Politics, culture, business, and technology

I also blog at ChicagoBoyz.


Selected Posts:
Sleeping with the Enemy
Dancing for the Boa Constrictor
Koestler on Nuance
A Look into the Abyss
Hospital Automation
Made in America
Politicians Behaving Badly
Critics and Doers
Foundations of Bigotry?
Bonhoeffer and Iraq
Misvaluing Manufacturing
Journalism's Nuremberg?
No Steak for You!
An Academic Bubble?
Repent Now
Enemies of Civilization
Molly & the Media
Misquantifying Terrorism
Education or Indoctrination?
Dark Satanic Mills
Political Violence Superheated 'steem
PC and Pearl Harbor
Veterans' Day Musings
Arming Airline Pilots
Pups for Peace
Baghdad on the Rhine

Book Reviews:
Forging a Rebel
The Logic of Failure
The Innovator's Solution
They Made America
On the Rails: A Woman's Journey

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013  

Not a single Democratic senator managed to demonstrate enough judgment and courage to go against his Party herd and vote “Nay” on the Hegel confirmation.
Not a single one.
About a week ago, Cassandra cited a study showing in which white “racial liberals” (as identified by a four-question survey) were asked whether or not they supported targeted killings of suspected terrorists.
Only 27% of the respondents supported such killings….BUT, if they were told before answering the question that OBAMA had conducted such killings, then the support rose to 47%.
Cass cited another political scientist, Lilliana Mason, who argues that the electorate is becoming increasingly tribal. Our party affiliation is increasingly intertwined with our personal identity, making us more prone than ever to support the policies of “our side,” regardless of their actual content.
As I noted in comments, this kind of thinking/behavior represents the outsourcing of judgment and conscience.
And I think this outsourcing has a lot to do with the Democratic unanimity on Hegal, as well as with the  lockstep pro-Obama coverage of the old media.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:55 AM

Saturday, February 23, 2013  

1) The Drug Enforcement Administration is attempting to seize a $1.5 million building owned as a retirement-investment property by a dentist and an engineer. Grounds are a $37 sale of pot ..to an undercover agent..by one of the building’s tenants, a medical-marijuana dispensary.
As the judge in the case notes, the Obama administration (in 2009) sent a memo instructing federal prosecutors to not target medical-marijuana patients..before deciding to crack down and sending threatening letters to landlords. He even wondered aloud if President Obama would change his mind about marijuana again, after the building had already been seized.
This, in a country whose current President pretty clearly was himself a marijuana user, not to mention former President Bill Clinton, who “didn’t inhale.” Neither Obama nor Clinton are in any danger of having their property seized, however.
2) When financial questions arose regarding the Mountain Pure Water Company, Washington did not send a few staffers to inspect documents. Instead, last spring, some 50 armed Treasury agents breached the company’s headquarters in Little Rock, Ark. They seized 82 boxes of records, herded employees into the cafeteria, snatched their cell phones, and..according to reports..refused to let them consult attorneys.
“We’re the federal government,” Mountain Pure’s comptroller, Jerry Miller, says one pistol-packing fed told him. “We can do what we want, when we want, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
3) In Alexandria, Virginia, a 10-year-old was suspended and arrested for bringing a toy gun to school
4) In Tennessee, an Ohio couple was pulled over by  pair of black police SUVs. “They were very serious,” said the woman who was driving. “They had the body armor and the guns.”
On the back of the couple’s car was a Buckeye leaf decal, similar to the one Ohio State players have on their helmets.
“What are you doing with a marijuana sticker on your bumper?” asked one of the cops, who had apparently never heard of the First Amendment.
5) In 2005, an Iowa couple purchased a small lot. When they began to lay gravel on the land, which is located in a residential neighborhood, they were hit by an order from the Environmental Protection Administration informing them that the property had been designated a wetland under the Clean Water Act. They were ordered to stop grading their property and were told that they would face fines of up to $75,000 per day if they did not return the parcel to its original state. When the Sacketts attempted to contest the order, the agency denied their request for a hearing.
Last March, the Supreme Court overruled the EPA and stated that the Sacketts are entitled to appeal the EPA order, rejecting the agency’s claims to the contrary.
“The EPA used bullying and threats of terrifying fines, and has made our life hell for the past five years,” said Mr. Sackett. See my post A Defensive Victory Against Administrative Tyranny.
6) Bob Wallace and Marjorie Ottenberg, California residents in their 80s, started a business to make water purification devices for backpackers. Their enterprise has been crippled by the Drug Enforcement Administration and state officials, on grounds that iodine crystals–a key ingredient in their product–can also be used for methamphetamine production.
continued at Chicago Boyz

7:06 AM

Tuesday, February 19, 2013  

(This is a combination of two posts from 2005)
Verbal imagery can affect decision-making. For example, Columbia professor Michael Morris has found that when stock price movements are described in terms of “agent metaphors,” people tend to believe that the trend will continue more than they do when the same stock price movements are described in terms of “object metaphors.”
For example, “Caterpillar jumped up by 5% today” will be interpreted differently from “The price of Caterpillar increased by 5% today,” even though the two statements are semantically identical.
Moreover, Morris found that people–including financial journalists–tend to use agent metaphors more often when prices go up, and object metaphors more often when they go down. Why? “Think about if you’re hiking, and you see something on the trail. It’s either a rock or a toad. If it starts moving up, it’s a toad. If it moves down, it’s probably a rock. Evolution built into our brains that things that move up are alive. Things moving down don’t provide that cue.”
Morris goes on to say that “For the naive investor who’s trying to make sense of the newspaper, the mental concepts that get triggered by agentic descriptions of uptrends may lead them to think that an uptrend is a meaningful signal for tomorrow, while the downtrend isn’t a meaningful signal about tomorrow.”
See article at The Economist: Mind Your Language
A very interesting example of the power of metaphor and analogy can be found in the writings of General Edward Spears. During the opening campaigns of WWI, in 1914, the British Commander-in-Chief (Sir John French) was tempted to withdraw his army into the fortress of Maubeuge.  Spears, who in 1914 was a liason officer between the British and French armies, describes the C-in-C’s thought processes:
continued at Chicago Boyz

5:04 AM

Friday, February 15, 2013  

…people are still writing songs about the Civil War.
Josephine, by Rory Lee Feek
The song is based on actual letters written by Confederate soldier J W Robison to his wife Josephine.
I am reminded of something Connie Willis said:
Because the Civil War isn’t over. Its images, dreamlike, stay with us — young boys lying face-down in cornfields and orchards, and Robert E. Lee on Traveller. And Lincoln, dead in the White House, and the sound of crying.
The Civil War disturbs us, all these long years after, troubling our sleep. Like a cry for help, like a warning, like a dream. And we pore over it, trying to break the code, its meaning just out of reach.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

3:23 PM


…don’t you dare even think about cutting her allowance.
Nancy Cartman-Pelosi thinks it would be disrespectful to cut Congressional salaries because it would diminish the dignity of lawmakers’ jobs.
“I think we should respect the work we do,” she said in a rather strangely-worded statement to reporters. “I think it’s necessary for us to have the dignity of the job that we have rewarded.”
What a bizarre statement. The fact that someone’s income may fluctuate doesn’t detract from the dignity of their job. JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon just had his annual bonus cut by millions of dollars. Commissioned salespeople often have their incomes fluctuate downward as well as upward. Hourly worker have incomes that depend directly on how many hours of work are available. Small businesspeople and investors at whatever scale have incomes that are highly variable.
Not everyone is a tenured professor or “nonprofit” executive or civil servant with guaranteed employment and guaranteed income. This doesn’t mean their work has any less worth or dignity.
Good grief.
link via Common Sense & Wonder

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:49 AM

Thursday, February 14, 2013  

Both links via Common Sense & Wonder
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:57 AM

Sunday, February 10, 2013  

Great color photos of women working in aircraft plants during WWII. More here.
These photos were originally shot in color; the ones at the above links have been enhanced for color and contrast by the webmaster at Shorpy…the full Shorpy collection of enhanced OWI Kodachromes ishere.
The originals can be found at the Library of Congress on-line photo catalog.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:00 AM

Friday, February 08, 2013  

Here’s a nifty map of the world’s undersea cables.
The era of long-distance undersea communication began with the laying of the first Atlantic telegraph cable, completed in August of 1858. Unfortunately, signal quality deteriorated rapidly and an attempt was made to improve communication by increasing the voltage at the transmitting end…a more durable cable was put in service in July of 1866.
Rapid trans-Atlantic communication made a huge difference in many spheres of life, not least in the logistics of international trade. Consider this quote from an English visitor to the US in the pre-cable year of 1852:
If, on the arrival of an European mail at one of the northern ports, the news from Europe reports that the supply of cotton or of corn is inadequate to meet the existing demand, almost before the vessel can be moored intelligence is spread by the Electric Telegraph, and the merchants and shippers of New Orleans are busied in the preparation of freights, or the corn-factors of St Louis and Chicago, in the far west, are emptying their granaries and forwarding their contents by rail or canal to the Atlantic ports.
Pre-cable, transmitting a purchase order across the Atlantic took as long (ignoring the effects of prevailing winds/currents) as the shipment of the physical goods.
Fanny Kemble wrote (circa 1882) about the psychological impact of connecting the continents electrically:
To those who know the rate of intercourse between Europe and America now, these expressions of the painful sense of distance from my country and friends, under which I suffered, must seem almost incomprehensible,—now, when to go to Europe seems to most Americans the easiest of summer trips, involving hardly more than a week’s sea voyage; when letters arrive almost every other day by some of the innumerable steamers flying incessantly to and fro, and weaving, like living shuttles, the woof and warp of human communication between the continents; and the submarine telegraph shoots daily tidings from shore to shore of that terrible Atlantic, with swift security below its storms. But when I wrote this to my friend, no words were carried with miraculous celerity under the dividing waves; letters could only be received once a month, and from thirty to thirty-seven days was the average voyage of the sailing packets which traversed the Atlantic…The distance between the two worlds, which are now so near to each other, was then immense.
continued at Chicago Boyz

6:41 AM

Tuesday, February 05, 2013  

In her testimony on the Benghazi debacle, Hillary Clinton said:
“I AM the Secretary of State, and the ARB (Accountability Review Board)  made it very clear that the level of responsibility for the failures that they outlined, sat at the level of Assistant Secretary and below.”
And to Rep. Michael McCaul, who wanted to know why she had not seen Christopher Stevens’ disturbing cables on the lack of security, she responded:
“1.4 million cables come to us each year, all of them addressed to me.”
These responses clearly demonstrate that Hillary Clinton has no idea at all of what executive management is all about. An executive is not only or even primarily responsible for his or her own individual tasks—he or she is responsible for the work of the people in the organization, and for organizing that work properly and effectively.
These responsibilities include establishing an information and decision-flow architecture…including clear assignment of responsibilities…to ensure that the right things are seen and acted upon by the right people at the right time. Failure to do this..and to maintain and tune the system over time…will predictably result in catastrophes.
There had been three and half years to set up a system, to let the career officers of the Secretariat and the Operations Center know what she wants, and to have her personal staff figure it out too.
That is to say, if she did not see the Benghazi cables in a timely fashion, if she did not see Chris Stephens’s cables describing the deterioration of security, and if she did not see his requests for more security, this was a huge management failure on her part. It is a poor excuse to say, “Gee, the Department gets lots of cables” — and perhaps even worse then to hide behind an Accountability Review Board that pins responsibility on assistant secretaries and no higher.
Having worked as an assistant secretary of state and a deputy national-security adviser, I can report that even in those posts one is entirely swamped by cable traffic and needs a system to cope with it — to be sure that the really important ones get through. From all the available evidence, Hillary Clinton failed to establish such a system for herself, and that management failure is a far more important fact about her tenure than being the third woman to hold the post or having flown more miles than Condoleezza Rice.
continued at Chicago Boyz

8:44 AM

Sunday, February 03, 2013  

Grand Central Terminal is celebrating its 100th anniversary…see photo essay here. The station building itself is only the most visible element of a massive, courageous, and very profitable infrastructure project carried out by the New York Central Railroad.
In the late 1800s, hundreds of trains a day entered and departed Manhattan on the NY Central lines. All were hauled by steam locomotives, and large amounts of land in the vicinity of the terminal were used for yard and support facilities. People living in the vicinity of the tracks probably did not view steam trains, with their smoke and cinders, as being especially romantic. Indeed, the smoke was so thick at some points as to represent a serious safety hazard, impeding visibility of signals.
continued at Chicago Boyz

2:22 PM

Saturday, February 02, 2013  

I suspect the answer of most people to the above question would be “what American textile industry?” And quite a few would probably be reminded of Bruce Springsteen’s lines:
They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they aint coming back
This well-written Textile World article suggests that things are actually looking quite a lot more positive for the industry.
via Bill Waddell, who is now blogging at The Manufacturing Leadership Center.  Bill’s former blog home,Evolving Excellence, continues–see Kevin Meyer’s recent post on using your brains to become more competitive.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

1:26 PM

Friday, February 01, 2013  
PARIS IN COLOR, 1914-1930

A great set of color photos, HERE (via Maggie’s Farm.) These were taken as part of a project sponsored byAlbert Kahn who “believed that he could use the new autochrome process, the world’s first user-friendly, true-colour photographic system, to promote cross-cultural peace and understanding.” Kahn’s photographers took pictures in more than 50  countries around the world.
I linked some of the Kahn photos, mostly non-European ones, back in 2010: the early 1900s, in color…I originally discovered these photos via Neptunus Lex, and there was a good discussion at this post.
If you haven’t already seen them, check out the color photos of Czarist Russia and of America in the late 1930s and early 1940s…both linked at my “early 1900s in color” post.
See also the London blitz, in color, and a collection of old postcards of Dublin.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

9:04 AM

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