Buhner says he is a “liberal to the core,” but has grown weary of the current approach of other liberals. He in turn refers us on to Rita Felski, a professor of English at UVA whose most recent book, The Limits of Critique, discusses the liberal approach to culture and art in terms of mood. (Her definition of this occurs early on in Buhner’s essay.) She too is a liberal raising red flags.

    I wanted to excerpt a quote from either Buhner or Felski to give you sense of their argument, but it took a while to settle on just one. This is Buhner:

    Those who have absorbed the mindset now extend suspicious reading to everyone and everything anyone does: words, body language, dress, hair, music, art, even food. They actively reject the face value of communication, whether literary or social; hold nothing as innocent of power motivations, whether directly or through unconscious complicity in those power motivations.

    To regard the majority of Western peoples as possessing malign motives; to base a life upon such a point of view; to approach all books, plays, art, and human interactions with this kind of suspicion is not, however, a sign of clear-eyed perception but rather, as one of my psychology professors once put it, a diseased mind. Like its more extreme cousin, paranoia, it becomes self-perpetuating: the more suspicious one is, the more vigilant one becomes; the more vigilant one is, the more evidence one finds in even the most innocent of behaviors; and the more evidence one finds, the more suspicious one becomes.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 8 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: My Post on CONLAWPROF: On Elected Judges and Elected Prosecutors

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th August 2018 (All posts by )

    It strikes me that the complaint against judicial elections (as voiced on this listserv) is rooted in the absence of life tenure — not elections per se. You could have elections filling judicial vacancies — but with the candidates’ receiving life tenure. And you could have appointments by political authorities to fixed and limited judicial terms — with the possibility of reappointment. The threat to the rule of law (such as it is), lies with the prospective candidate for reelection/reappointment to judicial office biasing his/her decision for self-interested reasons. But that conflict of interest will appear whenever you have terms of limited duration with the possibility of reelection/reappointment. It is not elections per se that create the conflict.

    This is an excellent point.

    Read Seth’s post in full.

    Posted in Academia, Deep Thoughts, Elections, Law, Politics, Tradeoffs | 3 Comments »

    The DIY ‘Assault Drone’ Siege of Russian Bases in Syria

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 26th August 2018 (All posts by )

    Since New Years 2018, there have been 23 attacks with 45 (+) home brew do it yourself (DIY) assault drones in Syria aimed at Russian and Assad Regime bases.  Three to four separate types of assault drone/small scale cruise missile designs have been identified to date.  Russian intelligence in various media sources say they are being built in Idlib, Syria by Syrian rebel forces.

    .

    The latest and scariest Syrian Rebel drone seems to have been a 3D laser scanned and 3D plastic body printed copy of a Russian Elevon (Aileron in Russian)  Drone.  The Elevon has an air frame that is closely patterned on the old 1980’s US Army Lockheed MQM-105 Aquila drone.
    .
    Photos of this 3D printed Syrian rebel drone were posted on BBC social media accounts.

    .

    This is the bootleg 3D printed version of the Russian Elevon drone used by Syrian Rebels

    This photo shows a Syrian rebel laser scanned to CAD/CAM software and plastic 3D printed copy of a captured Russian Elevon drone. The grainy surface of the Drone is the “tell” of a 3D printed part.  BBC photo credit

    .

    The drones used in the January 2018 attacks on Khmeimim airbase and the naval logistical base in Tartus drew on existing radio controlled aircraft technology.  They had diesel engines, wood, plastic and Styrofoam construction, global positioning system guidance and aerometer altitude sensors.  The larger of the two DIY drones carried up to ten bomblets and had an estimated range of 100 KM.

     

    The two DIY assault drone designed used in the January 2018 attacks on Russian bases in Syria.

    The two DIY assault drone designs used in the January 2018 attacks on Russian bases in Syria.  Russian MoD Photo

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 11 Comments »

    Two Short Recents @ AVI

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th August 2018 (All posts by )

    Humanities Degrees: Emailed from a familiar source, there is this new data and opinion on humanities degrees.  The writer is able to say ” I made a wrong prediction, the data didn’t bear me out,” which is always the way to my heart. And it’s got lots of graphs, which is my second language.

    The comments mostly restate the same arguments I have been hearing since the 1970’s. Some state them well, others not so much. Trust me, you will do better arguing the points in your own head.

    Women At War:The premise of this study looked intuitively unlikely to me. However, I really like intuitively unlikely premises that turn out to be true, so this was right up my alley. 

    It turns out it’s not unlikely.  It’s just lunatic. Notice the words “can,” “might,” and “could” in the description.  They have mathematical models that show that if women had started out being the warmakers somewhere, this would have been reinforcing over time, and their sex would be the warmaking one now.  It hasn’t actually happened anywhere, so perhaps it wasn’t quite a coin flip.  One would have to go back farther and farther into our evolutionary history – past the first primate, perhaps – to get to coulda-been-this-coulda-been-that situation.  It gives an excellent expression to the old saw “If my aunt had balls she would be my uncle.”

    You will continue to hear a lot about the spotted hyena, where the females are more aggressive, because it provides an exception.  It will be held aloft, not as evidence that one-off situations under special circumstances are always possible, but that we are mostly quite malleable and can be changed to other behaviors (if we just pass the right legislation, maybe). It is similar to finding the language in the Caucasus in which “Dada” is used for mother, showing that “mama” cannot be a shared word from the first language; or the few primitive societies that are matriarchal proving that humans were equally likely to develop that way but for the merest chance, and we can change it back whenever we like.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    Basket of Resentment

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th August 2018 (All posts by )

     I was back at work last week (I am semi-retired), all in one place rather than bouncing around in coverage, and so got dragged in to the controversies that part-timers usually get to ignore. Two of these are among the most dreaded at psych hospitals: a pathological parent who is guardian over their adult child whose behavior carries legal implications.  This usually takes the form of refusing treatment on behalf of their child which the man desperately needs. I also had a male with borderline personality disorder, which is uncommon and generally more intense. Such cases can split staff into opposing camps, demonstrating the Tim Tebow Effect, in which everyone is certain that their point-of-view is not being heard.

    I had been largely spared this for the last eighteen months, and largely for the last three years. It was not fun to re-enter the world of conflicting orders and meaningful irritated comments from coworkers. I had felt comfortable being the bearer of bad news in such situations for years, as I believed it bothered me less than it bothers others to be disliked. Suddenly re-experiencing that after being away from it was a surprise.

    I am not as immune I had thought. Not only did I find myself thinking Wow, I had forgotten how uncomfortable this is, I also had anxieties and resentments that I had largely put in the past start occurring to me again.  These were unrelated to work.  How, then, were they popping back into my head again?

    I had a  combination of frustration, resentment, and the front edges of helplessness in trying to resolve one contradiction without having to kick it back to administration pointing out the conflicting orders they were giving (because that runs a risk of escalating everything rather than fixing it). I found myself arguing in my head about a conflict at a church I left thirty years ago, and another with my late stepfather in the 1990’s, my uncle in the 2000’s, plus a couple of more recent online or email arguments. None of these bore any relation of content to my current controversies.  What they had in common was the feeling. I found myself counting my steps when on a walk, an OCD (which is an anxiety disorder) calming response that had become rare the last three years. There was a subplot of people trying to condescend and make me feel small.

    There is emotional memory as well as content memory, at least in my head. I think this is true for depression and anxiety as well. Our emotions are rather generic, made subtly different by the more sophisticated parts of our brains but still essentially the same chemicals flowing about in our brains. From the neck down, we’re mostly just rats, a psychiatrist friend used to say.  Big rats, but not all that different. When one gets depressed about something, the emotion tickles any number of memories, offering them up as possible explanations before.  Here is the basket of things that have made you feel this way in the past.  It’s probably one of these now.

    The bad result of this is fairly consistent for me. Now I get upset over those other things all over again. Old guy metaphor alert: It is like a skip in a vinyl record. The more times this happens the deeper the gouge becomes and more likely the needle will follow the skip instead of the track. Dragging the song out of it often involves playing it over at a different speed many times – there were other techniques – until the proper track was the dominant one again.  Or sometimes, just not playing that song at all.

    This is not a brand-new idea to me.  I have mentioned it here before.  Yet it came home to me with particular force this week because it had become less-common. I assume this occurs with positive emotions as well, but I don’t pay attention then, because I have no motivation to fix it.

    Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »

    Poisoned Fruit of the Poisoned Tree

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th August 2018 (All posts by )

    This week, the month-long mystery of the missing college student, Mollie Tibbits, was sadly resolved, with the discovery of her body in a local cornfield. Developments in the search for her were updated frequently over the last few weeks, and always featured at the top, or near to the top of headlines on the English tabloid, the Daily Mail. Which, for all its’ eccentricities, abuse of grammar, spelling, penchant for the flamingly obvious, providing Piers Morgan with a salary, extreme Kardashian-worship, and light-to-moderate Trump disdain, does cover the American news scene without much fear or favor.
    The longer the mystery of her disappearance went on, though – the greater the chance of a less than happy ending. And as it turns out that the chief suspect in her kidnapping and murder is a man with a distinctly dodgy background – an illegal alien of Mexican background, whose’ identity papers are something of a mystery. His American employers seemed to believe that everything was hunky-dory; this lends the cynical among us to assume that such paperwork must have been better forgeries than the usual run.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Immigration, Media, North America, Politics, Society, The Press | 13 Comments »

    Retrotech, Revitalized

    Posted by David Foster on 24th August 2018 (All posts by )

    A triple-expansion steam engine, which was used for water pumping in Phillipsburg NJ, has been restored to operating condition thanks to a small group of dedicated volunteers.  The engine, which pumped 6 millions gallons per day to a reservoir 265 feet above its level, was built in 1913 and was in continuous operation until 1969, when it was put into standby status (the pumping duties having been taken over by electric pumps) and finally removed from service in 1982.  Here’s a video of its final run in 1982, which has turned out to not be so final.

    The boilers have not yet been restored; test runs were done using a portable commercial rent-a-boiler as the steam source.  The team intends to restore one of the boilers as well in the future.

    When people think about the vast improvements in health and lifespan over the past century and a half, attention tends to be focused on antibiotics, better medical care, x-ray and scanning equipment, etc.  Public water systems, enabled initially by waterwheels and especially by engines like this one, played an important role as well.

    The restoration team has a Facebook page, here.

    See also my posts 301 Years of Steam Power and 175 Years of Transatlantic Steam.

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    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Health Care, History, Tech | 7 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Higher Education, Un(der)employment, and Dissatisfaction

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd August 2018 (All posts by )

    Some thoughts from the great economist Joseph Schumpeter, writing in 1942:

    The man who has gone through a college or university easily becomes psychically unemployable in manual occupations without necessarily acquiring employability in, say, professional work. His failure to do so may be due either to lack of natural ability—perfectly compatible with passing academic tests—or to inadequate teaching; and both cases will . . . occur more frequently as ever larger numbers are drafted into higher education and as the required amount of teaching increases irrespective of how many teachers and scholars nature chooses to turn out.

    The results of neglecting this and of acting on the theory that schools, colleges and universities are just a matter of money, are too obvious to insist upon. Cases in which among a dozen applicants for a job, all formally qualified, there is not one who can fill it satisfactorily, are known to everyone who has anything to do with appointments . . .

    All those who are unemployed or unsatisfactorily employed or unemployable drift into the vocations in which standards are least definite or in which aptitudes and acquirements of a different order count. They swell the host of intellectuals in the strict sense of the term whose numbers hence increase disproportionately. They enter it in a thoroughly discontented frame of mind. Discontent breeds resentment. And it often rationalizes itself into that social criticism which as we have seen before is in any case the intellectual spectator’s typical attitude toward men, classes and institutions especially in a rationalist and utilitarian civilization.

    Well, here we have numbers; a well-defined group situation of proletarian hue; and a group interest shaping a group attitude that will much more realistically account for hostility to the capitalist order than could the theory—itself a rationalization in the psychological sense—according to which the intellectual’s righteous indignation about the wrongs of capitalism simply represents the logical inference from outrageous facts. . . . Moreover our theory also accounts for the fact that this hostility increases, instead of diminishing, with every achievement of capitalist evolution.

    via the WSJ

    Reminds me of Francis Bacon’s assertion…way back in the late 1500s!…that one cause of sedition and mutiny in any polity is “breeding more scholars than preferment can take off.”

    (In the original post, there was also a link to a Theodore Dalrymple excerpt at the old Neptunus Lex site, but I haven’t been able to locate it)

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society | 22 Comments »

    Six Hundred Million Years in K-12

    Posted by David Foster on 20th August 2018 (All posts by )

    (This post is now an August perennial, in honor of the beginning of the new school year–indeed, many kids have already been in school for 2 or 3 weeks)

    Peter Orszag, who was Obama’s budget director and is now at Lazard, thinks it would be a good idea to cut back on summer school vacations for kids, arguing that this would both improve academics and reduce obesity.

    I’m with Jeremy LottBut to look at the vast wasteland that is American public education — the poor teaching, the awful curriculum, the low standards, the anemic achievement, the institutional resistance to needed reform — and say that the real problem is summer vacation takes a special sort of mind.

    I wrote about the war on summer vacation back in 2006, after stopping at a store in Georgia on the first day of August and discovering that this was the first day of school for the local children.

    The truth is, most public K-12 schools make very poor use of the time of their students. They waste huge proportions of the millions of hours which have been entrusted to them–waste them through the mindless implementation of fads and theories, waste them through inappropriate teacher-credentialing processes, waste them through refusal to maintain high standards of performance and behavior.

    When an organization or institution proves itself to be a poor steward of the resources that have been entrusted to it, the right answer is not to give it more resources to waste.

    Orszag and similar thinkers seem to have no concept that good things can happen to children’s development outside of an institutional setting. Plenty of kids develop and pursue interests in science, literature, art, music…plus, there is plenty to be learned simply by interacting with friends in an unstructured environment.

    Would the world be better off if Steve Wozniak and Jeri Ellsworth..to name only two of many, many examples..had their noses held constantly to the school grindstone rather than having time to develop their interests in electronics?

    Lewis E Lawes, who was warden of Sing Sing prison from 1915 to 1941, wrote an interesting book titled Twenty Thousand Years in Sing Sing. The title refers to the aggregate lengths of the sentences of the men in the prison at a typical particular point in time.

    Lawes:

    Twenty-five hundred men saddled with an aggregate of twenty thousand years! Within such cycles worlds are born, die, and are reborn. That span has witnessed the evolution of the intelligence of mortal man. And we know that twenty thousand years have seen nations run their courses, perish, and give way to their successors. Twenty thousand years in my keeping. What will they evolve?

    Following the same approach, the aggregate length of the terms to be spent in K-12 schools by their current students is more than 600,000,000 years. What proportion of this time is actually used productively?

    And how many of the officials who supervise and run the public schools, and the ed-school professors who influence their policies, think about this 600,000,000 years in the same serious and reflective way that Lawes thought about the 20,000 years under his supervision? Some do, of course, but a disturbing percentage of them seem to be simply going through the bureaucratic motions.

    And the politicians and officials of the Democratic Party, those who talk so much about their devotion to Education and The Children, are the last people in the world who are ever going to call them on it.

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    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Education, Politics, USA | 10 Comments »

    History Week End: MacArthur’s Forgotten New Guinea Air Warning Wireless (NGAWW) Company Aircraft Spotters

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 19th August 2018 (All posts by )

    I have often stated in an earlier Chicago Boyz columns on Gen Douglas MacArthur that:

    One of the maddening things about researching General Douglas MacArthur’s fighting style in WW2 was the way he created, used and discarded military institutions, both logistical and intelligence, in the course of his South West Pacific Area (SWPA) operations. Institutions that had little wartime publicity and have no direct organizational descendant to tell their stories in the modern American military.

    Today’s column is on another of those forgotten institutions, the New Guinea Air Warning Wireless (NGAWW) company, and the US military leader who saw to it that it’s story was forgotten in the institutional American military histories of World War II.

    Australian signallers from the New Guinea Air Warning Wireless Company (AWM photo 015364 ).jpg

    Australian signalers from the New Guinea Air Warning Wireless Company with a AWA 3BZ Teleradio transceiver (AWM photo 015364 ) Public Domain photo found on Wikipedia

    DESPERATION & INNOVATION

    In January 1942 — after the Fall of Rabaul and before the Japanese Carrier Strike on Darwin — the Australian military recognized it needed a system of radio equipped ground observers in New Guinea to warn Australian outposts of incoming air attacks.  Thus was born the New Guinea Air Warning Wireless Company (NGAWW), which was a inspired combination of innovation and desperation using the organizational templates (and Amalgamated Wireless Australasia (AWA)  Teleradio series wireless sets) of the Australian Royal Navy Coast watchers and the Royal Air Force Wireless Observer Units   used in North Africa.  [1] [2]

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 25 Comments »

    The Age of Magical Thinking

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th August 2018 (All posts by )

    A couple of different blogs that I follow have linked to one or more of these essays in recent days. Not being mystically-inclined, I don’t know about the magic-working aspects, but I think the sociological observations are spot on. Herewith for your consideration – The Kek Wars, from the Ecosophia blog.

    Part One: Aristocracy and Its Discontents

    Part Two: In the Shadow of the Cathedral

    Part Three: Triumph of the Frog God

    Part Four: What Moves in Darkness

    Your thoughts?

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Human Behavior, Leftism, Miscellaneous | 10 Comments »

    The problem of modern socialism

    Posted by TM Lutas on 18th August 2018 (All posts by )

    This is lifted from one of many retyped responses to people who just want to engage in history-free, context-free thought experiments on whether socialism is any good. This particular one came in response to a person who was defending the USSR as a viable method of organizing society.

    “The problem is, and likely will remain for the foreseeable future, that there are wannabee genocidaires who would like to be signing the death warrants for those who resist the advance of socialism. There is no reliable test to separate those evil people from those who haven’t figured out why socialism landed on the ash heap of history and genuinely want to run through what happened, what went wrong, and why so many people died in the pursuit of this idea of implementing the labor theory of value as government policy.”

    If there is a reliable test, I certainly would love to know it. The ignorant are coming out of the US education system by the boatload. The malicious are far fewer than that, but so dangerous that they can’t be ignored.

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    Posted in Academia, Economics & Finance, Education, Philosophy | 15 Comments »

    The Omarosenleid

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th August 2018 (All posts by )

    I should think that Omarosa Manigault Newman must be weeping bitter tears and sticking little pins into a voodoo doll of John Brennan all this weekend, for he has stolen just about all of her publicity thunder in the end-of-week headlines and newscast coverage. A good few things are now obvious about her to that apparently small portion of the public (including myself) who didn’t watch reality TV series. One of those things is that she is a back-biting, vicious witch who blithely assumed that playing one for the cameras on a TV reality show would of course translate perfectly into a job at the White House, and another that taping conversations right and left to produce a tell-all inside book on the Trump administration would be just like secretly taping conversations for a tell-all book on the behind the scenes maneuvering on The Apprentice. Why on earth was she hired in the first place? Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, National Security, The Press, Trump | 10 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: The Age of Blather

    Posted by David Foster on 17th August 2018 (All posts by )

    Diana Senechal, guest-blogging at Joanne Jacobs, told the following story:

    I run two lunchtime literature clubs at my school. The fourth graders just finished reading A Little Princess. During our discussions, I encourage delving into the text and discussing it on its own terms. I am not a big fan of “accountable talk,” “making predictions,” “making connections,” and so forth when they assume precedence over the subject matter itself.

    One student brought up the part where Sara spends her money on hot buns for a beggar girl. “She made a self-to-self connection,” the student said. I felt sorry that students are learning such ghastly terminology, however well meant. Why are students not encouraged to say, “She understood how the girl felt” or “She felt compassion for the girl”?

    Why, indeed? It’s bad enough to impose verbiage like “self-to-self connection” on college students: to do it to a 4th grader is really unforgiveable. It adds nothing to understanding–indeed, it very likely interferes with the true understanding and appreciation of the story by creating an emotional distance.

    Strange, awkward, and unnatural verbal formulations, used ritualistically and without contributing to understanding, are becoming increasingly common in our society: although this phenomenon is arguably at its worst in education, it is by no means limited to that field. These word and phrases are not similar to the traditional jargon of a profession or trade. “Self-to-self connections” is not the same kind of thing as “amp” or even “kanban.”

    Mark Helprin, in an essay about art, writes about people who are so obsessed with their tools and techniques that they lose sight of the substance of the work:

    Modernism is by necessity obsessed with form, much like a craftsman obsessed with his tools and materials. In my climbing days we used to call people like that “equipment weenies.” These days you can see it in fly-fishing, where not a few people go out once a year with $5,000-worth of equipment to catch (maybe) $5-worth of fish. What should have been the story of the man, the stream, and the fish becomes instead a romance between the man and his tools. In this century the same thing happened in art.

    Athough Helprin is talking here about art, but the same excessive focus on methodology is visible in other areas as well.

    Who are the people who perpetrate and cling to these fake-erudite verbal formulations? I suspect that they are generally those who have an education which is extensive–in terms of total years spent in the classroom–but not deep.

    Bruce Fleming, who teaches English at the U.S. Naval Academy, has some interesting thoughts on the teaching/misteaching of literature, which are highly relevant to this topic. Excerpt:

    Literary study in the classroom nowadays offers views of the work of literature rather like the views of Mt. Fuji in Hokusai’s celebrated spring series on “100 Views of Mt. Fuji.” In each view, the mountain, while present, is frequently tiny and in a corner, viewed (in the most famous print) beyond the crest of a wave whose foam seems to make fingers at the edges, or (in another) through a hoop that a barrel-maker is shaping.

    Those are not the front-and-center shots on a postcard. They foreground the angle of the mountain, its treatment, much the way a literature professor does with a funky viewpoint that got him or her tenure. Of course the postcard shot has its own point, but in a real sense it’s more neutral than the angled treatment. It doesn’t push our noses in its approach: It defers to the object it is depicting. We’re far more conscious of the treatment of Mt. Fuji in an artsy Hokusai print than we are in a postcard shot. And that means, we’re all but compelled to see the mountain the way it’s presented, rather than being able to work on our own presentation. That’s why literary studies is intrinsically coercive.

    I think the blatherification of America is an important issue. It inhibits clear thought. It is harmful to the enjoyment of art and of literature. It is destructive of intelligent policy-making in both business and government.

    What say you? Do you agree that blatherification is happening and that it matters? Thoughts on causes and possible countermeasures?

    (links for the Helprin and Fleming quotes removed–no longer working)

    Posted in Academia, Education, Society | 6 Comments »

    Happy VJ-Day, Plus 73 Years

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 14th August 2018 (All posts by )

    Happy Victory over Japan Day!

    On August 14th in 1945 Imperial Japan accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and averted Operation Downfall, the two stage invasion of Japan. On Sept 2, 1945 the surrender was signed on the USS Missouri in Tokyo bay, This invasion would have resulted in at least a million American casualties and up to 20 millions of Japanese dead from direct effects of the invasion plus the mass starvation that would have been sure to occur in its aftermath.

    Since August 2010, it has become an nine years and counting tradition (See link list at the end of this post) for the Chicagoboyz web site to commemorate the major events closing out World War II in the Pacific and address the leftist agitprop surrounding those events. Where the worst recorded war in human history became a nuclear war via the August 6th and 9th 1945 A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, followed by the Imperial Japanese acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, and the Sept 2, 1945 formal surrender on the battleship USS Missouri.

    This years year’s Chicagoboyz commemoration will focus on how the Imperial Japanese Military’s two nuclear weapons programs — one each for the Army and Navy — helped to obtain a surrender in an irrational polity bent on suicidal martial glory.  And how their existence has been erased from the narrative of Japanese surrender by the identity issue academics in the diplomatic history community.

    Color Photo of the Sept 2, 1945 Imperial Japanese Surrender ceremony marking the conclusion of WW2 on the Battleship USS Missouri.

    Color Photo of the Sept 2, 1945 surrender ceremony marking the conclusion of WW2 on the Battleship USS Missouri.

     

    Historical Background –  IJA Ni-Go & IJN F-Go Genzai Bakuden Programs

    The Imperial Japanese Military’ s atomic bomb or “Genzai Bakuden” program had a two separate Army and Navy projects;  the Army’s Ni-Go program and the Navy’s F-Go. [1]   Neither of these programs produced a working device, despite 1946 rumors about a test near Hungnam, Korea that were later incorporated into the 1985 book Japan’s Secret War: Japan’s Race Against Time to Build Its Own Atomic Bomb. [2]

    The bottom line is that if Imperial Japan of the summer of 1945 had a prototype atomic device.  It’s first test would have been on a ship or aircraft kamikaze aimed where they thought it would hurt the American war effort the most.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Japan, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, War and Peace | 25 Comments »

    For Sgt Mom – Culture

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 13th August 2018 (All posts by )

    Just after reading your comment about the culture we might pass on to the next generation – and some of us try – I was directed to this essay by VS Naipul, from almost 30 years ago. Long, but quietly powerful about what the Universal Culture, which we have grown up in, consists of. An interesting question, 75% of the way through:

    Why, he asked, are certain societies or groups content to enjoy the fruits of progress, while affecting to despise the conditions that promote that progress?

    I think this applies not only to other cultures, but subcultures within our own.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 18 Comments »

    The Question the WSJ Didn’t Ask

    Posted by David Foster on 13th August 2018 (All posts by )

    The Wall Street Journal, on its editorial page, writes about a company called Standard Textile, whose economic viability is apparently being threatened by the 25% tariffs on imports of its main production input:  a type of fabric sourced from China and known as greige, which I believe is basically the fabric as it comes off the loom, unfinished and un-dyed.  The company is especially concerned because finished products from China which compete with its own products are tariffed at only 6.7%.   WSJ uses this example to argue that Trump is all wrong on tariffs, and does so in the rather superior manner (the title of the piece is ‘a looming trade lesson’) which is common among those who ascribe any objections to absolutely free trade as based on nothing but economic ignorance or political demagoguery.

    I will stipulate that it seems rather dumb to tariff raw materials and intermediate goods at a higher level than finished products made from these inputs.  But..is it really true that greige fabrics are available only from China?  A few minutes of searching suggests that they are available from India, and from at least some US suppliers.  Maybe there is some particular variant of the products that is only made by a specific Chinese supplier, or maybe Standard has negotiated such a great deal with their supplier that no one else will match the price–it would be interesting to know.

    The big question that the WSJ didn’t ask is:  Why is this fabric (if it is truly unavailable in the US) not manufactured here?  Textile manufacturing is not generally a labor-intensive activity, it is very different on this measure from the transformation of the textiles into apparel and other finished products.  It was one of the first industrial activities to be mechanized, and automation in this field has advanced steadily over a couple of centuries.  Moreover, textile manufacturing uses significant amounts of power, and I’ve read about Chinese firms that moved to the US specifically because the electricity was cheaper and more reliable.  So the usual arguments about why a particular item needs to be made in China or other non-US setting…labor costs, less-stringent environmental restrictions…don’t seem to really apply here.

    Most likely, greige manufacturers tend to locate in Asia and other non-US locations because that is where their customers are…’customers’ here referring not to end consumers but to apparel manufacturers and others who buy the material as an input to their own processes…and geographical proximity is of value in being able to fill orders rapidly and without excessive shipping costs.  So this is an example of how supply chains are interconnected, and how losing one industry in a chain tends to pull other industries away also.  The same point has also been demonstrated in consumer electronics manufacturing, where the supply chain is now so centered in Asia, especially China, as to make it difficult for a company to produce these products in the US even if they want to.  (And ‘supply chain’ in this sense does not include physical products, it also includes certain services.  I have been told by the CEO of a medical electronics startup that she would find it difficult to manufacture in the US due to absence of certain specialized services; I believe she mentioned RF test facilities)

    A serious analysis of America’s trade situation should involve more than quoting David Ricardo and lecturing people about their supposed economic ignorance.  The WSJ article would have been more intellectually-honest and more useful had it also given examples of American manufacturers who are benefitting from the modified tariffs; these examples certainly exist.

    Best of luck to Standard Textile.  Hopefully, (a) the tariffs, if they remain in place, will be adjusted to level the rate between imported fabric and imported finished goods, and (b) US manufacturers of this fabric will come into being.

    Posted in Business, China, Miscellaneous, Tech, Trump, USA | 20 Comments »

    Is China involved in the Russia-Trump hoax ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th August 2018 (All posts by )

    We have been subjected to a year and a half, almost two years, of constant hysteria about Russia and whether they helped Trump win the 2016 election. There has been no evidence of any collusion and the Mueller “special counsel” investigation seems to be winding down.

    Rush Limbaugh has some interesting ideas about what is going on.

    So the only possible way they can get rid of Trump here is via politics, and that’s to drive his approval numbers down so that Republicans in Congress have no reason to support him. If Republicans in Congress — the House and Senate — could be forced to abandon their support for Trump, as happened to Nixon, then he would have to go. I don’t know if Trump would play ball even in that scenario like Nixon did. I think Trump would dare them to impeach him and try to remove him. I don’t think Trump’s gonna play ball the way the establishment thinks.

    Democrat voters are highly motivated to vote in the November election, at least in part, to impeach Trump. Why ?

    There seems to be no letup in the frenzy to demonize Trump.

    In 21st-century America, it is difficult to conjure the possibility of the federal government taking an eraser to the map and scrubbing away an entire ethnic group. I had arrived in Columbus at the suggestion of a Cleveland-based lawyer named David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Leopold has kept in touch with an old client who attends the Mauritanian mosque. When he mentioned the community’s plight to me, he called it “ethnic cleansing”—which initially sounded like wild hyperbole.

    “Mosque.” Hmmm.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Crony Capitalism, Russia, Trump | 15 Comments »

    You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th August 2018 (All posts by )

    It’s got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.
    (From the musical South Pacific)

    Or not taught at all. Last week as I sat in my cosy home office contemplating things, the ebb and flow of the internet brought to me the woebegone maunderings of a (presumably) white and (arguably) somewhat credentialed Millennial, who in her search for meaning and purpose in her life wound up involved in those anti-pipeline protests near the Sioux reservation. The ukase of her lament seemed to be that she had no native culture, not in comparison with those charming and dignified tribal elders. She appeared to view them as benign, terribly exotic, definitely ‘other’ – pretty much the same lens with which the old National Geographic viewed and photographed those interesting aboriginal peoples in far distant foreign lands all these decades ago.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Culture, Current Events, Education, History, Leftism, Media | 19 Comments »

    Media Bias

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 10th August 2018 (All posts by )

    I have received a suggestion from a more-experienced – or smarter, anyway – blogger that readers do not tend to click on links to an entire series. This will be a problem for me, and I am not sure how I will handle it. An ongoing series has articles separated by a few days, and is manageable. A list of 4 or 8 links seems a bit much to most readers at one go. I get it. It seems a bit much to me as well. If I publish them all here it will take over the site, which seems neither interesting nor polite.

    For the moment, I will put up the entire post of one that was recently only linked. It in turn has multiple links at the bottom, but I hasten to say they are undemanding. They’re just pictures, 10 to a link. Humor me on this. You will be rewarded.

    *******

    I made a claim of longstanding media bias, as many conservatives do. It occurred to me that I could give quick evidence of it. I will let the Time and Newsweek covers speak for me.

    But, you say, we didn’t take those magazines at our house. Or, those were a long time ago, they didn’t affect me. Then they affected your teachers and parents, and the people around you who found it very important to keep up with current events. Did you never have dental care, visit a friend, go to the doctor?  Were there no pharmacies, newsstands, grocery checkouts in your town?

    Or perhaps you think that even though those were around you, they didn’t affect you.  You were objective, you saw through those things.  Well yes.  I would say you either consciously saw through them and were offended by them, or you were affected whether you admit it or not.  For myself, I mostly didn’t notice until the late 80’s and was affected. After that I did notice and was offended. These weekly covers were ubiquitous, and I contend you were affected.  This was the air that you breathed.

    If you still think not, then how is it that you arrived at the same opinion of these figures as the editors wished you to?

    I started at Ford, as the Nixon covers would be too dominated by Watergate discussions and not a clean sample.  I strongly favored solo pictures of a president, taken during his years of office.  I stuck with Time and Newsweek. When there was a shortage of these, I chose covers from the campaign, as close to the date of election as possible.  I avoided retrospectives after the president had left office, as those are often mellowing.  I didn’t have that many choices for Gerald Ford, however. I took them in the order that Duckduckgo, or sometimes Bing images presented them to me.  I did not pick and choose for effect. With Clinton, I did limit myself to three covers related to Lewinsky. I back-published all in last month’s archives rather than clutter up my two front pages with pictures of presidents. Notice also what words are on the covers, the expressions captured, the black-and-white.

    Res ipsa loquitur

    Magazine Covers – Gerald Ford
    Magazine Covers – Jimmy Carter
    Magazine Covers – Ronald Reagan 
    Magazine Covers – George H W Bush
    Magazine Covers – Bill Clinton
    Magazine Covers – George W Bush
    Magazine Covers – Barack Obama

    Posted in Miscellaneous | Comments Off on Media Bias

    Motte and Bailey Fallacy

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 9th August 2018 (All posts by )

    Bsking over at Graph Paper Diaries sent me an interesting description of the Motte-and-Bailey Fallacy. We Christians have an unfortunate tendency to use it on each other too often, though we are hardly the only offenders. To me this suggests that it is not always a deception, but a sign of an emotional or experiential belief rather than a logical one.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »