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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Saturday, October 30, 2010  

From the hag and hungry goblin
That into rags would rend ye
And the spirits that stand
By the naked man
In the Book of Moons, defend ye!

That of your five sound sense
You never be forsaken
Nor wander from
Yourself with Tom
Abroad to beg your bacon

The moon's my constant mistress
And the lonely owl my marrow
The flaming drake
And the night-crow make
Me music to my sorrow

I know more than Apollo
For oft, when he lies sleeping
I see the stars
At mortal wars
And the rounded welkin weeping

With a host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander
With a burning spear
And a horse of air
To the wilderness I wander

By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond
The wide world's end
Methinks it is no journey

(Not specifically a Halloween poem, but it certainly sets the mood, doesn't it? This is Tom O'Bedlam's Song, dating from sometime around 1600. There are lots more verses, and many different versions.)

2:51 PM


A Huffington Post piece from 2008, by a lawyer who knew singer Joan Jett back when her name was Joan Larkin...and who knew Barack Obama in law school:

When I met Barack Obama, in our first year of law school, he had already put on his big-time politician act. He just didn't quite have it polished, and he hadn't figured out that he needed charm and humor to round out the confidence and intelligence. One of our classmates once famously noted that you could judge just how pretentious someone's remarks in class were by how high they ranked on the "Obamanometer," a term that lasted far longer than our time at law school. Obama didn't just share in class - he pontificated. He knew better than everyone else in the room, including the teachers....I wonder -- was there a moment in his life when he did the presidential equivalent of dying his hair black and putting on a leather jacket? I'm betting there was, but he'd already done it by the time I met him....In law school the only thing I would have voted for Obama to do would have been to shut up. When he made that speech almost exactly four years ago, I wanted to vote for him. For something, for anything. Now, as his vision of himself becomes a real possibility, though, I find that he may have filled out that suit all too well.

Read the whole thing.

(via Isegoria)

5:29 AM

Wednesday, October 27, 2010  

...for those thinking about becoming lawyers

...and for those who want to be English professors


1:17 PM

Tuesday, October 26, 2010  

In his book The Age of Discontinuity, Peter Drucker--an Austrian who earned his doctorate at the University of Frankfurt--contrasted the European and American systems of higher education. I was reminded of his remarks by a recent column by Anne Applebaum, in which she defends the Ivy League against charges of elitism.

Here's what Drucker wrote, way back in 1969:

That so much of American education before Sputnik (and still today, I am afraid) was content with mediocrity and rather smug about it, is a real weakness of our knowledge base. By contrast, one strength of American education is the resistance to any elite monopoly. To be sure, we have institutions that enjoy (deservedly or not) high standing and prestige. But we do not, fortunately, discriminate against the men who receive their training elsewhere. The engineer whose degree is from North Idaho A and M does not regard himself as "inferior" or as "not really an engineer"...The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim.


It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the strength of American higher education lies in this absence of schools for leaders and schools for followers. It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the engineer with a degree from North Idaho A and M is an engineer and not a draftsman. Yet this is the flexibility that Europe needs in order to overcome the brain drain and to close the technology gap...the European who knows himself competent because he is not accepted as such--because he is not an "Oxbridge" man or because he did not graduate from one of the Grandes Ecoles and become an Inspecteur de Finance in the government service--will continue to emigrate where he will be used according to what he can do rather than according to what he has not done.

continued at Chicago Boyz

7:07 AM

Sunday, October 24, 2010  

In this post, OnParkStreet cited Walter Russell Mead on the similarity between communism and fascism. I totally agree that there is much similarity between these systems--in their theory, in their practical effects, and in the psychology of their supporters. I also believe, however, that there are some significant differences between communism and fascism, and I discussed some of these in the comment thread at OnParkStreet's post.

Yesterday I picked up a book called Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century, by Mark Mazower, which contains quite a bit of information and analysis relevant to this discusion.

continued at Chicago Boyz

4:09 PM

Saturday, October 23, 2010  

Richard Fernandez argues convincingly that the practice of persecuting people for blasphemy has returned.

UPDATE: Related thoughts from Neo-Neocon, who cites a personal experience she finds consistent with Fernandez's analysis.

8:28 PM


Barbara Boxer (D-CA) famously complained about being addressed as "ma'am," demanding that the general she was interrogating call her "senator" instead. This incident, among other things, led producer David Zucker to regret the $5000 he once donated to her campaign. He mas made amends for this mistake by producing a pretty funny video.

More from Zucker here. Via Pajamas Media.

4:50 AM

Thursday, October 21, 2010  

...have a discussion about seeing the ideal and the real in friends and lovers.

1:40 PM

Tuesday, October 19, 2010  

Israpundit has done a useful analysis of the votes of individual Congressmen on issues affecting Israel--it seems to have been distributed only via e-mail, and not available on their site. The format of the data is pretty unwieldy, so instead of posting the whole thing I've done a bit of analysis. If this issue matters to you, then you might want to check and see if your current Congressman is on the list below. In any event, I think the data is pretty revealing.

continued at Chicago Boyz

8:24 AM

Monday, October 18, 2010  

I'm a bit reluctant to post anything that mentions Ayn Rand, for fear of triggering some very heated and off-topic discussion...but recent trends in the political and business spheres have reminded me of a line in Atlas Shrugged which was spoken by Henry Rearden's mother:

All business is just dirty politics and all politics is just dirty business.

continued at Chicago Boyz

8:46 AM

Sunday, October 17, 2010  

One of the poems we read in the 7th grade was an autumn hunting poem said to be of American Indian origin. In recent years I've made a couple of stabs at finding it on the Internet, without success. Rebekah's post on how much she likes this time of year inspired me to try again--and this time, the poem showed up in several places.

It's called "The Blue Duck," and it was written down by the poem/outdoorsman Lew Sarett, who spent nine years among the Chickasaw, sometime in the early 1900s...it's not clear how much of this is a translation from the Chickasaw language versus how much of it is Sarett's own work, inspired by the rhythms and symbolism of a medicine dance. Either way, it's a great poem, especially for this time of year.

The hunter-moon is chipping at his flints,
At his dripping bloody flints
He is rising for the hunt
And his face is red with blood
From the spears of many spruces
And his blood is on the leaves that flutter down
The winter-maker Bee-bo-an
Is walking in the sky
And his windy blanket rustles in the trees
He is blazing out the trail
Through the fields of nodding rice
For the swift and whistling wings
Of his She-she-be
For the worn and weary wings
Of many duck--
Ho! Plenty duck! Plenty duck!
Ho! Plenty, plenty duck!

Lots more verses here.

4:55 PM

Saturday, October 16, 2010  

...Beltway Adventure!

5:00 AM

Friday, October 15, 2010  

Ken Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot, has an article in today's Wall Street Journal in which he offers some advice to the President. A key excerpt:

We opened the front door in 1979, also a time of severe economic slowdown. Yet today, Home Depot is staffed by more than 325,000 dedicated, well-trained, and highly motivated people offering outstanding service and knowledge to millions of consumers.

If we tried to start Home Depot today, under the kind of onerous regulatory controls that you (Obama) have advocated, it's a stone cold certainty that our business would never get off the ground, much less thrive.

Regarding Obama's comments at a town-hall meeting he attended, Langone says:

I must say that the event seemed more like a lecture than a dialogue. For more than two years the country has listened to your sharp rhetoric about how American businesses are short-changing workers, fleecing customers, cheating borrowers, and generally "driving the economy into a ditch," to borrow your oft-repeated phrase.

My question to you was why, during a time when investment and dynamism are so critical to our country, was it necessary to vilify the very people who deliver that growth? Instead of offering a straight answer, you informed me that I was part of a "reckless" group that had made "bad decisions" and now required your guidance, if only I'd stop "resisting" it.

Read the whole thing.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

1:43 PM

Wednesday, October 13, 2010  

Ruth McClung is running for Congress in Arizona's 7th District. She seems like an interesting person--physics degree, works in rocketry at an engineering company, worked her way through college, enjoys rock climbing, an amateur painter whose work has been displayed in local galleries.

Views on specific issues aside, it's great to see so much true diversity among some of the new people running for office. Too many of the old crowd are made in the same mold...typically lawyers, who have spent their entire careers in public office, government "service," or in pseudo-private positions (lobbyists, attorneys focusing on regulatory issues) which are closely connected to their governmental experience..or activists and "community organizers," types of activity which are really just other kinds of lobbying...and many them appear to have little intellectual or emotional depth and no real interests in life other than the acquisition of personal political power and influence.

continued at Chicago Boyz

9:14 AM


There's an irony to occupying the Oval Office. When presidents think they're bigger than the job they hold, they shrink in office. When they think they're smaller than the honor they've been temporarily bestowed, they grow into it. Obama has done nothing but shrink.

--Jonah Goldberg

6:10 AM

Monday, October 11, 2010  

(Sometimes I can't resist the opportunity for a little alliteration, even when the subject matter is very serious)

Harold Lewis is Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is a former member of the Defense Science Board; a former member of the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards and the President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee; also co-founder and former Chairman of JASON; and a former member USAF Scientific Advisory Board.

Here is his letter of resignation from the American Physical Society. Excerpt:

The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare.

continued at Chicago Boyz

7:43 AM

Saturday, October 09, 2010  

Jeremy Jennings writes about Mao's little helpers in the Western intelligentsia.

Thomas Lifson sees a close connection between "progressivism" and feudalism.

Erin O'Connor cites some interesting remarks by Mario Vargas Llosa

A column by Peggy Noonan prompts Cassandra to some thoughts about moral hazard.

Why does the IRS want to exempt all attorneys and CPAs from its proposed licensing requirements for people in the tax-preparation business?

Neptunus Lex reports on a new analysis of an old map, which suggests that many German cities are 1000 years older than they had been thought to be.

Bictopia, who lives in Hungary, visits the Ukraine.

Update: The 8 most insanely obvious signs in the world. (via Newmark's Door)

Photographs from Montana

From General Electric, electric car photos and a brochure for a battery charger, from the early 1900s

6:35 PM

Friday, October 08, 2010  

Last year, I wrote about the historic steamboat Delta Queen, whose withdrawal from passenger service was forced, on what appear to me to be very spurious grounds, by the federal government. One of the main perpetrators of this act was Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), head of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

So I was especially pleased to see that Oberstar faces some serious competition in his race for re-election. This 18-term incumbent trails Republican candidate Chip Cravaack by only three points (42-45 percent). Quite an achievement on the part of the Cravaack campaign, given that Oberstar has something like a 10-to-1 money advantage.

There are plenty of reasons to support Cravaak over Oberstar in addition to the Delta Queen matter---indeed, some might say that the continued passenger operation of one steamboat is trivial in the context of the massive isues we face as a country. But the symbolism is important. In literally thousands of ways, the "progressive" Democrats have sought to restrict American freedoms, as the Lilliputians tied down Gulliver with threads. Your ability to choose your own light bulbs and shower heads, to have swing sets in your child's schoolyard, to buy or sell pizza by the slice, to sell home-baked pies at a church sale, to have a transparent or translucent sunroof for your car, to decide for yourself whether or not to buy a Barbie doll for your daughter...all of these rights have already been constrained or are currently under attack. Not to mention the ever-tightening constraints on your ability to start your own business and make it succeed. Consciously or not, "progressives" seek to convert Americans from citizens into subjects, and the Delta Queen matter was simply one very visible symbol thereof.

continued at Chicago Boyz

7:46 AM

Wednesday, October 06, 2010  

The Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour this year includes B-17 and B-24 bombers and also a P-51 Mustang fighter. You can visit the airplanes for a small donation and, for a substantially larger donation, you can actually take a ride! If the tour is coming to an airport near you, these planes are well worth seeing. Schedule here.

The P-51 has an interesting history. Its design was led by James "Dutch" Kindelberger, a high-school dropout who had worked as a draftsman and taken correspondence courses before gaining admission to college. Kindleberger became president of North American Aviation in 1935. When his company was approached by the British govenment to manufacture a batch of P-40 Tomahawk fighters, Kindelberger proposed instead that a new design be built. Fortunately for the world, his proposal was accepted, and the first P-51 was flown only 6 months after the order was placed.

The P-51 had considerably greater range than previous escort fighters. Hermann Goering told his interrogators that it was when he saw P-51s over Berlin that he knew the war was lost for Germany.

Aerial warfare is of course not only about machines; it is also about men. Randall Jarrell, a major American poet, served in the U.S. Army Air Force during the war, and wrote many poems centering around WWII air combat.

continued at Chicago Boyz

5:05 AM

Monday, October 04, 2010  

The German company HDW is building a few submarines for the Israeli navy. Subs need extensive testing before delivery, and HDW had leased a port in Norway for the explicit purpose of testing the submarines that it builds. But several weeks ago, Norway's foreign ministry advised HDW that it will no longer allow the company to use its territory for testing of submarines intended for the Israeli navy. This follows another action taken by Norway a year ago, when the Norwegian State Pension Fund announced it was dropping Elbit Systems due to their involvement in building the West Bank separation fence.

I hope HDW's lease for the port was not done via an up-front payment. And other companies thinking about doing business in Norway should carefully consider the risks of Norwegian government interference with their plans.

12:07 PM

Sunday, October 03, 2010  

I haven't read Jonathan Franzen's novel, Freedom, but Erin O'Connor has been reading it and reviews it here. Based on her summary, it seems that Franzen's basic opinion about freedom is this: he doesn't like it very much. Consider for example these excerpts:

...the American experiment of self-government, an experiment statistically skewed from the outset, because it wasn’t the people with sociable genes who fled the crowded Old World for the new continent; it was the people who didn’t get along well with others....also: The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.

Erin summarizes:

"Freedom," for Franzen, is a red herring. As a national ideal, it paralyzes us, preventing government from behaving with the rationalism of European nations (there are passages about this in the book). And, on a personal level, it is simply immiserating. Every last one of Franzen’s major characters suffers from the burden of too many choices.

In a novel, of course, one cannot assume that opinions expressed by the characters are those of the author himself--but in this case, it seems to me that they likely are, and this opinion appears to be shared by most commenters at Erin's post.

What really struck me in Erin's review is her remark that I am starting to think that this novel may amount to a fictional companion piece for Cass Sunstein’s Nudge..the referenced work being not a novel, but a book about social, economic, and political policy co-authored by Cass Sunstein, who is now runnning the Office of Regulatory and Information Policy for the Obama administration. (See a review of Nudge, Erin's post about the book, and my post about some of Sunstein's policy ideas.)

continued at Chicago Boyz

6:59 AM

Friday, October 01, 2010  

Vasafaxa writes about...well, it's kind of hard to summarize: planets, and asteroids, and men (and, implicitly, women), and relationships. Worth reading.

8:39 AM

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