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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Sunday, August 28, 2011  

A fascinating look at the electric car industry of the early 20th century and specifically the attempt to position these vehicles as particularly appropriate for women: Femininity and the Electric Car.

Lots of other interesting content on the web site on which this article appears, The Automobile in American Life and Society.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:41 AM

Saturday, August 27, 2011  

I thought it might be fun this weekend, especially for those on the east coast, to talk about books/movies/songs in which hurricanes and similar events play a prominent role. For starters:

Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies, C S Forester. Features not only a hurricane, but a Marine bandsman who faces execution on charges of willfully playing the wrong note.

The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk. The troubled and inadequate captain of a WWII destroyer-minesweeper panics during a typhoon.

Big Water Rising, Tom Russell and Iris DeMent. A Mississippi River flood.

Lost and Found, The Kinks. Hurricane hits NYC.


comment at Chicago Boyz, where this is cross-posted

8:50 AM

Thursday, August 25, 2011  

On LinkedIn, there is a frequently-appearing ad that says “Learn Ivy League management at eCornell.” I finally clicked on it and got this page. Note especially the headline:

“Add an Ivy League credential to your résumé” (right under the “save 15% this August” line)

and, under “topics you will master”

How to Strategize for Success
Scenario Analysis
Executive Decision Making
Leading Through Creativity
Unlocking Your Leadership Potential
Motivating Members of Your Team

I’d suggest that anyone who seriously believes they can “master” a single one of these topics, let alone all 6 of them, in an 8-week class requiring “just 3-6 hrs per week” of your time” shouldn’t be allowed near the management of anything or anybody. And I'd also suggest that a university which encourages this kind of thinking is not exactly doing itself proud.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:01 AM

Tuesday, August 23, 2011  

Three posts from Bictopia: photos of Istria, girl with dog, a strange city above the sea (video)

Neptunus Lex is familiarizing himself with the Israeli-built Kfir fighter, in preparation from flying this airplane as an Adversary in air combat training

Volokh: The unbelievable growth of student loan debt

Walter Russell Mead: Obama's "green jobs" fiasco

John Hinderaker and Kevin Mooney on the harm that Obama has done to the Gulf economy and to the American energy industry generally

Douglas Kimball starts a small business and finds himself descending into a bureaucratic abyss

Virginia Postrel writes about bafflegab versus real strategy

Janet Daley on the UK riots: "What real people know – and have known for quite a long time – is that the great tacit agreement which once held civic life together has been deliberately blown apart."

9:13 PM

Sunday, August 21, 2011  

Warren Buffett has been talking virtually nonstop about how tax rates on "the wealthy" need to be increased, and of course the dinosaur media has been praising and amplifying this viewpoint. People who think this way are especially fond of citing the 15% capital tax gains rate and contrasting it with the considerably higher rates on ordinary income.

This simplistic comparison, though, ignores the effect of inflation, which acts to increase the effective tax rate--especially on assets which are held for a long period of time. Consider a simple example: let's say you bought a stock in 2003 and sold it in 2011, with a 30% price increase. To make the numbers easy, you bought $10000 worth and sold it for $13000. But according to BLS data, the consumer price index has risen by 22% over the years 2003-2011. Thus, your $13000 is really only worth $10655 in 2003 dollars.

It gets worse. The IRS is going to tax you on the full $3000 of "gain," even though it is largely illusory. At 15%, you will pay $450, which is a very big chunk of your true, inflation-adjusted gains. If you work through the calculations, you'll find that your real capital gains tax rate for this example is not 15%, but more than 50%. (I'll post the calculations if anyone wants to see them.) Indeed, if you buy and sell an asset whose value just keeps pace with inflation--ie, if you don't make any money at all in real terms--you will still be paying capital gains taxes on wholly imaginary profits. If we get Jimmy-Carter-style inflation...say, 40% over the next decade...and you have an investment which just keeps pace with inflation, then federal taxes will take 6% of the value of your investment (15% times 40%) when you sell it. And that's assuming that the current capital gains rate does not increase, and ignoring any state-level taxes on capital gains.

Warren Buffett is surely aware of the preceding considerations, and anyone who writes about finance and economic policy should be aware of them.

Here's a good video by Christina Sochacki, for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, about the problems with the capital gains tax.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

9:56 AM

Tuesday, August 16, 2011  

Two quotes from Antoine de St-Exupery:

A civilization is built on what is required of men, not on that which is provided for them


If you would have them be brothers, have them build a tower. But if you would have them hate each other, throw them corn

Most liberals would probably argue that the British rioters did what they did because not enough had been done for them. Conservatives, on the other hand, would tend to say that it was because not enough had been expected of them.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

1:21 PM


Two Berkeley scientists have recovered the voice recording from an Edison talking doll, recorded in November 1888.

1:17 PM

Sunday, August 14, 2011  

Chopsticks, for China.

2:39 PM


The British secret agent Odette Hallowes was awarded both the George Cross and the French Legion of Honor in recognition of her heroism during WWII. Some years after the war, a burglar broke into her mother's home, and among the items he stole was Odette's George Cross. A public appeal for the medal's return was made, and the burglar sent it back with the following note:

You, Madame, appear to be a dear old lady. God bless you and your children. I thank you for having faith in me. I am not all that bad - it's just circumstances. Your little dog really loves me. I gave him a nice pat and left him a piece of meat - out of fridge. Sincerely yours, A Bad Egg.

Even this criminal had enough identification with his country and its history and accomplishments to recognized that Odette's GC was something that really ought to be returned to its owner.

Does anyone think there are many among the current UK rioters who would do the same?

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

7:49 AM

Saturday, August 13, 2011  

Kathleen Fasanella, who runs the interesting blog Fashion Incubator, observes that the tv program "Project Runway" has led many people to pursue careers as designers--and that this is not the first time that such a phenomenon has occurred:

I’m troubled by the consequences of the fashion school bubble -350 designers at NY Fashion Week being but one sign of it- the blame for which we mostly attribute to Project Runway. A similar thing happened with the TV show LA Law, law schools were inundated with applicants and our legal system is burgeoning with excessive lawsuits as the logical consequence of lawyers needing to make their student loan payments. Simplistically speaking, these are trend careers.

Indeed, for young people who are making career choices there is a shortage of solid information about what various careers are really like and what they require in the way of preparation. Television tends to focus on a few specific fields--lawyers, doctors, nurses, cops, criminals--with occasional excursions into other areas like fashion design--but rarely provides any realistic sense of what day-to-day life in these jobs ight be like. This is understandable--screenwriter Robert Avrech oberved that movies are like real life, except that the boring parts are deleted--but means that these shows aren't exactly reliable guides to career choice. High school guidance counselors rarely have any broad exposure to the world of actual work. College professors, even with the best will in the world, will tend to sell and perhaps oversell their own fields to talented students. Parents may or may not be useful sources of career information, depending on their own backgrounds and current situations; many will also have strong prejudices for or against certain fields.

Kathleen also observes that in her industry there is a real gap between the numbers of people who want to design the product and the numbers of people who want to have something to do with turning it into physical reality:

continued at Chicago Boyz

7:47 AM

Thursday, August 11, 2011  

Many observers consider Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to be the dumbest person in the Senate, perhaps in the entire United States Congress. Consider, for example, this 2002 Murrayism regarding Osama bin Laden:

We've got to ask, why is this man so popular around the world? Why are people so supportive of him in many countries that are riddled with poverty? He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful.

Yeah, women in Taliban-controlled areas like the convenience of dropping the kids of at the day care center before they check themselves in for the whipping or the stoning.

This moron has been appointed by the Democratic leadership to the budget super-committee.

Murray's brand of politics has plenty to do with the financial situation in which the U.S. now finds itself. See, for example, her threats of retaliation against any Senators who might vote for an anti-pork bill. Just the sort of person one would want to put on a committee to address the deficit.

Michelle Malkin remembers interviewing Murray several years ago:

We were talking about federal entitlement spending. I asked her about FICA taxes. She didn’t know what I was talking about; when I said “payroll taxes,” she still had a frozen blank look on her face.

The Democratic Party is destroying America.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

4:37 AM

Tuesday, August 09, 2011  

A Ford assembly line for the Model T.

Related post: the automotive century and mass production

(video link via my mom)

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

7:22 AM

Monday, August 08, 2011  

An Atlantic article by Jim Tankersley, on the subject of job creation, illustrates the way in which bad economic ideas drive bad policy choices. I have in mind specifically Tankersley's item #5, "Unleash energy companies' spending power," in which he proposes

...a "Clean-Energy Standard"--a mandate that a certain percentage of each utility's power generation come from low-carbon-emission sources. The percentage would ramp up over time. Under current technology, clean energy is often more expensive than, say, coal-fired electricity, but a phased-in standard would allow utilities time to increase electric prices incrementally; a well-designed standard with flexibility (for regions most dependent on fossil fuels today) could blunt much of the long-term impact on consumers. Meanwhile, the new construction could start right away. Such a federal mandate, says Joshua Freed, vice president for clean energy at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, "would provide a clear signal, without costing any money, to the private sector to invest in wind, solar, or any of the other technologies that are coming on line today." Several large utilities say that the resulting certainty would spur billions of dollars of investment and drive job growth.

Note that assertion that this policy could be implemented without costing any money. Perhaps it wouldn't cost the government any money, in the short term, but it would certainly cost American consumers and businesses plenty of money...after all, if these generation technologies were more economical than the current ones, they would have been implemented without the need for government force. In addition to directly increasing electricity bills, it would represent yet another blow against American manufacturing companies, many of which are highly energy-intensive. Indeed, there are also plenty of non-manufacturing companies, such as operators of large data centers, which would be harmed by government-mandated increases in the price of electricity.. And the resulting decreases in business activity, and reduced ability of consumers to spend money on things other tha electricity, would certainly cost the government money in the future, in the form of reduced tax collections. Not to mention the costs of unemployment among coal miners.

More than 150 years ago, the French economist Frederic Bastiat wrote about the broken-window fallacy, and explained why the breakage of windows does not really provide a net economic gain, despite the fact that such breakage provides jobs for glaziers and glass-manufacturing workers. Apparently, after all this time Bastiat's insight is still not well-understood. Democrats, in particular, continue to believe that they can push an endless number of "cost-free" mandates on the producers of goods and services, even in the midst of an ongoing economic disaster that has been largely caused by exactly that kind of thinking. And despite all the talk about "conserving resources," they generally seem to have no compunction about writing off and destroying human-created resources (such as coal-burning power plants) which represent vast amounts of human labor and intelligence.

link via Instapundit

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:32 AM

Saturday, August 06, 2011  

Virginia Postrel says that they are two different things, and that Obama has (had) the second but not the first.

4:06 AM

Thursday, August 04, 2011  

Unfortunately in the year XXXX the whole world was one large international workshop. A strike in the Argentine was apt to cause suffering in Berlin. A raise in the price of certain raw materials in London might spell disaster to tens of thousands of long-suffering Chinese coolies who had never even heard of the existence of the big city on the Thames. The invention of some obscure Privat-Dozent in a third-rate German university would often force dozens of Chilean banks to close their doors, while bad management on the part of an old commercial house in Gothenburg might deprive hundreds of little boys and girls in Australia of a chance to go to college.

continued at Chicago Boyz

12:59 PM

Wednesday, August 03, 2011  

It's been reported that Joe Biden referred to Republican opponents on the debt issue in the following terms:

They have acted like terrorists.

Biden now denies that he used that phrasing. But there's no question that Democratic representative Mike Doyle, who was in the same meeting, said:

We have negotiated with terrorists. This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.

Numerous other Democrats and Democrat-leaning media types have used the T-word or close synonyms of same in referring to their American political opponents, for example NYT columnist Joe Nocera, who refers to the Tea Party Republicans as having "waged jihad on the American people" and Maureen Dowd, who approvingly quoted "some Democrats" as having described the Tea Party as "the Republican Taliban wing."

Note that this vitriol is coming from a party which rejects the idea of calling actual terrorists "terrorists." They prefer to call terrorist attacks man-caused disasters, and to refer to wars as overseas contingency operations.

I'm reminded, as I often am, of something Neptunux Lex wrote in 2008:

The innate character flaw of the political right, with its thrumming appeals to the logic of blood and soil, is its lamentable tendency to go in search of enemies abroad. The left, on the other hand, with its own appeals to the politics of envy and class warfare, is content to find mortal enemies closer to hand.

Today's American leftists view American citizens who strongly differ with them politically as enemies to a much greater extent than Islamic terrorists or any hostile nation-state.

Regarding Mike Doyle's complaint about it having been made "impossible to spend any money"...the Democratic politicians are like teenagers who have been unwisely been given a credit card and who, now that consideration is being given to not raising the credit limit yet again, whine that "you won't let me spend any money at all"...indeed, they also follow the typical teenage pattern of whining "but all my friends get to spend more"...in this case their friends from Europe...while ignoring the little problem that their friends' parents are being driven into bankruptcy even more rapidly than their own are.

Links: James Taranto

Sister Toldjah

Neptunus Lex

The era of the condescending President

Some of the above links via Instapundit and Maggie's Farm

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:58 AM


Neptunus Lex has a new office

Don Quixote writes about competitiveness

Saving a baby woodpecker's life can make you a criminal

Bookworm visits Barcelona

Speaking of Barcelona, here are some great aerial photos of the city

And here are some aerial photos of France

7:31 AM

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