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PHOTON COURIER
 
Wednesday, November 28, 2012  
THE IRON DOME STORY

An interesting article about the development of this Israeli weapons system at the WSJ.
The American Sidewinder air-to-air missile system was also initially developed in something of a skunkworks environment. (Management consultant Tom Peters has used Sidewinder as a good example of successful skunkwork innovation, IIRC, though I can’t find a link at the moment)
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

5:26 PM

 
FIVE THOUGHT-PROVOKING STATISTICS PROBLEMS

here

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

7:28 AM

Thursday, November 22, 2012  
RERUN: THANKSGIVING AND TEMPORAL BIGOTRY


(Originally posted in 2003, and rerun several times since)
Stuart Buck encountered a teacher who said “Kids learn so much these days. Did you know that today a schoolchild learns more between the freshman and senior years of high school than our grandparents learned in their entire lives?” (“She said this as if she had read it in some authoritative source”, Stuart comments.)
She probably had read it in some supposedly-authoritative source, but it’s an idiotic statement nevertheless. What, precisely, is this wonderful knowledge that high-school seniors have today and which the 40-year-olds of 1840 or 1900 were lacking?

The example of knowledge that people usually throw out is “computers.” But the truth is, to be a casual user of computers (I’m not talking about programming and systems design), you don’t need much knowledge. You need “keyboarding skills”–once called “typing.” And you need to know some simple conventions as to how the operating system expects you to interact with it. That’s about it. Not much informational or conceptual depth there.
Consider the knowledge possessed by by the Captain of a sailing merchant ship, circa 1840. He had to understand celestial navigation: this meant he had to understand trigonometry and logarithms. He had to possess the knowledge–mostly “tacit knowledge,” rather than book-learning–of how to handle his ship in various winds and weathers. He might well be responsible for making deals concerning cargo in various ports, and hence had to have a reasonable understanding of business and of trade conditions. He had to have some knowledge of maritime law.
Outside of the strictly professional sphere, his knowedge probably depended on his family background. If he came from a family that was reasonably well-off, he probably knew several of Shakespeare’s plays. He probably had a smattering of Latin and even Greek. Of how many high-school (or college) seniors can these statements be made today?
(In his post, Stuart compares knowledge levels using his grandfather–a farmer–as an example.)
Today’s “progressives,” particularly those in the educational field, seem to have a deep desire to put down previous generations, and to assume we have nothing to learn from them. It’s a form of temporal bigotry. Indeed, Thanksgiving is a good time to resist temporal bigotry by reflecting on the contributions of earlier generations and on what we can learn from their experiences.
As C S Lewis said: If you want to destroy an infantry unit, you cut it off from its neighboring units. If you want to destroy a generation, you cut it off from previous generations. (Approximate quote.)
How better to conduct such destruction than to tell people that previous generations were ignorant and that we have nothing to learn from them?
11/22/2012: Previous CB discussion thread here. See also related posts by Jonathan and Ginny.
Thoughts on the lessons of the Plymouth Colony from Jerry Bowyer and Paul Rahe.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open


7:41 AM

Wednesday, November 21, 2012  
POLITICAL MARKETING, POPULAR CULTURE, AND THE LOW-INFORMATION VOTER


Amelia Chasse, who is a VP at a Republican online communications consultancy, has some thoughts on reaching voters who may be more influenced by the popular culture than by more traditional political communications channels:
The 2008 Obama campaign broke ground by advertising on Xbox video games, prompting thousands of stoners to get off the couch and out to the polls. In 2012, when young women visited a beauty blog, they were likely greeted with video ads of Eva Longoria or Scarlett Johansson telling them Obama was fabulous. And lest we forget the infamous ad where Girls star Lena Dunham invited her fellow young women to make their “first time” special with Barack Obama.
via Instapundit, who notes:
There’s a lot of free press too. At women’s lifestyle sites, about one article in 10 is soft PR for the Dems — why Barack & Michelle’s marriage is so great, 10 hot celebs who are voting for Obama, etc. The women’s lifestyle media are another arm of the Dems, and their stuff, especially the general sense of who’s cool and who’s uncool, often presented in a sort of Mean Girls style, is highly effective with low-information voters.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

12:34 PM

Saturday, November 17, 2012  
CHANCE CONVERSATIONS


Joel Runyon was working on his Mac at a coffee shop in Portland, when an older man sitting next to him asked him how he liked Apple. Resisting the temptation to politely return to his work, Joel engaged the guy in conversation…it turned out he was Russell Kirsch, who was lead designer of the first American stored-program computer (the SEAC) and was also a pioneer of computer image processing. Read about Joel’s conversation with Mr Kirsch at the link, and then read his followup post 7 things I learned from my encounter with Russell Kirsch.
Conversations with strangers can of course expose you to boringness (yes, it’s a word, I checked) and/or weirdness, but they can also often be interested or at least revealing. I was on an Air France flight back from Paris once…the aircraft had to be changed at the last minute and the new plane was not configured with First Class, so those who had reserved FC seats had to be satisfied with Business Class (which, in my experience at least, is nothing to complain about on Air France.) The guy sitting next to me was very, very upset that he didn’t get the First Class seating he had been counting on. In an attempt to get him to talk about something else, I asked him what he did for a living.
Turned out the guy was a professional Communist, on his way back from some kind of Communist meeting.
Here’s another interesting story about a chance conversation. In 2009, an American neurosurgeon overheard a conversation between two former Israel Air Force officers who were talking about flight simulation. He joined the conversation, and the eventual result was a collaboration that led to the founding of this company, which develops systems for surgery rehearsal.
Another interesting story of a chance conversation: see the second comment on this post at Tom Peters’ blog.
For those interested in the history of technology: Russell Kirsch’s SEAC, completed in early 1950, was built by the National Bureau of Standards for use of researchers and engineers who were chomping at the bit for computer capacity and were tired of waiting for more-ambitious planned machines such as EDVAC and UNIVAC. SEAC’s memory capacity was only 512 words (numbers or instructions), but it was applied to a wide range of problems, including lens design, tables for navigation, and design calculations for the hydrogen bomb. The computer also supported early digital imaging work, with the first digital image being a picture of Kirsch’s son.
More about the SEAC project here.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

2:08 PM

Wednesday, November 14, 2012  
WORTHWHILE READING & VIEWING

Self-healing concrete. Pretty cool if it actually works

Getting an MBA vs being an MBA...some thoughts from Hunter Walk, a product management director at Google

Tiny, beautiful things...some great images of viruses, and the photomicrography all-stars

Why does the TSA seem unable to grasp some of the basics of operations management?

Vintage travel posters

40 great photos of the Harvest Moon

America in Color, 1939-1943. I've posted some of these before, but this is a more comprehensive set, and very nicely arranged. (via a commenter at Sibling of Daedalus)




2:49 PM

 
SOME VIEWS FROM OVERSEAS


…on the US election results.
Janet Daley, in The Telegraph: “So Europe got the American president it wanted – the one who would present no threat to its own delusions. The United States is now officially one of us: an Old World country complete with class hatred, ethnic Balkanisation, bourgeois guilt and a paternalist ruling elite. And it is locked into the same death spiral of high public spending and self-defeating wealth redistribution as we are. Welcome to the future, and the beginning of what may turn out to be the terminal decline of the West.”
Melanie Phillips: “The greatest satisfaction today over the re-election of Obama is not being felt in the Democratic Party. It is not being felt among the media…No, the greatest satisfaction is surely being felt in Iran.”
The Dissident Frogman: “Hear this final prophecy America: only one man can kill the Republic, and it isn’t Barack Obama. The one man who will kill your Republic is the one man who will last give up and renounce it. Don’t you dare be that man.
Read them all.
Also, here’s something interesting: Li Keqiang, China’s next premier, has been advising his associates to read Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1856 book The Old Regime and the French Revolution.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open




6:32 AM

Tuesday, November 13, 2012  
TOM RUSSELL FANS, REJOICE


I don’t know how many Tom Russell fans there are among the Chicago Boyz and Grrlz and Readerz, but whatever the number is, I think it should be greater, because TR is IMO one of the best singer/songwriters working in America today. He’s just published a new book: 120 Songs, with lyrics, guitar chords, and stories about how each of the songs was inspired and written.
I reviewed Russell’s album The Man From God Knows Where, a song-cycle about the American immigrant experience, here.
Some other TR songs:
Russell’s concert tour is now on the east coast; schedule here
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open



7:45 AM

Sunday, November 11, 2012  
VETERANS DAY 2012


Music Video: The War was in Color
Some thoughts from 2011 and earlier, by Neptunus Lex
Speaking of Lex, Friday was his birthday. His three kids, known to blog readers as SNO, Biscuit, and Kat, offer remembrances of their father here.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

5:26 AM

Friday, November 09, 2012  
RECENT READING


Time to catch up on some posts that have been delayed by the election season…some books I’ve read in recent weeks include:
The Book of Fires, by Jane Borodale. A young woman living in the country, in 1752 Britain, becomes pregnant as a result of what would now be called date-rape. She flees to London and becomes apprentice to a maker of fireworks.
The book paints a vivid portrait of 1750s Britain…perhaps too vivid for the with weak stomachs. Very well done.
Bull by the Horns, by Sheila Bair. The author was head of the FDIC from 2006 through 2011, and provides an inside view of the financial crisis. She has plenty of hard things to say about many politicians of both parties, some of her fellow regulators, and especially Timothy Geithner and (thankfully former) Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit. Contrary to the impression that might be given by the preceding sentence, there is nothing mean-spirited about this book; Bair comes across as a very dedicated, hard-working, and thoughtful individual. Definitely recommended.
The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, by John Coates. The author is a trader turned neuroscience researcher, and this book is about the linkages between the brain/mind and other aspects of the human organism, especially hormones. He is particularly interested in how hormonal reactions can impact the financial markets, but the applicability of his ideas is clearly not limited to this sphere. He argues that a testosterone feedback loop tends to drive excessive risk-taking by men, to the point that “the trading community at the peak of a bubble or in the pit of a crash may effectively become a clinical population,” and cites a British politician who has also become a neurobiology researcher, to the effect that the same syndrome affects political leaders.
Concerning women in the financial world, Coates dismisses the common argument that the short supply of women in trading jobs is due to their distaste for the rowdy trading-floor environment, pointing out that there are plenty of women doing well in sales positions on those very same trading floors. He suggests that women may not be as good at, or as inclined to, very-short-cycle decision-making of the kind required of traders, but are equally good or perhaps better at longer-cycle risk-taking as is required of asset managers, and cites the much higher % of women among asset management companies than among traders. (He also argues that trading skill will be of diminishing importance as this function is increasingly performed in microseconds by algorithms.)
There’s something in this book to offend all sorts of people! Michael Kennedy, since you probably know more about hormones and other relevant aspects of human biology than do most of us here, I wish you’d read this book and let us know what you think.
An Old Heart Goes A-Journeying, by Hans Fallada. Fallada is the author of two books I’ve previously reviewed: Little Man, What Now?, and Wolf Among Wolves. The present work is a very different sort of book: an aging professor of theology, who has for many years lived alone except for his housekeeper, receives an urgent letter from his goddaughter, who is being held captive by a cruel and grasping peasant couple. Although set in 1912, the book has very much the feel of a tale from much longer ago–it is sort of a fairy tale, and I think the author clearly intended this effect. I liked it very much.
Fallada had intended to write a sequel to this book, but I don’t think he ever did. Which may be just as well, because it’s hard to think that much good fortune..in 1912..lay ahead for the characters.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

9:36 AM

Thursday, November 08, 2012  
NOOR INAYAT KHAN STATUE IS UNVEILED


A statue of this British-Indian woman, who served as an agent for the WWII British underground organization known as Special Operations Executive, has been unveiled in London. BBC story here. (Thanks to Lexington Green for the heads-up)
I wrote about Noor in this post. Also:
A review of a book by Leo Marks, who was SOE’s Codemaster
Posts about other SOE agents:
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

2:05 PM

Wednesday, November 07, 2012  
ADVICE FROM TWO GENERALS


…on coping with adversity and defeat.
In March 1942, the British General William Slim was appointed to command of a Corps in Burma, which was then under heavy attack by the Japanese Army. Within two months, he suffered a severe defeat, with heavy casualties, and was forced to withdraw his forces to India. In his book Defeat Into Victory, he described the emotional pain of this defeat:
The only test of generalship is success, and I had succeeded in nothing that I had attempted…Defeat is bitter. Bitter to the common soldier, but trebly bitter to his general. The soldier may comfort himself with the thought that, whatever the result, he has done his duty faithfully and steadfastly, but the commander has failed in his duty if he has not won victory–for that is his duty. He has no other comparable to it. He will go over in his mind the events of the campaign. ‘Here,’ he will think, ‘I went wrong; here I took counsel of my fears when I should have been bold; there I should have waited to gather strength, not struck piecemeal; at such a moment I failed to grasp opportunity when it was presented to me.’ He will remember the soldiers whom he sent into the attack that failed and who did not come back. he will recall the look in the eyes of men who trusted him. ‘I have failed them,’ he will say to himself, ‘and failed my country!’ He will see himself for what he is–a defeated general. In a dark hour he will turn on himself and question the very foundations of his leadership and his manhood.
And then he must stop! For, if he is ever to command in battle again, he must shake off these regrets and stamp on them, as they claw at his will and his self-confidence. He must beat off these atacks he delivers against himself, and cast out the doubts born of failure. Forget them, and remember only the lessons to be learnt from defeat–they are more than from victory.
(emphasis added)
Field Marshal Lord Wavell, in his book Generals and Generalship, comments on the British practice of testing military equipment by dropping it off a tower and then burying it in the mud for a few days, and continues:
Now the mind of the general in war is buried, not merely for 48 hours but for days and weeks, in the mud and sand of unreliable information and uncertain factors, and may at any time receive, from an unsuspected move of the enemy, an unforseen accident, or a treaherous turn in the weather, a bump equivalent to a drop of at least a hundred feet on to something hard. Delicate mechanism is of little use in war; and this applies to the mind of the commander as well as his body; to the spirit of an army as well as to the weapons and instruments with which it is equipped.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:11 AM

 
INAPPROPRIATELY APPROPRIATE LYRICS


Singer Tom Petty is an Obama supporter and doesn’t like it when Republicans/conservatives use his songs…still, I can’t help thinking of his lines:
Well the good ol’ days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn
Jonathan (of Chicago Boyz) is right that we should eschew despair; still, we need to face the fact that the situation is very, very serious.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:08 AM

Monday, November 05, 2012  
DECLINE IS NOT INEVITABLE


One of the most depressing things about the last several years is the degree to which many Americans have come to believe that our best years are behind us. Surveys show that a high percentage of people believe their children will live less-well than themselves. The belief is pervasive that our current economic problems are not a mere cyclic downturn, but rather that we have entered an era of sustained decline.
I assert that American decline is by no means inevitable…and if we do wind up in long-term decline, it will be driven not by any sort of automatic economic process, but rather by our own choices–especially our own political choices.
We talk a lot, here and elsewhere, about our problems as a society–and properly so–but let’s change focus for a few minutes and think about our assets.
America has vast energy resources. For oil and gas, fracking really is a game changer. We have vast reserves of coal, and plenty of opportunities to employ nuclear energy safely and responsibly. (Solar and wind can also play a role, but these will be niche sources only for a long time.) And low-cost and widely-available energy greatly improves the economics of many manufacturing businesses, as I’ve pointed out in other posts. European manufacturers, for example, wish their countries had direct access to large supplies of low-cost natural gas.
America has wide swaths of fine agricultural land, and many excellent farmers. These are not trivial factors in a world which is becoming increasingly wealthy, filled with billions of people who want and need to improve their diets. And agriculture’s impact is not limited to those who are actually on farms–agriculture also drives activity in transportation, in equipment manufacturing, in fertilizer production.
And speaking of transportation: while there have been many concerns about “America’s decaying infrastructure,” America also has infrastructure elements which are very strong. America’s freight railroads are probably the best in the world, and represent a powerful economic asset. The country is cris-crossed by thousands of miles of pipelines which carry oil, natural gas, jet fuel, ammonia, CO2, and many other commodities, efficiently, silently, and safely. Our airports, air carriers, and air traffic control system combine to enable the transportation of vast numbers of passengers and considerable quantities of freight, reliably and safely. The Internet has emerged, in only 20 years, from being a limited experimental network to being a large-scale enabler of commerce and of new businesses.
America has millions of people with entrepreneurial spirit–people who want to do new things, to put their personal stamp on the world, to make a contribution in ways that are not necessarily predefined by tradition or edicted by higher authority. Some will start the next Intel or Apple; for some, their scope will be limited to a well-loved local restaurant or to a home-based craft business. All are important.
Our venture capital industry is an important enabler of high-growth new businesses, and our private equity industry plays a key role as well. “Crony capitalism,” while it has grown unhealthily, has not reached the levels it has in many other countries, and badly-managed or ill-thought-out enterprises can still go broke and be restructured (or disappear) without being bailed out by political pals, leaving the field clear for the new and better–and for talented people who are not among society’s “insiders.”
Credentialism in the U.S. has indeed reached unhealthy levels, but it is still quite possible for people to succeed–and succeed in a big way–without the imprimatur of an “elite” college or an accent indicating an “appropriate” class position.
continued at Chicago Boyz

10:03 AM

Sunday, November 04, 2012  
ISRAEL, OBAMA, DEMOCRATS, AND JEWS


Playwright David Mamet has published an article addressed to those Jews planning to vote for Obama.
The Long Island Jewish Star has endorsed Mitt Romney–see the editorial by Jeff Dunetz.
See this article from about a year ago: Barack Obama’s top ten insults against Israel, by British commentator Nile Gardiner.
Hostility toward Israel is disturbingly common throughout the Democratic Party’s base. 25% of Democrats say the U.S. is “too supportive” of Israel, versus only 13% of Republicans giving that answer. Only 9% of Democrats say the U.S. is “not supportive enough” of that country, versus 46% of Republican who think the U.S. should be more supportive.
A survey conducted by YouGov earlier this year indicates that 37% of Democrats believe pro-Israel lobby groups have “too much influence”…about twice the percentage that gave this response among Republicans.
In addition to the lack of support and outright hostility toward Israel that appear among the Democratic base, outright anti-Semitism appears to be all too common. 20% of Democrats and Independents view Jews as “caring only about themselves,” compared with 12% of Republicans giving this answer. Another survey, conducted in the wake of the Bernard Madoff debacle, indicates that 32% of Democrats blamed “the Jews” for the financial crisis, while only 18% of Republicans did so. (” This difference is somewhat surprising given the presumed higher degree of racial tolerance among liberals and the fact that Jews are a central part of the Democratic Party’s electoral coalition,” said the study’s authors.)
Obama’s clear hostility to Israel, and the disturbing opinion patterns among the Democratic base, should be of concern not only to Jews and to those who have a particular affinity for Israel, but also to all Americans who are interested in world stability and peace, and in an American polity which is not ripped apart by ethnic conflicts.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

2:46 PM

Saturday, November 03, 2012  
DEMOTHUGS RAMPANT


I’ve written numerous times (here, for example) about the growing tendency of the “progressive” Left to use intimidation tactics against those who dare to disagree with them. Given that this group now dominates the Democratic party, it was predictable that violence, intimidation, property destruction, and electoral fraud would come to play an increasing part in national elections, and this is now happening.
The national dinosaur media hasn’t done a very good job in reporting on these events, but some local media outlets have done much better. Watch this video (which comes via a comment from Jason in LA at the above-linked post)…it may take a few seconds to start, and it’s about 5 minutes long, but you should definitely watch the whole thing.
Here’s another story–four men in Ohio caught stealing Romney signs while driving a union-owned truck.
As I noted in the post at the first link, the son of a Wisconsin state senator was actually beaten up when he objected to 2 men stealing a Mitt Romney yard sign on the lawn
See this report from the 2004 election…J Christian Adams, an attorney and former DOJ official, says he observed SEIU union members attempting to block access to the polls by Bush supporters (identified by their bumper stickers) in West Palm Beach. And, of course, we’re all away of the decision by Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, to drop the case against members of the New Black Panther Party who were accused of committing voter intimidation in the 2008 election—even though it seems that the government’s case was basically already won.
In Virginia earlier this month, the son of Democratic Representative Jim Moran was caught on video coaching someone on how to commit voter fraud.
On television (HBO), Bill Maher said:
If you’re thinking about voting for Mitt Romney, I would like to make this one plea: black people know who you are and they will come after you
Immediately followed by “I’m kidding”..you know, it’s not really very funny. The remark is an insult to black people as a group, of course, as it feeds a stereotype of blacks as inherently violent, and it is poisonous to political dialog and to American society as a whole. (Ed Driscoll, from whom the Maher link came, said in response to the “black people…will come after you” line: “OK, but if Stacey Dash, Condi Rice, Mia Love and Star Parker are coming over, could you ask them to give me some advance notice? I really need to tidy the place up first.”)
The rage, irrationality, and lack of respect for the rights of others which has been demonstrated by so many Obama supporters in this campaign in very disturbing…but should not be surprising in view of the conduct of the “progressive” Left over the last two or more decades.
As J Christian Adams said:
Tuesday is the day you get to decide whether America is a land where a thugocracy can flourish, or whether freedom’s holy light will thrive. The founders of this great land foresaw a day like November 6, 2012. Every patriot who came before you acted. Now it is your turn.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

1:42 PM

Friday, November 02, 2012  
CBS ON BENGHAZI


An old-media news organization has finally gotten around to doing some serious reporting on the Benghazi debacle. Sharyl Attkisson of CBS has a story that is very much worth reading. Some excerpts:
CBS News has learned that during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Obama Administration did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource: the Counterterrorism Security Group, (CSG).

“The CSG is the one group that’s supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies,” a high-ranking government official told CBS News. “They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon.”
and
Counterterrorism sources and internal emails reviewed by CBS News express frustration that key responders were ready to deploy, but were not called upon to help in the attack.
and
The Administration also didn’t call on the only interagency, on-call, short notice team poised to respond to terrorist incidents worldwide: the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST). FEST’s seasoned experts leave within four hours of notification and can provide “the fastest assistance possible.”
and
In the days after the assault, counterterrorism officials expressed dismay over what they interpreted as the Obama Administration’s unwillingness to acknowledge that the attack was terrorism; and their opinion that resources which could have helped were excluded.
The report also cites a counterterrorism expert who says he knew, as soon as he heard enemy mortar rounds hitting the building with our people in it, that this must have been a pre-planned attack rather than a “spontaneous uprising,” in view of the technical complexities of accurate mortar fire. Yet 5 days later, on September 16, the Obama administration sent U.N. ambassador Susan Rice around to the talk shows to assert its “spontaneous protest over a video” theory.
Read the whole thing here.
At a minimum–at a bare minimum–the Benghazi affair reveals a dismal level of incompetence pervading the Obama administration. There is also reason to believe that it reveals decison-making about life-and-death matters based on this President’s desire to preserve his “narrative,” rather than facing reality and acting upon it. And, I suspect, the more we learn about what happened in Benghazi, and why it happened, the more disturbing the answers are going to be.
I’m currently re-reading the memoirs of General Edward Spears, who was Churchill’s emissary to France in 1940. There was a disturbing amount of defeatism, and in some cases actual sympathy with the Nazi enemy, among certain government officials and other French elites. Weygand’s friend Henri de Kerillis, a Deputy and newpaper editor, had been consistently pressing Prime Minister Daladier to investigate some sinister behavior by members of the extreme Right.
“Il faut de’brider l’abces,” he had said time and time again to the Premier. He had done so again lately and received this strange answer: I have done exactly what you urged, I have opened the abscess, but it was so deep the scalpal disappeared down it, and had I gone on, my arm would have followed.” This was really very frightening, and I said so. “You cannot be more frightened than I am,” said Kerillis.
I feel sure that we are going to find that the abscess revealed by the Obama administration’s behavior re Benghazi goes very deep indeed.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:28 AM

Thursday, November 01, 2012  
RELEASING THE BRAKES AND ADVANCING THE THROTTLE WORKS BETTER THAN TRYING TO PUSH THE TRAIN


“Job creation” is of course a key issue in this campaign. Each of the candidates claim that he will outshine the other in this area.
Simply creating jobs is easy. You can pay people to dig holes and fill them up again. You can ban the automatic operation of elevators. You could even eliminate ATMs. The proper measurement is not just “jobs,” but rather jobs that will contribute to overall long-term prosperity rather than subtract from it.
Mitt Romney has argued for five points which he believes will create 12 million jobs. The plan has been predictably attacked as insufficient; for example, Noah Millman, in the publication called The American Conservative (founded by Pat Buchanan, among others) says that “the mismatch between the scale of the challenge and the proposed solution is almost laughable.” But it is Millman’s critique, in my view, that tells us what is wrong with so much current economic and political thinking.
Romney’s first point is energy independence–by 2020. To which Millman says:
Energy independence, if taken literally, would mean higher energy prices (if it was economically efficient for us to be independent, we would be). But what Romney really means is simply to roll back regulation against drilling and mining. More energy development will indeed create some jobs – it’s doing so in Western Pennsylvania, in North Dakota, for example. But it won’t make a big dent in a 12 million job goal.
Energy independence would require higher prices if nothing else changed. But increases in domestic supply shift the curve. In the case of natural gas, higher domestic supplies have allowed us to remain independent of non-US supplies in this area—remember, just a few years ago it was believed we would have to *import* vast quantities of natural gas, via LNG ships–at the same time that prices have fallen. There is no economic reason why the same phenomenon could not occur with oil.
And the argument that the employment in the expanded drilling/mining industries is insufficient to make a big contribution to the 12 million jobs target represents simplistic first-order thinking. In reality, lower energy prices, coupled with more certainty that these prices will not skyrocket in the future, have a huge impact on location decisions for a wide range of energy-intensive businesses…primarily in manufacturing, but also including data centers. And for companies in the process industries (plastics, chemicals, fertilizers, etc), the costs of feedstocks represent a significant portion of the total cost of goods produced, and the availability of cheap natural gas or oil has an especially direct impact on location decisions. See for example Fracking brings manufacturing back to rust belt and Europe left behind as shale shock drives America’s industrial resurgence.
You can be quite sure that the competitive advantage that America gains from shale gas..and oil…will be far stronger with a President Romney than with the fossil-fuel-resenting Barack Obama.
continued at Chicago Boyz

8:21 AM

 
HOW OBAMA MAKES DECISIONS


While searching for an old post, I ran into a post in which I’d excerpted some passages from an article on Obama’s approach to decision-making.
Ron Suskind’s book Confidence Men portrays Barack Obama as being confounded by his duties as president. Some of the scenes depicted by Suskind would be comical if they were not so tragic for America.

For example, when Obama’s experts assembled to discuss the scope and intricacies of the stimulus bill, Barack Obama was out of his depth. He was “surprisingly aloof in the conversation” and seemed “disconnected and less in control.” His contributions were rare and consisted of blurting out such gems of wisdom as “There needs to be more inspiration here!” and “What about more smart grids” and — one more that Newt Gingrich would appreciate — “we need more moon shot” (pages 154-5).
Suskind writes:
Members of the team were perplexed…for the first time in the transition, people started to wonder just how prepared the man at the helm was. He repeated a similar sorry performance when he had a conference call with Speaker Pelosi and her staff to discuss the details of the planned stimulus bill. He shouted into the speakerphone that “this stimulus needs more inspiration! Pelosi and her staff visibly rolled their eyes.”
Presidential exhortations more befitting a summer camp counselor will evoke such reactions.
In the post, I cited a study of Woodrow Wilson written by Sigmund Freud and William Bullitt:
Throughout his life he took intense interest only in subjects which could somehow be connected with speech…He took no interest in mathematics, science, art or music–except in singing himself, a form of speaking. His method of thinking about a subject seems to have been to imagine himself making a speech about it…He seems to have thought about political or economic problems only when he was preparing to make a speech about them either on paper or from the rostrum. His memory was undoubtedly of the vaso-motor type. The use of his vocal chords was to him inseparable from thinking.
To Obama, it’s all about the speeches, all about the hype. Despite his faux reputation as an intellectual, the man has remarkably little interest in contemplation, analysis, or problem-solving.
Thinking about Obama’s overall presidency, and especially about his performance or lack of same on the Benghazi debacle, I’m reminded of what C S Lewis wrote about his protagonist (a sociologist) in his novel That Hideous Strength:
His education had been neither scientific nor classical—merely “Modern.” The severities both of abstraction and of high human tradition had passed him by: and he had neither peasant shrewdness nor aristocratic honour to help him. He was a man of straw…
Original post with CB discussion thread, here.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

7:06 AM

 
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