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

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betsy's page
one hand clapping
a schoolyard blog
joy of knitting
lead and gold
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no credentials
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a constrained vision
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quid nomen illius?
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010  

Congressman Pete Stark, a California Democrat, clearly demonstrates his contempt for citizens and his general loathsomeness as a human being. Watch the absolutely unbelievable video.

See my previous post on arrogant politicians here

6:08 AM

Tuesday, June 29, 2010  

In Britain: EU rules which are soon to come into force will require certain changes in product packaging.

The new rules will mean that instead of packaging telling shoppers a box contains six eggs, it will show the weight in grams of the eggs inside, for example 372g. Or that a bag of white rolls has 322g inside instead of half a dozen. The rules will not allow both the weight and the quantity to be displayed.

Hens being stubbornly unwilling to lay eggs of absolutely consistent weights, this regulation also implies that packagers or retailers must spend money on equipment to weigh and stamp each individual package...costs which must, of course, be passed through to consumers and which will represent a burden on the entire economy.

In California: Amid all of the state's increasingly-disastrous problems, the Assembly has found time to draft and pass legislation banning plastic grocery bags. The law will also specify the price (5 cents) that the store must charge for paper bags and the mix of materials content allowed for those bags.

Throughout the Western world, the all-emcompassing arrogance of the political classes seems to grow in tandem with their incompetence at fulfilling their proper functions.

See previous regulating absolutely everything posts

5:20 AM

Monday, June 28, 2010  

J Christian Adams, formerly an attorney with the US Department of Justice:

On Election Day 2008, armed men wearing the uniforms and jackboots of the New Black Panther Party were posted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the entrance to a polling site. They brandished a weapon and intimidated voters. After the election, the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice brought a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party and these armed thugs. I, and other Justice lawyers, obtained an entry of default after the defendants ignored the case against them.

Before a final judgment could be entered, however, our superiors ordered dismissal of the claims.

Read the whole thing.

For some time, I have been concerned about the rise of political violence and intimidation in America. This has been most apparent in universities, where administrators have too often allowed leftists and Islamic radicals to interfere with the expression of opinion by others. For example, in this post I cited the behavior of some "anti-war" and anti-Israel activists:

At Concordia College (Toronto), Benhamin Netanyahu was prevented from speaking by a riot of Palestinian students and their supporters. Thomas Hecht, a Holocaust survivor, was pushed against a wall, spat on, and reportedly kicked in the groin. A woman said that during the same incident, attackers "aimed their punches at my breasts." Two weeks later, at the same college, a Jewish student was beaten bloody by an Arab student.

At Berkeley, someone thre a cinder block through the glass door at the Hillel (Jewish) center, and wrote "F___ Jews" on the wall. At San Francisco State University, a rally of Jewish students and other was disrupted by pro-Palestinian students screaming "Go back to Russia," and "We will kill you." Some students were reportedly shoved against the wall, and the Jewish group had to be escorted out by police. Laurie Zoloth, a campus Jewish leader, summed up the campus situation in these words: "This is the Weimar republic with Brownshirts it cannot control."

continued at Chicago Boyz

6:08 AM

Friday, June 25, 2010  

Things are spinning out of control

Robert Avrech has a story about blatant anti-Semitism in Holland, the land of Anne Frank:

Anti-Semitism has gotten so ugly in The Netherlands that Jews walking along Amsterdam’s street are being harassed by young Muslims who yell insults or give Nazi salutes...A TV programme broadcast on Sunday by the Jewish Broadcasting Organisation showed rabbi Lody van de Kamp confronted by Moroccan youths giving the Hitler salute.


"Jews are deserting Antwerp," headlines De Standaard. The Belgian newspaper predicts that in fifty years there will be no more Jews living in the city. Due to an increase of Anti-Semitism, many young Jews are leaving the city to study in London, New York or Israel, where "working with a skullcap (kippah) isn’t a problem", and they never return.

The sharp increase in anti-Semitism is only one among many indicators of social disintegration and dysfunction throughout the Western world. It is increasingly clear that (although there are individual honorable exceptions) our political elites lack the wisdom and courage to deal effectively with the problems confronting our societies. The ongoing appeasement of jihadism is one primary example; the orgy of financial irresponsibility is another.

Reading Robert's post, I was reminded of a passage from Sebastian Haffner's memoir. Haffner, as you may recall from my review here, grew up in Germany between the wars and wrote an indispensable book about his experiences and observations.

continued at Chicago Boyz

5:31 AM

Tuesday, June 22, 2010  

Frances Anne Kemble was a British actress who achieved considerable fame subsequent to her 1829 appearance in a production of Romeo and Juliet. I recently ran across her description of an experience she had in 1830, when she became one of the first people to ride on the newly-constructed London & Manchester railway line. Railway travel was then as exotic as space travel is now...arguably more so. Fannie's escort for the trip was none other than George Stephenson, the self-taught engineer who had been the driving force behind the line's construction.

She was impressed with the experience of railroad travel ("You can't imagine how strange it seemed to be journeying on thus, without any visible cause of progress other than the magical machine, with its flying white breath and rhythmical, unvarying pace, between these rocky walls, which are already clothed with moss and ferns and grasses") and with Stephenson ("the master of all these marvels, with whom I am most horribly in love") She offers an interesting analysis of the roles of government vs the private sector in the creation of this railroad ("The Liverpool merchants, whose far-sighted self-interest prompted them to wise liberality, had accepted the risk of George Stephenson's magnificent experiment, which the committee of inquiry of the House of Commons had rejected for the government. These men, of less intellectual culture than the Parliament members, had the adventurous imagination proper to great speculators, which is the poetry of the counting-house and wharf, and were better able to receive the enthusiastic infection of the great projector's sanguine hope than the Westminster committee.") The relevant section of her memoir is here.

continued at Chicago Boyz

4:48 PM


Various educators and educational "experts" are asserting that it is unhealthy for a child to have a best friend.

The more inadequate the job the schools are doing at their core function of..y'know..actually teaching stuff, the more they seen to want to spend resources sticking their noses into things that are none of their business.

via Instapundit and the Washington Examiner.

2:27 PM

Monday, June 21, 2010  

A coalition of leftists and Islamists blocked access to piers in Oakland which had been designated for offloading of a container ship owned by the Israeli firm Zim Lines. The local longshoremen refused to cross the "picket line" and perform their job of unloading the vessel. There was nothing particularly controversial about the ship's cargo: this was clearly an economic action directed at the entire country of Israel.

Follow the link above to learn the identities of the organizations involved in this--organizations that the San Francisco Chronicle referred to as "peace and labor groups."

continued at Chicago Boyz

6:23 AM

Saturday, June 19, 2010  

My post on this topic a little over a week ago garnered a fair number of comments. Here are some related items which have surfaced in the last few days and may be of interest...

1)A Washington Post item about college graduates who have chosen to make a switch to the skilled trades

2)Glenn Reynolds posts some interesting emails he has received from recent college graduates. Excerpts:

For the vast majority of people who are now in their 20’s, adolescence wasn’t about anything at all but getting in to college. Our teachers talked about College the way that Churchill talked about Victory. I’ve long argued that the reason why popular culture among young adults today is so obnoxiously, insufferably adolescent is at least partly due to the fact that we were never /allowed/ to be adolescents. You didn’t play sports or write for the school newspaper or volunteer at the soup kitchen because you wanted to, you did it to pad that college application. I can’t tell you how many times I was told, point blank, that the way to success was to get into the best college you could, and borrow as much money as you could to pay for it. Of /course/ college was worth six figures in debt.

continued at Chicago Boyz

3:15 PM

Thursday, June 17, 2010  

John Gapper,writing in the Financial Times about Obama's arm twisting-of BP to put $20 billion into an "escrow" fund:

It has echoes of the 1986 tobacco settlement in which industry paid $246bn to states following legal action by their attorneys-general. Only 5 percent of that money was spent on tobacco-related initiatives with Virginia, for example, investing in higher education, fibre optic cables and research into energy...Willie Sutton, the robber, sagely observed that he raided banks because that was where the money was, and US politicians know this lesson well.


The tactics of Congress and President Obama against BP are reminiscent of tort lawyers, who are big funders of the Democrats.

continued at Chicago Boyz

8:55 AM


The phrase "oil addiction" has come into common use...in his speech the other night, Obama generalized this to "addiction to fossil fuels."

A little historical perspective...

Before we were addicted to oil, we were addicted to coal. This fuel was used to heat homes, to drive locomotives and steamships, to power steam engines in factories, and for many other things in addition to its present-day uses in power generation and iron/steel production. While coal has many positive qualities as a fuel, the age of coal had its drawbacks. Coal mining was dangerous and often injurious to health. Stoking of furnaces involved backbreaking labor...although automatic stokers were developed for locomotives and power plants, the firing of steamship boilers still required the round-the-clock effort of large numbers of human beings. (See Eugene O'Neill, The Hairy Ape.) And coal was and is heavy and bulky in proportion to its energy, so that it could not enable the development of such things as airplanes, automobiles, and farm tractors. All of these factors were changed by the large-scale availability of oil. The need for human beings to serve as Hairy Apes was greatly reduced.

continued at Chicago Boyz

5:49 AM

Wednesday, June 16, 2010  

When Dwight Eisenhower was Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, he was very concerned with the need to maintain positive relationships among the Allies. General Lord Ismay, in his memoirs, gives some insight into just how seriously Eisenhower took this aspect of command. In one case, following a serious fracas between a British and an American officer:

..(Eisenhower) came to the conclusion, after a careful consideration of all the evidence, that it was the American who was in the wrong. He ordered him to be dismissed from the Staff and sent back to the United States. The British officer who had been embroiled pleaded for him 'He only called me a son-of-a-bitch, sir, and all of use have now learnt that this is a colloquial expression which is sometimes used almost as a term of endearment, and should not be taken too seriously.' To which Eisenhower replied, 'I am informed that he called you a British son-of-a-bitch. That is quite different. My ruling stands.' (emphasis added)

I was reminded of this story (taken from this post in my Leadership Vignettes series) by Obama's behavior toward the British, most recently in the case of the BP fiasco. One of the first things he did on assuming office was to send back the Churchill bust in his office. This was followed by the giving of inappropriate and quite narcissistic gifts, and now by the needlessly offensive assault on BP. Eisenhower, the lifelong soldier, evidently understood something about nuance and diplomacy in interpersonal communications. Obama, who has been positioned as a new-age-y kind of guy, more sensitive and diplomatic than the cowboys he replaced, couldn't even be bothered to select appropriate gifts or or to use the proper name of the corporation he was attacking--which has not been "British Petroleum," either legally or in marketing usage, for quite a while.

The truth is, people who come across as "sensitive" are very often in actuality sensitive to only one set of feelings: their own.

Some links on Obama's speech last night here.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

2:32 PM

Tuesday, June 15, 2010  

Lexington Green asks what is "the American way of life?" and invites Chicago Boyz readers to respond.

Claudia Rosett observes that the long arc of the moral universe doesn't automatically bend toward justice...and suggests that Iranian dissidents could use quite a bit more help from Obama in bending it in this direction.

Edward Tenner notes that 2009 was the 50th anniversary of the Xerox 914 copier, and argues that the emergence of this technology had a major impact on our society. He also quotes a Fortune writer who called the 914 "the most successful product ever marketed in America measured by return on investment." (I'm not so sure about the latter claim. For products created within large multiproduct corporations, it is usually impossible for an outsider to assess the ROI of a specific product--and often very difficult even for an insider.)

It appears the governor and legislature of New York State will allow the state government and municipalities to borrow nearly $6 billion to help them make their required annual payments to the state pension fund...and to borrow this money from that same pension fund. (this link and prior one via Newmark's Door)

Administrative overhead: check out some of the job openings at this university. Stephen Karlson observes that "In the middle of a recession, with the state budget situation still unresolved, the current job opportunities include six faculty slots (three visiting, one tenure-track) and thirteen coordinators, including a success specialist for each of five colleges, two assistant directors in recreation, and a call center coordinator." Do not fail to follow the link and read the actual job descriptions for these positions, on which actual taxpayer and tuition money will be spent.

Teaching engineering in elementary school...and even in kindergarten, where the class project involved designing wolf-proof homes for the three little pigs.

The temple of Hera at Paestum

AnoukAnge visits NYC

Photoshop art from Cara Ellison. Also, read about Cara's 21st birthday...the story involves Enron.

Sibling of Daedalus deconstructs a story by F Scott Fitzgerald, in search of lessons about the relationship between the sexes.

7:08 AM

Monday, June 14, 2010  

Members of the political class are getting more and more irritated at the fact that so many Americans refuse to just shut up, do what we are told, and be content with whatever crumbs they choose to leave us after distributing the nation's wealth to themselves and their favored interest groups.

This video clearly seems to show Congressman Bob Etheridge (D-NC) committing an act of assault against a student who had the temerity to ask him a question.

As Mike Flynn says at the link:

Let’s recap what we saw on this video. A sitting Congressman–a presumed living extension of James Madison and other founding fathers–was asked on a public street whether he supported the President’s agenda. His response was to hit away a video camera and assault a student. The age of Pericles this ain’t.

Related: what they really think of us.

9:51 AM

Sunday, June 13, 2010  

A debate about a 4th-grade basketball game illustrates, on a very small scale, some of the primary cultural and political divides facing America today:

A few days before the game, Jay's father called me. He and the other parents of his son's team were "very, very concerned." Even alarmed. Apparently, as the championship game neared, the boys were doing a lot trash-talking at each other. Surely we could all agree that the real reason for the competition was to teach the boys cooperation and sportsmanship. Playing the game would mean one of the teams would lose, which would lead the winning team to "bragging rights in the schoolyard." And that would not be healthy. It would undermine the real lessons to be learned about self-esteem and mutual respect.

He dwelled on these points for a while, finally landing heavily on the notion that this was a wonderful opportunity for us, as parents, to "frame the situation as a teaching moment." Eventually, he got to the money point: He and the other parents of Jay's team wanted to cancel the championship game. After all, we could all agree that both teams were already winners, right?

continued at Chicago Boyz

12:54 PM


The terrible piece of legislation known as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act has crippled another small business, this one a maker of stuffed plush toys.

The refusal of Congress and the Administration to seriously address the problems with this law demonstrates very clearly how little real concern they have for the economy and specifically for small business and entrepreneurs.

Much easier to express anger at China, as Timothy Geithner was doing last week, than to work on solving self-created problems that are entirely within our own control.

6:29 AM

Saturday, June 12, 2010  

I've never been a fan of the company called BP. For one thing, I thought their slogan, "Beyond Petroleum," was political pandering of a very low sort, and also disrespectful to their own employees, the vast majority of whom were engaged in petroleum-related activities.

But regardless of my feelings about this corporation, I am increasingly appalled at the lynch-mob spirit behind the attacks on it by the Obama admninistration...in particular, the strident demands, while the crisis is not yet resolved, for increasingly vast sums of money in compensation for the damages caused. (See this, for example)

In the United States, we have an established mechanism for establishing damages in situations like this. It is called the court system, and it involves things like laws, precedents, contracts among the companies involved (and BP was not the only company involved here), and this little thing called evidence. For all of this, Obama seems to want to substitute something like a civil version of the constitutionally-prohibited bills of attainder, though in this case driven exclusively by the executive (him) rather than involving legislative process.

continued at Chicago Boyz

6:22 AM

Wednesday, June 09, 2010  

Describing the dysfunctional management culture of Ford Motor Company during the later years of Henry Ford, Peter Drucker observed that a Ford foundry manager was not allowed to know the cost per ton of the coal being used in his furnaces. This was a function of the secretive and very controlling personality that Mr Ford had developed by this time, aided and abetted by his thuggish sidekick, Harry Bennett.

continued at Chicago Boyz

7:27 AM

Monday, June 07, 2010  

1)A study by York College suggests that many graduates are unprepared for the working world. The study cites the expectations of business leaders and HR people as including "the ability to communicate and listen respectfully, motivation to finish a task and attention to appearance." While the study indicates that many graduating college seniors may lack these attributes, they do possess certain other ones:

There’s a sense of entitlement that we’ve picked up on. Where people think they’re entitled to become, let’s say president of the company, within the next two years. They’re entitled to five weeks of vacation.

York says it is now trying to teach "professionalism" in addition to whatever else it already teaches. But sitting into an auditorium and listening to some executive, a few weeks before graduation, strikes me as less about teaching professionalism and more about teaching how to simulate professionalism in an interview.

continued at Chicago Boyz

2:26 PM


Lulu, who is guest-blogging at Bookworm, attended a large pro-Israel rally at the Israeli consulate

Robert Avrech also reports on the rally, which was attended by his wife Karen. In the evening, Robert and Karen attended a Republican Jewish Coalition event, at which Michele Bachman ("wearing a blue dress in solidarity with Israel") was a featured speaker.

12:53 PM

Sunday, June 06, 2010  

Neptunus Lex remembers the Battle of Midway, which took place from June 4 through June 7, 1942.

Today, June 6, is the 66th anniversary of the Normandy landings. See Wikipedia article for an overview. Arthur Seltzer, who was there, describes his experiences.

Don Sensing points out that success was by no means assured: the pivot day of history.

Two earlier Photon Courier posts: before D-day, there was Dieppe and transmission ends.

Pictures from Sarah's 1999 trip to Normandy.

Again, Neptunus Lex:

The liberation of France started when each, individual man on those landing craft as the ramp came down – each paratroop in his transport when the light turned green – made the individual decision to step off with the only life he had and face the fire.

Update: Lex has more today.

Update 2: Bookworm attends a Battle of Midway commemoration event.

5:13 AM

Friday, June 04, 2010  

...and the products they milled.

A very beautiful slide show from Ziosha. (I would have embedded this but couldn't get rid of a very irritating flashing arrow, which showed up in the embedded version but is not present at the link.) Don't miss these photographs.

4:53 AM

Thursday, June 03, 2010  

PowerLine takes on Jim Leach, who is this administration's chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. A beautiful example of the art of invective. Sample:

Leach's speeches demonstrate the cosmic gulf between Jim Leach's opinion of his abilities and Jim Leach's abilities. If he would cast his pseudoliterate prose into rhymed couplets, he might be a character out of Molière.

Read the whole thing.

7:30 AM


The worldwide attacks on Israel, in the wake of the Gaza event, are frightening in their venom and irrationality, and I fear that these responses mark a significant turning toward the abandonment of civilization's ramparts and the appeasement of terrorist and rogue-state barbarism. Daniel Henninger of the WSJ has a roundup here. He notes that:

For starters, denouncing Israel for something like this is convenient for leaders who have failed repeatedly to do anything about more important and difficult problems such as Iran, North Korea or sovereign debt. Also, lesser nations learn by example: The Obama administration's unrestrained criticism of the Israeli government in March over East Jerusalem settlements lowered the threshold for teeing off on Israel.

...and expresses particular concern about the comments made by Catherine Ashton, EU "high representative for foreign affairs," who demanded "an immediate, sustained, and unconditional opening" of the Gaza blockade. Henninger notes that:

Until High Representative Ashton's demand to end the blockade, the EU had been party to a clear, explicit policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Since 2002, a group known as the Quartet—consisting of the EU, Russia, the U.S. and the U.N., with Tony Blair as its current special envoy—has said that no one could deal with Hamas, the occupier of Gaza, until Hamas fulfilled three conditions: Recognize Israel's right to exist. Renounce violence. Accept agreements already made by previous Palestinian negotiators.

Hamas hasn't met any of those conditions. After Ms. Ashton's outburst, it knows it doesn't have to.

As Henninger also observes, "The world's peoples may pay soon for their leaders' display of such a disproportionate double standard...In any of the places where men discuss truly monstrous and dangerous plans, in Kim Jong Il's Pyongyang or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Tehran, watching this hyperventilated criticism of Israel for a shoot-out on a boat must strike them as laughable. If one's opponents save their collective status and authority for something like this, then the world is ultimately not serious about who must comply with its rules of behavior. With this unbalanced double standard, the world increases the odds that a truly irresponsible regime will miscalculate."

I am reminded of a speech given by Winston Churchill to the House of Commons (March 1938) in which he spoke of Britain and its allies:

descending incontinently, recklessly, the staircase which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad staircase at the beginning, but, after a bit, the carpet ends. A little further on there are only flagstones, and, a little further on still, these break beneath your feet.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

5:37 AM

Wednesday, June 02, 2010  

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, explaining the shallowness of Obama's support among voters in the western part of his state:

He's too well educated, too smart, too sort of cool


The overweening arrogance of the political class toward the citizens who are their employers, and who they supposedly represent, becomes increasingly clear with each passing day.

6:55 AM

Tuesday, June 01, 2010  

...armed with knives, bats, and metal pipes. Read Pamela Geller's coverage of the Gaza "peace flotilla" incident.

Also see video at Maggie's Farm, where Bruce Kesler comments:

The convoy was not humanitarian in intent or action. It was a blatant political propaganda ploy, intentionally belligerent in leadership, word and deed, to provoke in order to pressure Israel to commit suicide, opening Gaza’s borders to the type of infusion of deadly weapons and missiles for Hamas to attack Israel that flows unimpeded into Lebanon.

Any who defend the convoy or its passengers are actually furthering avoidable death and war.

continued at Chicago Boyz

6:00 AM

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