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, January 30, 2012  

Minneapolis is the head of commercial navigation on the Mississippi river. The city's barge facilities handle about 600,000 tons of traffic annually--not huge by water-transport standards, but not trivial either.

Concerns about a predatory fish called the Asian Carp have raised the idea of permanently closing the locks at St Anthony Falls and hence eliminating Minneapolis's industrial waterfront. Maybe this is necessary, or maybe there is an alternative way of dealing with the carp invasion--I don't know. But I do think that the reaction of the Mayor to the potential termination of barge operations in his city is a little--jarring:

Get over it. Minneapolis does not need a port

What Minneapolis apparently does need, in the opinion of many real-estate developers and politicians, is a new swath of riverfront parks, condos, and restaurants.

continued at Chicago Boyz

5:13 PM

Sunday, January 29, 2012  

Mavis Batey, a WWII codebreaker, was presented by the British intelligence agency GCHQ with a document ("the history of Abwehr codebreaking") that she co-authored in 1945 and that has only now been declassified. One of the other authors was her late husband Keith, but the information was considered so secret, and was so compartmentalized, that she had not previously read or even been aware of his contributions to the document.

I've previously written about Mavis Batey (née Mavis Lever) in my post the bombe runs again. Her realization that a certain enciphered message did not contain a single occurrence of the letter "L" led to the breaking of the message, the setting of a trap for the Italian fleet at Cape Matapan, and the sinking of four enemy ships.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

9:36 AM

Friday, January 27, 2012  

...out of a wide range of potential choices, is Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). I first became aware of this reprehensible individual after seeing the incredibly arrogant letter that she wrote to Kathleen Fasanella (of the blog Fashion Incubator) in response to Kathleen's attempts to call attention to the harm being done to many small manufacturers by the ill-thought-out CPSIA legislation.

There are lots of reasons to dislike Schakowsky (see this, for example)---another such reason made its appearance Wednesday with her assertion, in an attempt to defend Obama's suppression of the Keystone Pipeline project, that "Twenty thousand jobs is really not that many jobs, and investing in green technologies will produce that and more."

Twenty thousand jobs is really not that many jobs?

There is of course a huge difference between a project funded with private money that will act to reduce America's energy costs and increase its industrial competitiveness, and one funded with taxpayer money (much of it undoubtedly going to politically-well-connected corporations) which would quite likely act to increase America's energy costs and thereby reduce its industrial competitivness. Perusal of Schakowsky's bio reveals no experience at all working in the private sector, of course.

Whatever one thinks of the Pipeline and of various "alternative energy" options, surely it should be obvious to all that this CongressCreature's cavalier dismissal of twenty thousand jobs should be considered unacceptable arrogance on the part of any American officeholder. It is a level of arrogance that, unfortunately, has become far too common among the government classes.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

9:07 AM


...should not be placed in leadership positions--...not as captains of ships, not as commanders of infantry platoons, not as managers of stores or factories, not as principals of schools.

Most especially, such people should never be chosen as national leaders.

More here.

5:34 AM

Wednesday, January 25, 2012  

A Flesch-Kinkaid analysis of State of the Union addresses says that Obama's speech last night was at a grade level of 8.4. By comparison, JFK's inaugural was at a level of 12.0, Richard Nixon was 11.5, George H W Bush was 8.6, and George W Bush was 10.4.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

2:31 PM

Tuesday, January 24, 2012  

Two old rivals. One is in Chapter 11, the other is thriving. Why?

Kodak and Fujifilm

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:47 AM

Sunday, January 22, 2012  

The wit and wisdom of Cassandra has returned to the Internet.

Temporarily, at least...I see that she still has her notice that "you have reached a blog that has been disconnected or is no longer in service" up on the masthead. Maybe if we all clap our hands, she will stick around. It worked for Tinkerbell, after all.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

9:29 AM


The capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within the reach of factory girls in return for steadily decreasing amounts of effort.

--Joseph Schumpeter, 1942

Quoted here: the high price economy

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:45 AM

Thursday, January 19, 2012  
4004 PLUS 40

Missed this by a couple of months....November 15, 2011, was the 40th anniversary of the Intel 4004, the world's first microprocessor. The history of this extremely influential device provides an interesting case study in innovation.

Early computers were constructed out of discrete components, first vacuum tubes and later transistors. Early work on transistors was done at Bell Labs...one of the inventors, William Shockley, became dissatisfied with Bell's management and left to start his own company, which he located in Palo Alto to be near his mother's house. (If Shockley's mom had lived in Roanoke, would the term "Silicon Valley" now refer to the Shenandoah valley!?

Eight of the new company's employees ("the traitorous eight") in turn became unhappy with the way Shockley was running things, and left in 1957 to form Fairchild Semiconductor as a division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument. The integrated circuit, which allowed several transistors to be placed on a single chip, was independently invented at Fairchild and at Texas Instruments. Large numbers of these chips still had to be interconnected to form the central processing unit of a computer.

continued at Chicago Boyz

7:21 AM

Wednesday, January 18, 2012  

Although public outrage has led to the "Stop Internet Piracy Act" in the House of Representatives being "suspended" until "consensus can be achieved," the Senate version, which is known as the "Protect IP Act," continues making its way through the legislative process. There is no doubt that numerous CongressCreatures, many of them in the service of the powerful media-industry lobby, will continue their efforts to enact something along the lines of this very dangerous legislation.

Several well-known web sites, including Wikipedia, have gone dark for the day in order to help inform the public about the SOPA and PIPA. Others, including Google, are remaining active but putting up an information banner about the threat represented by this legislation.

Links to information and analysis concerning these bills, including a summary of lobbying activities, in my post here.

This would be a good day to contact your CongressCreature and express your opinion about the threat to American free speech and to the American economy which is represented by this proposed legislation

5:06 AM

Saturday, January 14, 2012  

...an interesting piece here.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

5:58 AM

Wednesday, January 11, 2012  

...still seems to have a remarkable number of adherents.

Business Insider
has an interview with a 32-year-old Brit who is cofounder of Huddle, a startup aiming to compete with Microsoft's SharePoint. While I didn't read the comment thread, up toward the beginning there are at least 3 comments from people mocking the idea that a startup would be able to succeed against a product which (a)comes from a very large company and (b)is successful and growing.

Well, let's see. Up through the early 1980s, IBM's position in the computer industry looked unassailable...indeed, IBMs dominance was so complete that the computer industry had often been referred to as "IBM and the Seven Dwarfs." Who would have guessed that a couple of startups called Intel and Microsoft were about to start grabbing market share from IBM in a big way?

Up through at least the 1970s, Sears Roebuck & Co was a colossus of the American retail industry. Who would have guessed that Sears--along with many other large retailers--would have found itself losing out to a bunch of guys from Arkansas?

The steel industry was long dominated by the giant integrated steel companies, especially Bethlehem Steel and U.S. Steel. Both of these companies went bankrupt--but for smaller and more nimble firms such as Nucor, focused on mini-mills and continuous casting, the story was very different.

I haven't looked at Huddle in any depth, and don't have a considered opinion about their future. But I do know that many SharePoint users are less than happy with the product, and I do know that small and focused companies often have considerable advantages over larger and more complex companies. Sometimes these advantages, intelligently applied, will suffice to dramatically overcome the also-very-real advantages of the larger firm.

The belief that the-big-guy-always-wins seems surprisingly resistant to historical experience. J K Galbraith, in his book The New Industrial State, asserted to large firms would simply become larger and more vertically-integrated and would control demand through advertising, making themselves fairly unassailable. This was in 1967--in view of the history of the last 45 years, people today have much less excuse for such beliefs that Galbraith did

Why is the big-guy-wins theory still so widely held?

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:35 AM

Sunday, January 08, 2012  

A writer at The Economist notes that hatred of bankers is one of the world’s oldest and most dangerous prejudices:

Civilisations that have eased the ban on moneylending have grown rich. Those that have retained it have stagnated. Northern Italy boomed in the 15th century when the Medicis and other banking families found ways to bend the rules. Economic leadership passed to Protestant Europe when Luther and Calvin made moneylending acceptable. As Europe pulled ahead, the usury-banning Islamic world remained mired in poverty.


In medieval Europe Jews were persecuted not only because they were not Christians but also because killing them was a quick way to expunge debts. Karl Marx, who came from a Jewish family, regarded Jews as the embodiments of capitalism who could only be rescued from their ancestral curse through revolution. The forgers of the “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” wanted people to believe that Jewish financiers were engaged in a fiendish global conspiracy. Louis McFadden, the chairman of the United States House Committee on Banking and Currency in the 1930s, claimed that “the Gentiles have the slips of paper while the Jews have the lawful money.” The same canards have been used against Chinese minorities across Asia.

It can be reasonably argued that the financial industry in the US, and probably also in Europe, is too large as a % of the overall economy and also far too influential in political affairs--see my post about sticky governors. But the unthinking demonization of finance as an activity, and of people involved in that activity, is counterproductive, and, as the Economist author argues, dangerous.

via Stuart Schneiderman

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:22 AM

Thursday, January 05, 2012  

A 16-year-old girl in Florida parked in the wrong space, had her car keyed, suspected another girl, and posted on her own Facebook page the following:

oh so you keyed my car? well your karmas gonna be a wholeee lot worse that that

The next day, school officials suspended her for three days--and a criminal charge of "stalking" was brought against her by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department

As Scott Greenfield says:

To call the arrest of Allie Scott crazy is to state the obvious. That both a school district and a sheriff's office would nonetheless indulge in such insanity is the piece that would make a good subject for Kafka.

Other incidents of Kafkaesque abuse of authority by public school officials and local police departments are easy to find.

For most of history, in most places in the world, people have lived in fear of The Authorities. For a couple of centuries, that fear was largely lifted (with certain obvious exceptions) in the territory of The United States of America. Now, as a result of the endless expansion of governmental powers and the political and administrative arrogance which have inevitably followed, it is returning. The American populace is being collectively cowed.

See my related posts zero tolerance-zero judgment-zero compassion and Philip Queeg Public High School.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:01 AM

Wednesday, January 04, 2012  

...specifically, Harcourt Terrace, a favorite street of the Sibling of Daedalus.

Google Street View really is pretty cool.

1:59 PM

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