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, June 30, 2008  

Back in February, Obama blamed Canada for problems that (in his opinion) are associated with NAFTA, and talked about going after Canada "with a hammer." This understandably caused some concern among Canadians.

Now, Obama's energy advisor is suggesting that the Canadian oil sands should possibly not have a role in America's long-term energy strategy. This has also stirred up considerable concern in Canada.

Canada is America's primary oil & gas supplier, and the oil sands are economically very important to that country. They are also important to the U.S., as they represent an important and relatively-new source of oil supplies.

Obama doesn't appear to grasp the concept of trade-offs very well, perhaps because he lacks executive experience and has spent his professional life in the realm of words rather than actions. Rather than make realistic decisions about energy sources--rather than permitting the market to make realistic decisions about energy sources--he would likely allow a full-scale energy crisis to develop, with devastating impact on the U.S. economy, while still searching for the perfect...and nonexistent..energy source.

Regarding the NAFTA issue, it's interesting that Obama uses such strident language ("with a hammer") when talking about a trade issue, but not in talking about (say) the Iranian regime.

Disclosure: I'm a shareholder in a Canadian oil sands company and also in a somewhat-related pipeline operator.

7:42 PM

Sunday, June 29, 2008  

Ralph Peters, responding to the assertion that John McCain is "too old" to run our foreign policy:

Hmm: Take a gander at Obama's senior foreign-policy advisers: Madeleine Albright (71), Warren Christopher (82), Anthony Lake (69), Lee Hamilton (77), Richard Clarke (57) . . .

If you added up their ages and fed the number into a time-machine, you'd land in Europe in the middle of the Black Death.

More important: These are the people whose watch saw the first attack on the World Trade Center, Mogadishu, Rwanda, the Srebrenica massacre, a pass for the Russians on Chechnya, the Khobar Towers bombing, the attacks on our embassies in Africa, the near-sinking of the USS Cole - oh, and the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

Their legacy climaxed on 9/11.

You couldn't assemble a team in Washington with more strategic failures to its credit.

Read the whole thing.

12:20 PM

Saturday, June 28, 2008  

A market trader in Britain has been banned from selling a batch of kiwi fruits because they are one millimeter smaller than EU rules allow. Inspectors told the man that he is forbidden even to give away the fruits, which are perfectly healthy. He will now have to trash them, costing him 1000 pounds in lost sales.

via Bookworm Room.

In Britain, they throw away perfectly good fruit; here in the U.S., we have "educators" who throw away perfectly good library books.

Expect far more micromanagement of American life if the Democrats--who desperately want to emulate the EUcrats--attain the power which they are seeking.

12:47 PM


A San Jose middle school teacher saved some "deselected" books from the Dumpster. Click here to see what they were and why they were trashed.

6:31 AM

Thursday, June 26, 2008  

See my post at Chicago Boyz.

6:21 AM

Wednesday, June 25, 2008  

John Kay, writing in the Financial Times:

In a bubble, prices become disconnected from values because purchasers believe that, whatever the fundamentals, they will soon be able to sell what they have bought at a higher price. The bubble must burst eventually because the supply of new people willing to buy at ever higher prices will be exhausted, and generally bursts sooner than that because people come to realise this.

In the opposite of a bubble, prices become disconnected from values because sellers believe that, whatever the fundamentals, they will soon be able to buy what they have sold at a lower price. The anti-bubble must also eventually collapse because the supply of new people willing to sell at ever lower prices will be exhausted.

He goes on to suggest that we need a good word or phrase for the opposite of a bubble:

Perhaps the analogy is found somewhere in physics. We observe a bubble when a tiny quantity of matter expands to become a very large object. The opposite is when a large quantity of matter seems to be compressed into something even smaller. That process needs to be distinguished from the black hole, from which no value will ever emerge – as at Enron, where short-sellers drove the price towards its fundamental value of zero. In the opposite of a bubble, as in the bubble itself, speculative activity and momentum trading take prices steadily away from fundamental value.

The right term for the phenomenon remains elusive. A bottle of champagne awaits for the most compelling entry.

If you have any ideas, his e-mail address is at the link

12:55 PM

Monday, June 23, 2008  

Only Sarah would think of making a stuffed Chinook helicopter toy.

1:23 PM

Sunday, June 22, 2008  

...also wind and geothermal energy.

See my post at Chicago Boyz.

7:13 AM

Wednesday, June 18, 2008  

The WSJ reports that Peter Drucker's work has become very popular in China...there are even 14 Drucker academies in cities throughout the country.

In the U.S., Prof Drucker's prominence has faded "in part because his imagery often speaks to a different era," as the WSJ article puts it. At the Drucker academies in China, though, "Mr Drucker's fondness for business history is considered a virtue, not a fault." In the words of Henry To, the chief executive of the Drucker academies, "The truth will not be outdated."

Drucker's work has also fallen out of favor at many American business schools:

"Mr Drucker's writing style--which mixed anecdotes and precepts in a way that led some fans to describe him as a philosopher--is out of step with the tastes at many leading business schools, where the preference is for conclusions based on large statistical studies."

See my 2005 post Prof Drucker and the business schools for more on this.

Both of the U.S. presidential candidates are in serious need of remedial education in management, and they would do well to start by reading some of Drucker's work. They probably won't, though...not only because of time constraints, but because I don't think either of them realizes their deficiencies in this area.

6:42 PM


In a letter to [University of Chicago] President Robert Zimmer, 101 professors—about 8 percent of the university’s full-time faculty—said they feared that having a center named after [Milton Friedman,] the conservative, free-market economist could “reinforce among the public a perception that the university’s faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity.”

via University Diaries

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz

6:38 PM

Tuesday, June 17, 2008  

Today's New York Times has an article about Honda's new hydrogen-fuel-cell car, the FCX Clarity. The article contains this sentence:

Fuel cells have an advantage over electric cars, whose batteries take hours to recharge and use electricity, which, in the case of the United States, China and many other countries, is often produced by coal-burning power plants.

The question of where the hydrogen comes from is not addressed anywhere in the article. I wonder where the writer thinks it comes from...hydrogen mines? The hydrogen fairy?

Basically, there are two ways to get hydrogen. You can electrolyze water....as the word suggests, this take electricity...which comes from those same power plants that the NYT writer refers to in the quote. Or you can make it from natural gas--a resource which is already under increasing demand for power plants, home heating, and ethanol production plants, and the production of which involves many of the same issues--like offshore drilling--as does the production of oil.

I don't think it was very responsible of NYT to publish this article without making any attempt at all to deal with the hydrogen sourcing issue. This kind of media shallowness is a serious contributor to our present energy dilemmas.

8:09 PM

Friday, June 13, 2008  

...a good time to spare an appreciative thought for Willis Carrier.

Enjoy the air conditioning while you can.

(continued at Chicago Boyz)

6:31 PM


Envision Solar has a product that combines solar power generation with shade for parking lots.

Click the thumbnails to see how it looks.

6:49 AM

Sunday, June 08, 2008  

See my post at Chicago Boyz.

8:01 PM

Saturday, June 07, 2008  

When fuel is burned in a car engine, less than 30% of the energy in the fuel is turned into useful mechanical energy. The rest is turned into heat, and much of this heat goes out the exhaust pipe.

Via Don Sensing comes some interesting news: researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute are working on thermoelectric generators to convert some of this waste heat into useful electricity. They see the potential of cutting fuel consumption by 5-7%.

The thermoelectric effect, in which heat differences are converted to electricity without any moving parts, has been known for at least a century, but has generally been used only for low-power applications...so I wondered what has changed in order for it to be considered for this automotive use. The Fraunhofer press release isn't very revealing on that score.

I did find, however, this interesting note from Boston College and MIT, which are also doing research of thermoelectricty. Their approach involves the use of nanotechnology to solve one of the problems that has long plagued thermoelectricty researchers...the materials that are good at conducting electricty are usually also good at conducting heat, thus destroying the temperature difference on which the thermoelectric effect depends.

The commercial viability of the exhaust-heat-to-electricity process will probably depend largely on the costs of the materials involved and how susceptible these costs are to reduction with high production volumes.

7:35 AM

Friday, June 06, 2008  

Gold, Sword, Omaha... Names that should be known to all, but fewer remember them with each passing year. Fewer still are taught about them. Today, take a moment and remember. Take a moment, and teach. Stand silent for a moment, and remember all those who died this day, so that the light of freedom could shine again, for at least a while, on a continent gone dark.

--Black Five. An extensive collection of D-Day links from 2004, here.

Sarah has pictures from her 1999 trip to Normandy.

My post Transmission Ends describes the way in which one community got the news about local casualties from the invasion.

What if the invasion had failed? Thoughts by Donald Sensing.

Before D-Day, there was Dieppe.

Lionel Chetwynd, a screenwriter and film executive, describes what happened when he expressed interest in making a movie about Dieppe. Who's The Real Enemy?

See also: How Today's Media Would Have Covered D-Day.

UPDATE: A D-Day post is up at Bookworm Room.

8:11 AM

Thursday, June 05, 2008  

In New York Times review of a book called "Inventing Niagara," Robert Sullivan writes:

"On the ground, there's a long list of things the falls have made people want to do, including but not limited to the following: kill people to own the falls for navigational purposes; cross the falls on a tightrope while making an omlet...inflict electrical consumption on a nation that first thought electricity was deadly but then, when it saw all the gadgets that could be bought, said, Electrify me..." (emphasis added)

The "inflict electrical consumption" wording is kind of interesting, and possibly revelatory of the attitude toward energy that exists in a significant part of the intellectual class.

7:57 AM

Tuesday, June 03, 2008  

The NYT Book Review asked various writers to recommend books for the candidates. By and large, I didn’t think the suggestions were very deep. Can the Chicago Boyz readers do better?

C'mon over and make some suggestions.

8:28 PM


A time-lapse video of the final assembly of a Boeing 777.

At Evolving Excellence.

6:33 AM

Sunday, June 01, 2008  

Some great photography, displayed in an unusual format.

via Rubicon and Bookworm Room.

7:28 AM


A worthwhile article at The New Yorker.

via Lean Blog, who offers thoughts of his own.

7:18 AM

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