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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Friday, February 26, 2010  

Treated like a dog: What human health care could learn from veterinarians.

Isegoria, commenting on a post by Aretae, wonders just what it is that our school system is actually supposed to do: "What I can't understand is how our schools do nothing well. They don't prepare kids for the work world. They don't teach kids important abstract concepts. They don't even entertain kids."

It's not just here: Perpetuating failure in British schools.

A new kind of class warfare. I've used the phrase "a horizontal rather than a vertical class conflict" in describing this phenomenon.

Outsourced parenting: a new class of professionals (at least one of them charging $1200/day) whose function is summarized by the term brat tamers.

A vast and beautiful temple complex in Turkey, recently discovered, is more than 11,000 years old.

AnoukAnge writes about impressionism and about her own painting techniques. With an extensive collection of links to information about impressionist artists and their works.

10:43 AM


Why has the western world shown such loss of will in defending itself from radical Islamic terrorism? Why, indeed, do substantial numbers of people--particularly those who view themselves as intellectuals--endlessly make excuses for dictatorships and terrorist movements whose values are completely at odds with their own stated values--and even romanticize these goons? I think some clues can be found in a forgotten novel by Arthur Koestler.

The Age of Longing (published in 1950) is set in Paris, "sometime in the 1950s," in a world in which France--indeed all of western Europe--is facing the very real possibility of a Soviet invasion. Hydie Anderson, the protagonist, is a young American woman living in Paris with her father, a military attache. Hydie was a devout Catholic during her teens, but has lost her faith. She was briefly married, and has had several relationships with men, but in none of them has she found either physical or emotional satisfaction...she describes her life with a phrase from T S Eliot: "frigid purgatorial fires," and she longs for a sense of connection:

Hydie sipped at her glass. Here was another man living in his own portable glass cage. Most people she knew did. Each one inside a kind of invisible telephone box. They did not talk to you directly but through a wire. Their voices came through distorted and mostly they talked to the wrong number, even when they lay in bed with you. And yet her craving to smash the glass between the cages had come back again. If cafes were the home of those who had lost their country, bed was the sanctuary of those who had lost their faith.

continued at Chicago Boyz

8:38 AM

Thursday, February 25, 2010  

Here's a guy who lost his job as a "radio personality" with an FM station. If this had happened 10 years ago, his only alternative--if he wanted to stay in the same field--would have been to seek a similar position with another radio station.

Now, he's doing his show as an Internet podcast, and is apparently making a success of it.

12:06 PM

Wednesday, February 24, 2010  


(I've posted about these photos before, but thought they deserved a re-post for new readers who may not be aware of them)

In the early 1900s, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii travelled throughout Russia and took a series of pictures using a unique color photography process that he developed himself. Filters were used to split the image into reds, greens, and blues (three different plates were recorded.) Display was done using a slide projection system which combined the images again on a screen.

Several more great photos from the series are here. (The plates were available all along, but the work of combining three B&W images into one color image had to be done for each photograph--it can now be done with computer assistance.)

See also this wonderful picture of Moscow in winter at Sheila's blog. And here are some color photographs from the American depression, a period which we probably tend to subliminally assume happened in black and white.

There are about two thousand pictures from the Prokudin-Gorskii collection now available for on-line viewing: follow the links here.

12:44 PM

Tuesday, February 23, 2010  

...and other places, too.

This idea from Sears Holdings didn't strike me as too bright when I first read about it a year or so ago, and time has not made its brilliance any more apparent to me.

But I mainly just wanted to use the above headline.

12:49 PM


You'd think that if someone seriously wanted to reduce health care costs in the U.S., he would want to streamline the approval process for generic drugs.

Just the opposite seems to have occurred.

Whereas five years ago the FDA typically approved a new generic drug within 16 months of the manufacturer's application, the typical delay is now more than 26 months. The budget for the FDA's generics office is only $51 million for 2010: up from 2009, but still clearly insufficient to meet the need. It's hard to think of many ways that an additional $30 million or so could be invested with better near-term payoff on the nation's collective medical bill.

Executives at a generics meeting joked that the government spends less on reviewing applications for new generic drugs than the New York Yankees spend on the payroll for the left side of their infield.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz

6:35 AM

Monday, February 22, 2010  

Kids today: are they lacking in passion?

DC public schools spend an average of $28,000 per student per year, compared to an average of $6500 for those the receive vouchers for private schools. (A Department of Education study found that the voucher kids were 14 months ahead of the others in reading. The voucher program is now being eliminated.)

Speaking of DC...The Washington Post reports on the bureaucratic travails of two men who wanted to open a diner in DC's Trinidad district. "The process sucked the entrepreneurial soul out of us many times," said one of them. "I don't think I'd like to do this again."

Bill Waddell suggests that the fixing of factory safety problems can be aided by eliminating the position of Safety Director. (He applies the same thought process to a critique of Akio Toyoda's plans for solving the current quality problems at Toyota.)

Should government be more concerned about pancake-race safety than about Iranian nuclear weapons?

Humor: Five military views of rain.

UPDATE: The "five military views of rain" link inspires Withywindle to link this classic Bill Mauldin cartoon from WWII.

11:22 AM

Friday, February 19, 2010  

Politicians, writers, and policy intellectuals talk a lot about "good manufacturing jobs" and how much "working families" have been hurt by the decline in the availability of such jobs. But back when such jobs were much more plentiful as a proportion of the total workforce, the social critics of the time were by no means uniformly enthusiastic about them.

continued at Chicago Boyz

5:44 AM

Thursday, February 18, 2010  

An important and insighful post by my Chicago Boyz colleague Shannon Love.

6:47 AM

Wednesday, February 17, 2010  

...from an entrepreneur.

Luke Johnson is a serial British entepreneur, now running Risk Capital Partners. He's also chairman of the Royal Society of Arts, and offers some advice for artists (here defined broadly, to include composers/musicians, film-makers, etc as well as visual artists) in his Financial Times column today:

Creative types pay a heavy toll to distribute their works, and in "the internet age" they can and should be doing it for themselves. Be they painters having to give galleries 50 per cent of the price of their pictures, or authors getting just 7 per cent of the net proceeds of their novels from publishers, or singers receiving paltry royalties from record labels, for many the division of rewards is a bad deal.


All artists should understand the basics of money and how to sell their genius, through social networks and every other modern form of communication...Agents, editors, lawyers and other beneficiaries of the current system may claim that they advise, curate and improve, selecting the winners from the torrent of stories, paintings, tunes, articles and suchlike. But again this is self-interest. Let the public discover the hits they like, without so many suits taking a tasty piece of the action on the way. The old mechanisms for selling creative endeavours that made the majors so rich are inefficient and slow. The traditional publicity engines are breaking down: almost no one buys a book because of the publisher, a painting because of a gallery, a song because of the label, or watches a film because of a studio. They consume it because they like the artist and their fascinating vision.

Essentially, ambitious artists should not see themselves as purists unsullied by commercial concerns. Rather they should treat their vocation as a craft carried out for profit, which they can practise individually or within collectives.

Read the whole thing, if you can...I'm not sure whether registration is required for this or not.

9:31 AM

Tuesday, February 16, 2010  

Here's Citigroup, with 10 mega-themes that spell the end of Western dominance

On the other hand, here's Joel Kotkin: Complaints of China's ascent and the U.S.' collapse are overly pessimistic

I'm reminded of a point that was made in a 1930s book on military strategy (edited by then-colonel George C Marshall: The enemy always has problems of his own of which you are unaware.

Not that China--still less India--is the enemy. Surely the economic development of the Far East is a good thing...indeed, it is wonderful that so many hundreds of millions of people have been rescued from desperate poverty, and surely it is good for us to have millions of more creative contributors to global economy. I'm more concerned with our own level of economic growth, and whether it can be sustained at a level necessary to deal with our problems without declining living standards and permanant long-term unemployment than I am with scorekeeping vis-a-vis China and India. Economically-dynamic countries should indeed be viewed as competitors, but also as customers, suppliers, and sources of knowledge and ideas. (For military as well as competitive reasons, relative position cannot be totally ignored, given the nature of the Chinese regime.)

So what say you? Who is more convincing, Citi or Kotkin?

(Kotkin link via Newmark's Door)

Discussion at Chicago Boyz

7:57 AM

Monday, February 15, 2010  

Quid Plura takes on a WSJ review of The Lost Books of the Odyssey. The reviewer seems to think is strange..maybe even inappropriate..that the author of this novel "isn't a classicist or a literary scholar" and...horror of horrors...that "(the author) has never set foot in a writing workshop"...which points Jeff (QuidPlura) neatly dismisses as "a trireme full of waterlogged assumptions."

Michael Barone writes about crony capitalism under Obama. (via PowerLine)

Applying product design methods to government policy design.

Only school choice will keep them honest. Without it, the author argues, even the best-intentioned (and most-expensive) educational reforms are doomed to failure.

Kill or capture? The Obama administration seems increasingly to be opting to kill terrorist leaders, typically via air attack or UAV, rather than capturing them and trying to find out what they know. PowerLine:

According to the (Washington) Post, these decisions are being driven in part by the "dwindling options" for placing U.S. captives. As one "senior military officer" put it, "when you don't have a detention politcy or a set of facilities," the balance tends to shift in favor of simply eliminating the terrorist.

But this entails an obvious cost -- lost opportunities to obtain important intelligence. Thus, says the Post, "some military and intelligence officials" are balking at the administration's "shoot the bastard" policy."

Unionized teachers at a Rhode Island high school were making typically $70,000-$78,000/year, in an area where the median income is $22,000. The school was failing according to multiple metrics, and the superintendent asked teachers to do a little extra work to help remedy the situation. They refused. She fired them all.

Hillary Clinton is worried that Iran is becoming a military dictatorship. It's not obvious to me that "military dictatorship" is worse than "theocratic dictatorship."

Jobs and interest rates. Martin Hutchinson argues that holding short-term interest rates at a very low level allows bank to focus excessively on the purchase of (longer-term) government securities and government-guaranteed mortages, at the expense of business lending. (via Business Insider)

DC blizzard pictures. Guaranteed to make you feel at least 10 degrees colder.

6:19 AM

Saturday, February 13, 2010  

In my previous post, I reviewed a movie that deals with WWII air combat. Yesterday, Neptunus Lex wrote about more modern air combat--well, not actual combat in this instance, but training for same.

Lex was flying an F-18 Hornet. His strike group was to be escorted to the target by a group of F-14 Tomcats, while a squadron of A-4 Skyhawks/Scooters---playing the role of the enemy---was assigned to try to keep them from getting there. The Scooter is an older and lower-performance aircraft than the other two types, so the Hornet and Tomcat pilots were feeling pretty confident.

Things didn't work out quite as they expected...

"Break left" I hollered to my flight lead on the Aux Radio, which prolly came as a nasty surprise to him so early in the game. But he was a credit to his profession and broke as I'd directed...after 90 degrees of turn the bandit pitched off, allowing us to resume towards the target for the training that was in it. Which is when we heard the Tomcat four-ship in front of us get shot down on the strike common frequency by their very own bandits, in lilting and feminine tones, the shock, disgrace, and horror of it. Four highly trained fighter crews flying expensive, high tech fighters shot down in sequence. By girls.

Read the whole thing.

12:08 PM

Friday, February 12, 2010  

I learned about this Czech film a couple of years ago via screenwriter/blogger Robert Avrech. It's not very well known in the U.S. and wasn't then available on Netflix (though it is now), so I bought it, and just re-watched it...definitely a film worth seeing more than once. Friendship, love, and war, and some aspects of history that are probably unfamiliar to most Americans.

When Czechoslovakia was occupied by German troops in 1938, many Czech pilots made their way to the West and served with the Royal Air Force. After the war, surviving/returning pilots were imprisoned by Czechoslovakia's new Communist government, which feared that they had been contaminated by Western ideas.

Franta Slama is a Czech air force captain. His younger protege and friend, Karel Vojtisek, is an aspiring fighter pilot. After the humiliating surrender of the airfield to an ungracious German officer, Franta and Karel escape the country via motorcycle. Franta leaves behind his girlfriend, Hanicka, and his beloved dog Barcha. Karel is not in a relationship, but is girl-crazy to a degree even greater that typical for his age.

continued at Chicago Boyz

4:49 AM

Thursday, February 11, 2010  

In light of the recent Apple iPad introduction, it's interesting to look at a competitor's review of another media-display product, launched in 1440 A.D.

8:33 PM


A Morgan Stanley analysis worth reading for serious investors.

9:05 AM

Wednesday, February 10, 2010  

On Monday at 2000 GMT, the U.S. Coast Guard terminated the transmission of the LORAN-C radionavigation signal, marking the end of a system which has been an important factor in maritime navigation (and, to a lesser extent, air navigation) for more than half a century. The termination of LORAN was based on budget considerations and on the conclusion that LORAN's functions have been supplanted by GPS. I'm not totally sure that this was a good decision.

continued at Chicago Boyz

9:38 AM


360-degree views of twelve different buildings/rooms/plazas, with music. Nice work by Villanova University.

(Thanks, mom! thanks, Joy!)

7:50 AM


Being without electricity for almost 12 hours, and without Internet service for 4 days (both are back now) encourages contemplation of the multiple networks on which we are dependent for our well-being and even our survival, and of the interdependencies that exist across these networks...

continued at Chicago Boyz

6:17 AM

Tuesday, February 09, 2010  

Lots of snow here. Power was out for quite a while, and Internet service (Comcast) has been down now for more than 3 days. Can't get the car out of the driveway; I'm posting this from the local library that I walked to. Probably not a whole lot of blogging until my Comcast service returns.

8:20 AM

Friday, February 05, 2010  

Odin James--"O"--is a high-school basketball star. His friend Hugo also plays for the team, though not on O's level. When O singles out another player--Michael--for special recognition, Hugo's already-high jealously level reaches a fever pitch.

Roger, a wealthy but awkward and widely-disliked student, is hopelessly in love with O's girlfriend, Desi. Hugo enlists him in a plot which he sells to Roger as a way of luring Desi away from O...but his real intent is to destroy both O and Michael, with Desi as collateral damage.

Does the plot sound a little bit familiar?

continued at Chicago Boyz

12:41 PM


You've probably never heard of this former Soviet naval officer. But it may well be that you owe him a great deal.

In fact, it's just possible that you owe him everything.

(via Neptunus Lex)

12:03 PM


Financial Times, 2/4:

Moody's Investors Service fired off a warning yesterday that the triple A sovereign credit rating of the US would come under pressure unless economic growth was more robust than expected or tougher action was taken to tackle the country's budget deficit.


Crucially, projections of the overall debt-to-GDP ratio for the US are seen as rising from 53 per cent in 2009 to 73 per cent in 2015 and 77 per cent by 2020. Moody's, however, says this understates the US debt level.

"Using the general government measure, including state and local governments as well as the federal government, which is used internationally, this ratio would be well over 100 percent in 2020."

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz

8:45 AM

Wednesday, February 03, 2010  

Observations from a remedial-writing instructor at a community college (via Joanne Jacobs)

Also via Joanne: IQ tests for four-year-olds to determine who gets into a "gifted" school. Discussion on Joanne's blog, at which I cite the wisdom of Peter Drucker.

A disappearing Reuters story about the impact of Obama's proposed tax increases. If there were specific inaccuracies in the story, why didn't Reuters just issue a correction instead of pulling the whole thing? (via Power and Control)

Also: here's a analysis of Obama's proposed elimination of "subsidies" for oil & gas drilling. As Craig Newmark points out, this would certainly disincentivize drilling and lead directly to higher gasoline and heating-fuel prices.

Not everyone loves working at Google

Villainous Company cites Robert Samuelson on how government efforts to maintain a perpetual boom actually lead to instability and severe recessions.

A sad but funny story about a large software project, a lawsuit, and a dog.

The debacle at Toyota, as viewed through the lens of Lean management philosophy. More here.

More great photographs from AnoukAnge. Some of her earlier work is here.

3:00 PM

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