Politics, culture, business, and technology

I also blog at ChicagoBoyz.


Selected Posts:
Sleeping with the Enemy
Dancing for the Boa Constrictor
Koestler on Nuance
A Look into the Abyss
Hospital Automation
Made in America
Politicians Behaving Badly
Critics and Doers
Foundations of Bigotry?
Bonhoeffer and Iraq
Misvaluing Manufacturing
Journalism's Nuremberg?
No Steak for You!
An Academic Bubble?
Repent Now
Enemies of Civilization
Molly & the Media
Misquantifying Terrorism
Education or Indoctrination?
Dark Satanic Mills
Political Violence Superheated 'steem
PC and Pearl Harbor
Veterans' Day Musings
Arming Airline Pilots
Pups for Peace
Baghdad on the Rhine

Book Reviews:
Forging a Rebel
The Logic of Failure
The Innovator's Solution
They Made America
On the Rails: A Woman's Journey

arts & letters daily
natalie solent
critical mass
john bruce
joanne jacobs
number 2 pencil
roger l simon
common sense and wonder
sheila o'malley
invisible adjunct
red bird rising
academic game
rachel lucas
betsy's page
one hand clapping
a schoolyard blog
joy of knitting
lead and gold
damian penny
annika's journal
little miss attila
no credentials
university diaries
trying to grok
a constrained vision
victory soap
business pundit
right reason
quid nomen illius?
sister toldjah
the anchoress
reflecting light
dr sanity
all things beautiful
dean esmay
brand mantra
economics unbound
dr melissa
dr helen
right on the left coast
digital Rules
college affordability
the energy blog
tinkerty tonk
meryl yourish
kesher talk
assistant village idiot
evolving excellence
neptunus lex
the daily brief
roger scruton
bookworm room
villainous company
lean blog

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Monday, March 30, 2009  

Today’s WSJ has an editorial on the malign effects of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act–specifically, its impact on children’s books.

The CPSIA issue should be of great concern to everyone who values entrepreneurship and the ability of individuals to create and thrive outside of large, credential-obsessed bureaucracies. It is disappointing that the conservative/libertarian blogosphere hasn’t been more aggressive in publicizing the problems with this legislation.

Link via Shopfloor

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz

8:17 AM

Sunday, March 29, 2009  

Bitter Waters: Life and Work in Stalin’s Russia
by Gennady Andreev-Khomiakov

A fascinating look at the Soviet economic system in the 1930s, as viewed from the front lines of that system. My review at Chicago Boyz.

8:15 PM

Saturday, March 28, 2009  

Tom Brown isn't very impressed with Vikram Pandit's letter to Citigroup shareholders.

Nassim Taleb thinks the Nobel-prize-winning economist Myron Scholes should stop making recommendations about economic policy.

6:25 AM

Thursday, March 26, 2009  

Just a reminder about the rally to educate Congress about the harm being done by the poorly-thought-out Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Just in case anyone needs some extra incentive to come to DC, the National Cherry Blossom Festival should be in full swing. Peak bloom date this year is projected as April 1--April 4.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz.

11:26 AM


Khaled Abu Toameh writes about anti-Israel sentiment at American universities:

During a recent visit to several university campuses in the U.S., I discovered that there is more sympathy for Hamas there than there is in Ramallah.

Listening to some students and professors on these campuses, for a moment I thought I was sitting opposite a Hamas spokesman or a would-be-suicide bomber.

I was told, for instance, that Israel has no right to exist, that Israel’s “apartheid system” is worse than the one that existed in South Africa and that Operation Cast Lead was launched only because Hamas was beginning to show signs that it was interested in making peace and not because of the rockets that the Islamic movement was launching at Israeli communities.

Ralph Peters writes about Obama's foreign policy performance over the last two months.

(links via PowerLine)

UPDATE: Daniel Henninger on the Democratic Party's war on business:

True socialists at least think about markets so they can criticize them. The Democratic Party's leadership doesn't stir to even that level of engagement. In the House, Senate and some corners of the Obama White House, the party is acting as if the marketplace was the world of an alien tribe, which it has to control through intimidation or demands for protective tribute (read: campaign contributions).

6:36 AM

Wednesday, March 25, 2009  

...from AIG executive Jake DeSantis.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz.

9:37 AM

Tuesday, March 24, 2009  
Manufacturing, the Ivy League, Jarvis Cutting Tools, and Toyota

Bill Waddell argues that American government and business suffer from excessive dominance by people from a small number of "elite" colleges and prep schools.

In the comments, Costikyan Jarvis--who runs a family-owned manufacturing business--defends the value of the Harvard Executive Education program which he attended:

Today, Bill responds to Costikyan's response.

This interesting discussion continues at Evolving Excellence.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz.

8:17 AM

Sunday, March 22, 2009  

Not at the University of Delaware, apparently. See my post at Chicago Boyz.

7:00 AM


Read about what you have to do if you want to operate a food cart in downtown Toronto.

And don't even think about trying to sell hot dogs and/or sausages.

"I have a problem with hot dogs from a health point of view and from a diversity point of view," said the official who has been placed in charge of making such decisions. So if he has a problem with hot dogs, and you live in or visit Toronto, then you have a problem with hot dogs.

From A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924, by Orlando Figes:

Indeed, from the perspective of the individual, it could be said that the single greatest difference between Russia and the West, both under Tsarism and Communism, was that in Western Europe citizens were generally free to do as they pleased so long as their activities had not been specifically prohibited by the state, while the people of Russia were not free to do anything unless the state had given them specific permission to do it.

via Kathy Shaidle

6:11 AM

Friday, March 20, 2009  

Thoughts and a discussion at Chicago Boyz.

UPDATE: See also this.

6:08 AM

Thursday, March 19, 2009  

...and so is the rally to inform Congress about the damage being created by the poorly-thought-out provisions of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. More about the CPSIA here, here, and here.

Even if you’re not in the toy business, or a science kit manufacturer, or a children’s clothing maker, or a thrift shop owner, or a homecrafter, you should care about this issue.

April 1, Washington, DC. Please attend if you possibly can.

Cross-posted at Chicago Boyz.

5:57 AM

Tuesday, March 17, 2009  

Kathleen Fasanella talks about her experiences applying lean management methods in the apparel industry. (And here I bet you didn't even realize there still was an apparel industry in America!)

The link truly heart breaking doesn't work; try this instead.

I've quoted Kathleen previously, with regard to the damage being done by the ill-thought-out Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

6:20 AM

Friday, March 13, 2009  

I was just reading a report on a company by an equity analyst...seemed pretty well-reasoned until I got to the part about the market shares of various companies in various countries. These were stated in percentages, with five figures after the decimal point...for example:


I doubt if there is a single product or service market in the world in which market share data is available to that level of accuracy...and if there were, it still wouldn't be meaningful for investment purposes. Quoting the number at something like


would make a lot more sense.

When I see something like this, I see an analyst who is so stuck in his spreadsheets that he isn't really thinking.

8:47 AM

Wednesday, March 11, 2009  

See my post at Chicago Boyz.

3:05 PM

Tuesday, March 10, 2009  


University Diaries expands on some thoughts from George Orwell:

The fundamental instinct toward writing, which so many of us share, has to do with an almost primal desire to display your personality; yet you write nothing readable unless you efface your personality. How can this be?


Russell Wilcox, CEO of E Ink (the company's display technology is used in the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader) has some strong opinions about the social impact of electronic reading technologies. From Fortune:

He believes that e-readers are the best chance to keep the world devouring novels, lengthy nonfiction tomes, and long-form journalism. "We can't have meaningful discussions or try to solve the world's problems using blogs and 140-character Tweets," Wilcox says. "What we need more is calm, prudent thought - more expertise." That is what Wilcox hopes to deliver with E Ink. "We're not only going to save publishing," he says, "we're also going to save civilization." The laugh that you might expect to come next never does. He means it.

I have a certain sympathy with this point of view--media technologies probably do have a substantial effect on how people think--but why does he feel compelled to pick on blogs? There are plenty of blogs which contain long, well-thought-out essays; indeed, blog reading is an excellent application for electronic reader technology. Conversely, there are plenty of short and trivial items in conventional paper-based media. It seems more likely that the "electronic paper" technologies will encourage blogs and other web-based media toward more use of longer essay-style formats that that these technologies will save the old-media enterprises. See Christensen & Raynor's work on disruptive technologies, which seems to me to support the above conclusion.

7:07 AM


General Electric makes a product called the IN Cell Analyzer, which is used by scientists for better understanding disease processes and for drug development. Some of the images it generates are quite appealing, in a psychedelic kind of way, and the company has an annual contest to select the most beautiful and interesting images. The top 30 images are here: of these, three were selected to appear on NBC's big screen in Times Square.

The above image, which is the contest winner for North America, is by Carmen Laethem of Aerie Pharmaceuticals Inc.,

6:22 AM

Friday, March 06, 2009  

Yesterday's WSJ has another article on the damage done by this irresponsible legislation. See my post at Chicago Boyz.

5:31 AM


A state legislator in West Virginia (a Democratic legislator, of course) wants to ban Barbie dolls.

Previous Regulating Absolutely Everything

4:52 AM

Wednesday, March 04, 2009  

Notes on these four books...

Adelsverein–The Gathering, by Celia Hayes
In the Shadow of the Mill, by Rosemarie Schluga
1,000 Dollars and an Idea, by Sam Wylie
The Red Scarf, by Kate Furnivall

...at Chicago Boyz

3:25 PM


Some interesting thoughts on media by Paul Graham.

3:24 PM

Monday, March 02, 2009  

I've posted before about the badly-thought-out law known as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and the harm that it is doing to a whole range of businesses, especially small businesses.

Kathleen Fasanella is a consultant to small apparel manufacturers. She is also a blogger, and has written extensively about the CPSIA, the requirements for compliance, and the need for changes to make this legislation more rational. A couple of weeks ago, she received a letter from an Illinois Congresswoman which must be read to be believed. "Arrogant" and "presumptuous" are two words that come to mind. Be sure to read the letter along with Kathleen's reasoned and knowledgeable response.

I think it is completely inappropriate for a Congressperson to send a letter with this tone to an American citizen who is trying to deal with very real problems created by bad Congressional judgment. I'm also not very impressed with those Congresspeople who blame problems with the law on bad decisions by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The business of Congress should be to write legislation which clearly specifies their intent. Congress is full of lawyers. If they can't write legislation which is properly unambiguous in its direction to the agencies, what are we paying them for?

The growing arrogance of a wide swatch of the American political class, coupled with what appears to be an almost total ignorance of the make-and-sell aspects of the American economy, does not bode well for our future.

See also Walter Olson on the CPSIA.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz

9:39 AM

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