Wednesday, August 30, 2006
In Washington State, five people allegedly beat up a uniformed National Guardsman who was walking down the street. From the news report:
The soldier was walking to a convenience store when a sport utility vehicle pulled up alongside him and the driver asked if he was in the military and if he had been in any action.
The driver then got out of the vehicle, displayed a gun and shouted insults at the victim. Four other suspects exited the vehicle and knocked the soldier down, punching and kicking him.
“And during the assault the suspects called him a baby killer. At that point they got into the car and drove off and left him on the side of the road,” Detective Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News.
The driver is described as a white male, 25-30 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, heavy build, short blond hair, wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, and armed with a handgun. The vehicle's passengers are described as white males, 20-25 years old. Some of the suspects wore red baseball hats and red sweatshirts during the attack.
Michelle Malkin has a post on this attack and other attacks on US soldiers.
Dr Sanity once worked as a psychiatrist at NASA--one of her responsibilities was answering letters which were written to the agency by people with varying levels of weirdness. This experience makes her well-qualified to analyze the letters written to world leaders by Iranian President Ahmadinejad.
Monday, August 28, 2006
"Progressives" raging against Israel and the Bush administration, photographed in the wild by Darren.
See also this related post.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
OF WITCHCRAFT AND WEAPONRY
See my post at ChicagoBoyz
Saturday, August 26, 2006
INTUITION AND ANALYSIS IN BUSINESS DECISION-MAKING
Obviously, business decision-making needs both intuition and formal analysis...and the right balance between these approaches depends on the particular kind of decision being made. Consider the following two situations:
1)A major deal such as an acquisition, joint venture, or large investment
2)The hiring of a new employee for a key position
In which of these cases is it more important to emphasize analysis, and in which is it more important to emphasize intuition? I think most people would say that formal analysis is more important in the case of the major deal, and intuition is more important in the case of the prospective new employee.
Jack and Suzy Welch, in their BusinessWeek advice column (9/4), take the opposite position: In the case of the deal, pay more attention to your instinct, and in the case of the new employee, be suspicious of your own emotional reactions.
Even though proposals arrive with all sorts of data analysis and detailed quantitative predictions, and people decisions seem so much more qualitative, the numbers in deal books are really just projections. Sometimes those projections are reasonable; other times they represent little more than hopes and prayers. When have you ever been presnted with a deal with a projected discounted rate of return of less than 20%? You haven't! So, when it comes to looking at deals, consider the numbers. But be sure your gut plays a big role in the final call.
By contrast, relying on your gut during hiring isn't always a great idea. The reason: Our gut often makes us "fall in love" with a candidate too quickly. We see prestigious schools and great experience on a sparkling resume. We see a likable candidate who says all the right things in the interview. and even though we don't admit it, too often we see a person who can quickly make a problem go away--namely, a gaping position we need to fill fast. so we rush to seal the deal.
We run into this dynamic in action all the time when people call us for references. They start off by firmly stating that they only want an unvarnished view of the candidate in question. but as we begin to give them the straight story, we can hear their voices tighten. It's almost as if they're saying: "Oh, please don't tell e that. All I really wanted from you was a stamp of approval." They can't get off the phone fast enough.
I think the general idea can be stated this way: If a decision-making process is basically analytical, add some intuition and emotion to it. If it's basically emotional and subjective, on the other hand, add a detached and analytical element.
THE WONDERFULNESS OF DOGS
We are alone, absolutely alone on this chance planet: and, amid all the forms of life that surround us, not one, excepting the dog, has made an alliance with us.
In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semihuman. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog
(Both quotes from Forbes, 2/8/1999)
Thursday, August 24, 2006
GETTING VERY SCARY
This vitriolic attack on Israel was published in a major newspaper by one of Norway's most famous writers. Read the whole unbelievable thing. Note that it doesn't deal only with current political and military events; it includes statement like "For two thousand years, we have rehearsed the syllabus of humanism, but Israel doesn't listen" and "Even in (Christ's) time, the first Zionist terrorists were operating." Note the presumptuousness and pomposity implicit in the repeated use of the term "we"--for what group of people does Gaarder think he has been elected the spokesman?
(See also Haaretz coverage of this affair, which includes Gaarder's "clarification.")
Attitudes like Gaarder's are by no means limited to Norway. This cartoon appeared in Sacramento, California, USA. (See here the fairly pathetic statement the paper made explaining why people shouldn't be offended.)
And here is a selection of photographs from an anti-Israel, "anti-war" demonstration in San Francisco.
UPDATE: Gardjola provides a history of the blood libel against the Jews--and argues that it is again being applied in contemporary politics.
(via the Assistant Village Idiot.)
UPDATE 2: Read this important essay by Phyllis Chesler.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
The words Plato and Play-Doh sound a lot alike.
Which one would you think would be most appropriate for a 9th grade English class?
Click here for one school's answer.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
CARTER: DOING IT AGAIN
In an interview with the German publication Spiegel Online, Jimmy Carter spoke this sentence:
I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon.
As Judith Apter Klinghoffer points out, "massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon" is a serious misrepresentation, and that's putting it mildly. See the map at Judith's site.
The entire interview is just unbelievable. The interviewer must share many of Carter's predelictions, because most of the questions are pretty softball.
UPDATE: Corrected typo.
Friday, August 18, 2006
HEZBOLLAH: THE NATURE OF THE ENEMY
Katherine Curtis Stethem reminds us of the torture and murder of Navy Diver Robert Dean Stethem during the 1985 Trans World Airlines hijacking by Hezbollah terrorists.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
SHOOTING DOWN KATYUSHAS?--CONTINUED
Yesterday, I posted about several technologies with the potential to destroy Katyushas, and similar weapons, in flight. See also this post by Judith Apter Klinghoffer: Needed: Anti-Missile Manhattan Project.
Today, I came across this article in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report. If this is an accurate portrayal of the attitudes of decision-makers in the U.S. Army with regard to Skyguard and related programs, then I think we have a serious problem with sense of urgency. Although I certainly understand the desirability of a more mobile system, and the logistical advantages of one which uses ordinary diesel fuel rather than special chemicals, the time factor also matters. I would hope that the Army leaders responsible for decisions on this program might meditate on the old proverb: The best is the enemy of the good.
Sir Robert Watson-Watt, considered by many to be the inventor of radar, once said that Britain's success with radar in WWII was due to the decision to go with the third-best solution. The best solution couldn't have been built; the second-best solution could have been built, but would not have been ready in time. If British leaders had not possessed the judgment to go with this third-best solution, then Germany might well have won the Battle of Britain.
We need a workable and deployable system in the near future, not an optimal system in 8 or 10 years
Here's are some very interesting thoughts from Warren Buffet's partner, Charlie Munger. It's about...well, it's too hard to describe. Just read it.
(via BusinessPundit and Spooky Action)
Monday, August 14, 2006
SHOOTING DOWN KATYUSHAS?
It would obviously be a very good thing if it were possible to shoot down Katyushas--and similar weapons--in flight. Clearly, this is not a mission for high-end anti-missile systems like Patriot and Arrow: these systems are too expensive and resource-intensive to deal with the plague of small, cheap rockets. There are, however, some potential solutions on the horizon:
1)The Skyguard, developed by Northrop Grumman in cooperation with Israeli researchers and engineers, uses high-energy laser beams. In test environments, Skyguard has shot down Katyushas, as well as mortar and artillery projectiles. See the company press release here.
Apparently, much of the funding for this project was pulled several years ago, on grounds that it was too costly and also too bulky. Northrop Grumman has continued work, though, and claims to have reduced the bulkiness factor significantly. My understanding is that it would take about 2 years to get Skyguard into volume deployment. If this system is a promising as it sounds, it's really too bad it hasn't been pushed more aggressively.
2)Another alternative is the Phalanx, a radar-and-computer-controlled machine gun with an incredible rate of fire. Made by Raytheon, it was originally developed as a naval weapon. A version known as C-RAM has been configured to destroy mortar rounds in flight, and is now in initial deployment with U.S. forces in Iraq. Description:
The complete C-RAM system networks a ground-based version of Phalanx together with the Army's Lightweight Counter Mortar Radar (LCMR) and Q-36 Target Acquisition Radar (AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder Radar), which detects incoming rounds and determines their point of origin. When C-RAM detects an incoming round, it turns on a set of strobe lights to alert local personnel to take cover, authorizes the modified Phalanx to shoot 20 mm explosive bullets to destroy the projectile and dispatches a Hunter UAV equipped with Viper Strike laser-designated munitions to kill whoever fired it. The first two C-RAM systems arrived in Iraq in May, 2005.
(see also here)
I'm not sure if C-RAM has sufficient range to make this system practical for protection of a large, spread-out target such as a city, as opposed to a relatively small military base. There are also concerns about the danger from spent projectiles.
3)Raytheon, in partnership with the Israeli firm Rafael, has also proposed a system called the Stunner, which would use interceptor missiles specifically designed to handle high-volume low-cost threats like that posed by the Katyushas. "Our interceptor solution fundamentally redefines the performance-cost value equation for terminal missile defense," said David Stemer, general manager of Rafael's missile division. The new missiles, he said, would provide ``hit-to-kill performance at a tactical missile price." Unfortunately, Raytheon/Rafael are talking about a possible 2012 deployment date for this system.
Also from the Boston Globe article linked above, some additional comments on the laser-based system. Scott McPheeters, the US Army's assistant project manager for the system, says that in tests at White Sands it has shot down more than 28 Katyushas and as many as three mortar rounds at once. "If you can track it, you can kill it," he said.
Apparently, some decision-makers think Skyguard sounds too much like science fiction. "The problem isn't technology, it's cultural. The unbelievability issue is pretty high."
Sounds like its time to get very serious about these technologies.
One additional source of information, here.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
FIELDWORK IN SECURITIES ANALYSIS
On Wall Street, "research" usually means analyzing financial statements, building financial models based on these statements, reading trade publications to understand the dynamics of an industry, and (sometimes) talking to corporate management.
The New York Times (7/13) reports on an approach that is a bit more nitty-gritty. Second Curve Capital is a hedge fund the specializes in banks and financial services companies. Once a year, Second Curve conducts what it calls a "branch hunt." Everyone in the organization goes out and, in the guise of customers, actually visits branches of banks in which the firm is interested. “We look for the unique experiences, things that separate one institution from the other, whether for good or ill," said Second Curve's Thomas Brown. “The biggest mistake companies make is managing to the averages. How long, on average, does it take to open a checking account? What’s the average level of customer satisfaction? Averages hide as much as they reveal.” The only way to see past the averages, he said, is to get out of the office and look around.
Let's hope this approach becomes a trend. There's a lot you can learn from financial reports and conversations with management, but it's also important to see what is really going on at the sharp end, where company and customers meet. IIRC, a major investor in Home Depot is doing something similar, hiring people to go out and report back on customer service levels at the HD stores. (I'm not sure whether their objective is merely to decide whether to sell,retain, or grow their current investment position, or whether they're gathering ammunition for a proxy fight.)
This approach is obviously best suited to the study of companies that deal with consumers at the retail level, but could also be applied, with modifications, in other situations. When analyzing a consumer electronics company, for example, it would be good to buy some of their products and try them out. For industrial equipment, you can't usually try it out yourself, but you can attempt to locate users and interview them about their experiences. ("Interview" should ideally be more than a perfunctory telephone survey--in the case of a company that sells industrial robotics equipment, for example, it might mean visiting plants where it is installed and seeing just how it is applied in practice.)
If a trend toward this kind of fieldwork does develop in securities analysis, it would not seem to be fully consistent with the current trend of offshoring securities analysis to India and other low-cost countries.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
SIGNS & PORTENTS
On June 6, Chinese engineers blew up the last cofferdam standing between the main wall of the Three Gorges Dam and the waters of the Yangtze River. (A cofferdam is a temporary structure used during dam construction.) The dam itself is now holding back the full force of the river, and is ready to ramp up to its full electrical capacity of 22000 megawatts.
For comparison, the Grand Coulee Dam generates about 6400 megawatts, while Hoover Dam generates about 2000 megawatts. I believe the largest hydro plant in the world, prior to the Three Gorges completion, was the Itaipú Dam, a joint project of Brazil and Paraguay, which puts out 12000 MW. (Nice picture at the link.)
More on the dam, and particularly its role in flood control, here.
IN THE SPIRIT OF SENATOR BORAH
When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, setting off World War II, the isolationist American Senator William Borah responded with these immortal words:
Lord, if I could only have talked with Hitler, all this might have been avoided.
Many of today's Democrats seem to share this same belief in the magical powers of talking. Compare the thoughts of Naive Ned Lamont on Iran:
We should work diplomatically and aggressively to give them reasons why they don't need to build a bomb, to give them incentives. We have to engage in very aggressive diplomacy. I'd like the use carrots as well as sticks to see if we can change the nature of the debate.
Borah quote from Charles Krauthammer. More on Senator Borah here.
UPDATE: Welcome Washington Post readers! Please grab a cup of coffee, make yourself at home, and take a look around.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
NOT YOUR FATHER'S DEMOCRATIC PARTY
The astute political analyst Michael Barone has some interesting thoughts on the factors behind Liberman's primary defeat. Excerpt:
(Lieberman) has been an American exceptionalist -- a believer in the idea that this is a special and specially good country -- while his party's base is increasingly made up of people with attitudes that are, in professor Samuel Huntington's term, transnational. In their view, our country is no better than any other, and in many ways it's a whole lot worse.
Through most of the 20th century, American exceptionalism has been the creed of both of our major parties. Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, for all their sophisticated knowledge of foreign cultures, were exceptionalists just as much as Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Among voters, transnational attitudes were espoused by only a very few, in the odd corners of university faculty clubs, investment-banking firm dining rooms and the councils of shop floor socialist intellectuals.
Now it's different. In 2004, pollster Scott Rasmussen asked two questions relating to American exceptionalism: Is this country generally fair and decent? Would the world be better off if more countries were more like America? About two-thirds of voters answered yes to both questions. About 80% of George W. Bush voters answered yes. John Kerry voters were split down the middle, with yeses outnumbering nos by small margins. That's reminiscent of the story about the Teamster Union business agent who was in the hospital and received a bouquet of flowers with a note that read, "The executive board wishes you a speedy recovery by a vote of 9-6." Not exactly a wholehearted endorsement.
In the mid-20th century the core constituencies of both the Democratic and the Republican Parties stood foursquare for America's prosecution of World War II and the Cold War. Today, as the Connecticut results suggest, it's different. The core constituency of the Republican Party stands foursquare for America's prosecution of the global struggle against Islamofascist terrorism -- and solidly on the side of Israel in its struggle against the same forces. The core constituency of the Democratic Party wants to stand aside from the global struggle -- and, as the presence of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton at Mr. Lamont's side on election night suggests, is not necessarily on the side of Israel. It's not your father's Democratic Party.
(from WSJ 8/10--registration required)
THE NAIVETE OF NED
Here's what Ned Lamont, the man chosen by the Democrats of Connecticut to be their Senatorial candidate, had to say about the Iranian regime and its nuclear-weapons venture:
We should work diplomatically and aggressively to give them reasons why they don't need to build a bomb, to give them incentives. We have to engage in very aggressive diplomacy. I'd like the use carrots as well as sticks to see if we can change the nature of the debate.
Marty Peretz of The New Republic responds:
Oh, I see. He thinks the problem is that they do not understand, and so we should explain things to them, and then they will do the right thing. It is a fortunate world that Mr Lamont lives in, but it is not the real one. Anyway, this sort of plying is precisely what has been going on for years, and to no good effect. Mr Lamont continues that "Lieberman is the one who keeps talking about keeping the military option on the table." And what is so plainly wrong with that? Would Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be more agreeable if he thought that we had disposed of the military option in favor of more country club behavior? (WSJ 8/7)
People like Lamont seem unable to grasp that the goals of some leaders--the "objective function," as it would be called in game theory--are quite different from our own. If our objective function is maximizing the security and well-being of our population, that doesn't automatically mean that Ahmadinejad has the same goal. Maybe the equation of his objective function includes a heavily-weighted term for "number of Jews killed"--indeed, it definitely seems to include such a term. Maybe in Ahmadinejad's objective function, nuclear apocalypse is weighted positively, not negatively.
We are living in very dangerous times, and can ill afford leaders who think as naively as Lamont.
Monday, August 07, 2006
DEMOCRATS VS ISRAEL
A poll of 1000 likely voters, commissioned by The Israel Project, showed considerable support for Israel. For example, 67% of those interviewed believe Israel's recent actions are justified, while only 21% believe they are unjustified.
However, another poll, conducted by LA Times/Bloomberg, shows some sharp partisan divisions in American support for Israel. Survey participants were asked this question: "As you may know, Israel has responded to rocket attacks from the Lebanese group Hezbollah by bombing Beirut and other cities in Lebanon. Do you think Israel's actions are justified or not justified?" 64% of Republicans said Israel's actions were "justified, not excessively harsh," as opposed to only 29% of the Democrats. On the other end of the scale, only 17% of Republicans said the actions were "unjustified," while 36% of Democrats--twice as many--gave this answer.
Participants were also asked: "Which of the following statements comes closer to your view: "The United States should continue to align itself with Israel" or "The United States should adopt a more neutral posture" or "The United States should side more with the Arab countries?" 54% of Democrats said we should "adopt a more neutral posture," as opposed to only 29% of Republicans giving this answer.
Some prominent Democrats seem to be doing their best to provide anecdotal evidence consistent with this statistical data. For example, John Dingell, a long-serving Democratic Congressman (Michigan) said on television: "I don't take sides, for or against Hezbollah or for or against Israel." (He then tried to bail himself out by saying "Now, I condemn Hezbollah as does everybody else, for the violence.") Listen to Dingell's statement for yourself here.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
100 YEARS OF AIR CONDITIONING
August is a good time to spare a grateful thought for the creators of air conditioning. US Patent 808897, 'Apparatus for Treating Air,' was granted in 1906 to Willis Carrier--although by no means the only person involved in the development of A/C, Carrier is generally credited with having made it really practical.
Interestingly, the first applications of air conditioning were industrial. Carrier's first large-scale installation was in a Brooklyn printing plant, at which heat and humidity variations had been interfering with the color printing process. Another air conditioning innovator, was Stuart Cramer, a textile engineer who sought to improve yarn manufacturing. It was Cramer who actually introduced the term "air conditioning."
One of the first A/C installations intended to promote human comfort rather than industrial need was at the J L Hudson department store in Detroit, in 1924. Air conditioning soon spread to movie theaters, where it doubtless exercised a very positive influence on attendance during the summer months. By 1928, Carrier had developed a unit for private homes, but the Great Depression and WWII inhibited sales, and air conditioned homes did not become common until after the war.
Thanks, Mr Carrier and other A/C innovators!
Saturday, August 05, 2006
I'M BACK HOME
...after a three-week, 6,000-mile driving trip through the West. I'll post some of the highlights later.
Blogging frequency should hopefully increase.
Friday, August 04, 2006
RACIST ATTACKS ON CONDI RICE
Palestinian media, which is largely controlled by Palestinian political leaders, has been engaging in racist attacks on America's Secretary of State.
It should be no surprise when religious bigots are also racial bigots.
American "progressives" claim to be anti-racist. But a significant number of these "progressives" are also apologists for the Palestinian terrorist leadership.
One would think that the cognitive dissonance within the minds of these individuals would have reached a level that would cause their heads to explode.
From Victor Davis Hanson:
When I used to read about the 1930s — the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, the rise of fascism in Italy, Spain, and Germany, the appeasement in France and Britain, the murderous duplicity of the Soviet Union, and the racist Japanese murdering in China — I never could quite figure out why, during those bleak years, Western Europeans and those in the United States did not speak out and condemn the growing madness, if only to defend the millennia-long promise of Western liberalism.
Of course, the trauma of the Great War was all too fresh, and the utopian hopes for the League of Nations were not yet dashed. The Great Depression made the thought of rearmament seem absurd. The connivances of Stalin with Hitler — both satanic, yet sometimes in alliance, sometimes not — could confuse political judgments.
But nevertheless it is still surreal to reread the fantasies of Chamberlain, Daladier, and Pope Pius, or the stump speeches by Charles Lindbergh (“Their [the Jews’] greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government”) or Father Coughlin (“Many people are beginning to wonder whom they should fear most — the Roosevelt-Churchill combination or the Hitler-Mussolini combination.”) — and baffling to consider that such men ever had any influence.
Not any longer.
Our present generation too is on the brink of moral insanity. That has never been more evident than in the last three weeks, as the West has proven utterly unable to distinguish between an attacked democracy that seeks to strike back at terrorist combatants, and terrorist aggressors who seek to kill civilians.
Read the whole thing.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
ISRAEL AND THE EVANGELICALS
See my post over at ChicagoBoyz.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
THIS IS SAD
Stopped at a store while driving through Georgia today, and the man mentioned that this is the first day of school for the local children. Googling around, it appears that lots of Georgia school systems are starting classes sometime this week. And the longer-school-year trend is by no means limited to Georgia.
This is really very sad. Children need time to be with their families. They need time to develop their dreams. They need time to learn things that are not part of any formal program.
Educational "experts" will try to justify a longer school year with the argument that "there's just so much more to know these days." Such claims are highly exaggerated. The truth is, most public K-12 schools make very poor use of the time of their students. They waste huge proportions of the millions of hours which have been entrusted to them--waste them through the mindless implementation of fads and theories, waste them through inappropriate teacher-credentialing processes, waste them through refusal to maintain high standards of performance and behavior.
When an organization or institution proves itself to be a poor steward of the resources that have been entrusted to it, the right answer is not to give it more resources to waste.
ACADEMIC ARROGANCE, #343,993,143
The New York Times has an article about Kevin Barrett, a lecturer at The University of Wisconsin who has asserted a conspiracy theory about 9/11. University Chancellor John D Wiley doesn't seem to much like the public discussion of this matter which has been occurring:
Mr. Barrett and Chancellor Wiley both said the controversy might actually be helping provide Mr. Barrett with a larger platform to voice his ideas.
Ann Althouse, writing at Instapundit, sums it the attitude held by all too many academics:
Oh, really? Just maybe? If only everyone could have kept quiet and let him teach his course in peace. In fact, all of you people, look away, pay no attention to what goes on inside the university. If you see something you don't like and criticize it, you'll only be amplifying it. So, go, scrutinize something else. But please, send us your kids and your money.