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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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
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Saturday, July 31, 2010  

In the early part of the 20th century, French-Jewish capitalist Albert Kahn set about to collect a photographic record of the world. Before the 1929 stock market crash he accumulated more than 72,000 autochrome plates. Some of them can be seen here.

I've previously posted about the remarkable photos taken by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, who developed his own color process: Filters were used to split the image into reds, greens, and blues (three different plates were recorded) and display was done using a slide projection system which combined the images again on a screen. It was a cumbersome system, but resulted in vibrant colors. Under the sponsorship of the Czar, Prokudin-Gorskii traveled throughout the Russian Empire taking photographs, more than 2000 of which are now on-line. If you haven't seen these before, check them out now.

Albert Kahn link via Neptunus Lex.

Update: See the interesting discussion at the Neptunus Lex post on the Kahn photos. I mentioned the Russian photos, and thought Lex's response was eloquent enough to be worth quoting:

A fascinating trip back through a vanished time, thanks David. I found myself looking at those people living quite ordinary lives just as their parents had for hundreds of years and wondering how many of them survived the coming convulsions; World War I, the revolution, the terrors, collectivization, the Kulak destruction. The youngsters would have been front line troops in World War II.

God shield us from too rapid change.

Update: Also see these color photos of America from 1939-1943. These look like they are from the same collection as the photos of the American depresson that I linked here, but I think there may be several additional ones at the new link.

6:55 AM

Tuesday, July 27, 2010  

Dorothy Thompson, writing in 1941:

It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times–in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis.

This piece was recently surfaced by commenter g6loq at Bookworm, and has since been linked and discussed on multiple blogs, including an excellent discussion at Chicago Boyz...I urge you to read and participate.

And if you don't know who Dorothy Thompson was, you should remedy that omission right now.

8:18 PM

Monday, July 26, 2010  

Deflation: John Mauldin

Inflation: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Both of these well-written articles make for sobering reading. See also my March 2010 post an architect of hyperinflation.

Cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

7:35 AM

Saturday, July 24, 2010  

Conservatives and libertarians often refer to liberals, especially those of the modern "progressive" variety, as being motivated by guilt. This view has a long pedigree: Robert Frost once defined a liberal as someone so high-minded that he won't take his own side in a quarrel.

At least as far as our current "progressives" go, I think this explanation of motivation is highly questionable. An essay by C S Lewis, written a little over 60 years ago, sheds some light on this matter.

During the late 1930s and up through the time when Lewis wrote (March 1940), there was evidently a movement among Christian youth to "repent" England's sins (which evidently were thought to include the treaty of Versailles) and to "forgive" England's enemies.

Young Christians especially..are turning to it in large numbers. They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England...Most of these young men were children...when England made many of those decisions to which the present disorders could plausibly be traced. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?

continued at Chicago Boyz

5:58 AM

Friday, July 23, 2010  

In the course of my work, I have become increasingly worried about the message offered by mainline Protestant churches (and some quarters of the Roman Catholic Church) about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Not only is the narrative offered by these institutions distorted, it has a negative impact on the safety of Jews throughout the world.


Part of the problem is that many people in mainline churches have embraced a view of history that portrays Western civilization as the dominant, if not unique source of suffering in the world today. Given this understanding, and the self-hate it engenders, members of these churches feel as if they deserve punishment.

Read the whole thing.

I completely agree that hostility toward Israel is usually coupled toward a more generalized hostility toward Western civilization (and such hostility is by no means a phenomenon specific to Christian churches, it can also be found in many secular settings--especially academia)....however, I don't think most of the people who think this way feel any sense of self-hate or guilt on a personal level...what they feel is rather moral superiority, and they think it's the rest of us, outside the sphere of morally-elevated "progressivism," who should feel guilty.

via Don Sensing

Update: more thoughts on this essay from Shrinkwrapped.

12:07 PM

Thursday, July 22, 2010  

The landing of light. Don't miss Anouk's latest photograph collection--these are incredible.

Cara Ellison suggests that you are (counter-intuitively) more likely to achieve your most important goal if you don't focus on it too exclusively.

A coup at Microsoft? Some senior executives are pretty unhappy with CEO Steve Ballmer.

iPad addiction. Henry Blodget's kids love this device, to the point that he thinks he's going to have to buy 2 more of them. (2 more iPads, that is, not 2 more kids)

Speaking of Apple, the company is increasing its focus on selling to small businesses. Increased support to businesses via the Apple stores, however, is likely to be perceived as a threat by the network of consultants who perform this function today.

Apparel manufacturing and female education in Bangladesh. Those Dark Satanic Mills do have their positive points.

Scary chart: Median duration of unemployment, 1967-2010. Don Sensing, from whom this link comes, has other scary pictures, too.

Bernanke's charts from yesterday are pretty scary, too.

7:06 AM

Wednesday, July 21, 2010  

Recently divulged information indicates that many journalists went to considerable lengths--individually and collectively--to downplay then-candidate Obama's relationship with the odious Reverend Jeremiah Wright. For those who follow politics and media closely, it's not exactly news that most old-media journalists have a strong bias to the Left, and often allow this bias to influence their work. What is a bit of a surprise is the degree to which collective orchestration--as opposed to "mere" social pressure--seems to have played a part. Much more on this affair from Robert Avrech.

It should now be pretty clear that for a considerable number of journalists, the promotion of their personal political beliefs comes ahead of their obligation to honestly and objectively inform their readers.

There are certainly many citizens who, had they been aware of the full story on Obama and his associations with Wright and other dubious characters, would have refrained from voting for him. Those among them who trusted the media were denied the information which they had a legitimate right to expect.

There may also be a question of fiduciary responsibility. Most major media outlets are publicly-traded corporations, or subsidiaries of publicly-traded corporations. It would seem that in many cases, the employees and/or executives of these companies not only put the promotion of their personal beliefs ahead of their responsibility to their readers/viewers, they also put such promotion ahead of their responsibility to their shareholders.

In aviation, when an instrument is giving faulty indications, good practice requires that it be covered up in order to prevent the pilot from inadvertently paying attention to their faulty information. Even when an instrument is believed to be functioning properly, it should be cross-checked when possible against the indications of other instruments.

Going forward, no rational individual should take action or form opinions based on the unchecked assertions of media outlets implicated in the above information-suppression. At a minimum, anything they say must be carefully cross-checked: in many cases, it will be advisable to just put the instrument cover on and ignore them completely.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:11 AM

Monday, July 19, 2010  

Marissa Evans was in the habit of asking her sister for advice on various prospective outfits. But the sister, a lawyer, was getting too busy to be available for short-turnaround fashion advice. So Marissa started a company.

GoTryItOn.com works this way: the advice-seeker post a photo of herself (usually herself, though a few guys make their appearance on the site), along with a brief description of the venue for which it is to be worn, and other participants offer ideas and advice. People whose advice is consistently well-appreciated get some sort of symbol (a gold star?) by their screen names.

Initial revenue source will be advertising; however, the company is also looking at a suggestion product and at consumer-to-consumer transactions, as in "I like that sweater, can I buy it from you?"

Video interview with Marissa Evans here. In tIhe interview, she mentions that all photos and responses are now being moderated: I haven't tried to do the math, but I'd guess that if this thing really succeeds, a fair number of moderators will be required for this function.

Who would have guessed, even 5 years ago, that there would be job opportunities for on-line-fashion-advice-approvers?

Previous cool startup stories

12:20 PM

Saturday, July 17, 2010  

Over 100 F-16 fighters will be converted into target drones.

Neptunus Lex: But wait: I flew the F-16, and although I was not always nice to it, it was always nice to me.

Here's Lex, describing his return after qualifying with the F-16 at Mach 2, ie twice the speed of sound:

I got my qual one day, and found myself way the hell out away from the airfield and needing to head back. I remember being strangely reluctant – moving so high, so fast, felt like the right thing to do, to keep doing. If I turned back, I’d have to slow down, and eventually land. If I landed I’d have to get out of the jet, and walk around. If I did that, I’d be merely human again.

And part of me didn’t want to be.

But I had to, so I eased the throttle back, and began a gentle turn back towards the field, preserving altitude for the long-range, fuel conserving descent back to the field. The contrails I had left behind during my series of climbs and descents scribed white arcs in the brilliant blue sky, and looked as if they had been left by some Herculean, strangely illiterate sky writer. I wanted them to be my signature upon the heavens, I wanted them to last forever.

But they didn’t of course. Nothing ever does.

8:59 PM


The American Spectator has a long article, written by Anthony Codevilla, on America's Ruling Class. It is a very long article, so you may want to print it out to read it...then kindly come over to Chicago Boyz, where this is cross-posted, and discuss.

I think the article somewhat overstates its case, but points to some trends which are very disturbing and are moving, in the wrong direction, very fast. This is important enough to deserve careful reading and extensive discussion.

Comments are open at Chicago Boyz.

Update: Grim has a useful summary of the article.

4:37 PM

Friday, July 16, 2010  

I've long was admired the work of Erin O'Connor, who writes at Critical Mass...indeed, Erin's blog was an important factor in motivating me to start blogging in the first place. So I pleased to see that Norm Geras has an interview with her up today. Check it out, and if you're not a regular reader of Erin's blog, check it out as well.

6:50 AM

Thursday, July 15, 2010  

Apparently, ministers in the Church of England have been banning the hymn "Jerusalem" (words by William Blake) on bizarre grounds of the politically-correct variety:

(some) ministers have complained that references to bows, arrows and spears are ‘too militaristic’ and not suitable for worship. The parish church of Parliament, St Margaret’s in Westminster, once refused to allow the hymn because the contrasting of ‘dark satanic mills’ with ‘green and pleasant land’ could alienate city-dwellers. The final verse, which describes striving to build Jerusalem in England, has also been branded ‘too nationalistic’.

In an astonishing outbreak of sanity, the CofE’s leadership urged ministers to stop banning this hymn, while the church's national worship development officer said that William Blake’s much-criticised lyrics can be used a springboard to explore deeper theological themes.

I'm not sure which is more unbelievable: the fact that the hymn was banned from many churches in the first place, or that the very PC leadership of the CofE actually found the courage to take a stand against the banning.

Related: Britain's failures in dealing with radical Islam.

CofE story via Ghost of a Flea

2:34 PM

Wednesday, July 14, 2010  

I posted a couple of weeks ago about the DOJ's decision to drop a voter-intimidation case--a case that had already been won--against the New Black Panther Party. Today, Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) is sending a letter to the DOJ Inspector General demanding a formal investigation of this matter. The letter is here.

Given that the independence of the Inspectors General seems to have been grievously compromised under the Obama administration, I'm afraid we can't expect too much from this request for IG involvement.

J Christian Adams, the career DOJ attorney who resigned in protest over the handling of the New Black Panther matter, also asserts that DOJ is failing to enforce provisions of the "Motor-Voter" law which require states to periodically purge invalid voters from the rolls. WSJ:

Last year, Justice abandoned a case it had pursued for three years against Missouri for failing to clean up its rolls. When filed in 2005, one-third of Missouri counties had more registered voters than voting-age residents. What's more, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat who this year is her party's candidate for a vacant U.S. Senate seat, contended that her office had no obligation to ensure individual counties were complying with the federal law mandating a cleanup of their voter rolls.

The case made slow but steady progress through the courts for more than three years, amid little or no evidence of progress in cleaning up Missouri's voter rolls. Despite this, Obama Justice saw fit to dismiss the case in March 2009.

There is growing evidence that the behavior of the Obama administration, together with that of its congressional enablers, represents a serious threat to the integrity of the democratic process and to the liberties of all Americans.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:14 AM

Monday, July 12, 2010  

The Federal oil spill response: stuck on stupid. (via Instapundit)

Sounds like Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) is pretty sleazy. I already knew she was pretty dumb.

Sinners in the hands of an angry Gaia.

Fjordman on the history of restaurants.

Spot the Northwest flight attendant. An interesting case study on the persistence of corporate culture and the circle of abuse. (via the Curious Cat)

Thoughts from Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos: "Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice." Very worthwhile reading.

Do the pastoral and the small-town romance flourish during dangerous times? Dusk in Autumn thinks that this is the case.

Etch-a-Sketch art work. (via Dr Helen)

The female lawyer Haiku collection from my Chicago Boyz colleague Lexington Green.

Cassandra thinks deeply about happiness.

AnoukAnge has a beautifully-done photo essay on her July 4th trip home.

6:50 PM


You may remember that back in April, the United Nations elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women. No, this was not an April Fool joke, not an article in the Onion, not a blog post from Iowahawk, but real news in the real world.

PowerLine was reminded of this story by today's headline: Iran human rights chief defends stoning sentence.

In other U.N. related news, the Security Council on Friday denounced the sinking of a South Korean ship--but managed to do this without denouncing anyone in particular for having sunk it.

Why do "progressives," and even many old-line liberals, continue to have such a worshipful attitude toward the U.N.? If you corner one of the latter and press him on this point, he will probably say something along the lines of, "It would be so wonderful if it worked, and people could just talk their problems out instead of fighting."

This attitude reminds me of the story of the engineer and the mathematician who were trapped at the bottom of a deep, dark well, with absolutely vertical and slippery sides. The engineer was in despair, but the mathematician was cheerful and optimistic.

"How on earth do you think we're ever going to get out of here?" asked the engineer.

"It's easy," responded the mathematician. "Assume a ladder."

Today's continuing U.N.-worship seems to me to contain a large element of ladder-assuming.

The WSJ article on the Korean resolution also notes that "More amazing still, the resolution that didn’t bark is being hailed as a deft way to lure North Korea back to the six party talks over its nuclear program. Follow the logic: Since the North wasn’t condemned for doing what everyone knows it did, the North’s leaders might now be appeased enough to return to the nuclear talks they walked out of last year. Sink a ship, and gain new diplomatic respect."

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

2:47 PM

Wednesday, July 07, 2010  

Caroline Glick:

In Britain today, hating Israel has become a valid criminal defense. This week five criminal defendants charged with destroying property valued at some $285,000 at the EDO MBM arms factory in Brighton during a January 2009 break-in were found innocent of all charges. They were found innocent despite the fact that all five admitted to having committed the crime....The jury found the five innocent because the jurors accepted as a valid defense the defendants' claim that they vandalized the EDO MBM plant because they wanted to prevent Israel from carrying out war crimes in Gaza. EDO MBM does business with the IDF, therefore, the defendants claimed and the jury agreed, it deserved to be attacked. In finding as they did, the jurors were acting in accordance with the guidance they received from the presiding judge...What this verdict shows is that in British courts, hatred of Israel has become a license to break the law.

I knew things had gotten rather strange in the UK, but this is unbelievable.

The attitudes of "progressivism," incubated largely in Western universities, have now become a serious threat to the survival of Western civilization.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

via Bookworm

10:29 AM

Tuesday, July 06, 2010  

An illuminated manuscript, dating from somewhere around the 5th century, has been found in Ethiopia and is being restored. Actually, the manuscript was discovered some time ago, but was originally thought to be from the 11th century. Radiocarbon dating confirms that it is much older, and it is now considered to be the oldest illustrated Christian book yet discovered.

Via The Anchoress, who has another picture from the manuscript. The colors are amazing, especially for a 1600-year-old book, and I hope someone puts more of them on-line someday.

8:07 AM


This report suggests that so many skimmer vessels are being deployed to fight the BP oil spill that there are not enough in reserve to meet the required contingency levels for any future oil spills--and, hence, that the Obama administration may able to legally justify its desired drilling moratorium.

Are the skimmer deployment levels really that high? I've seen other reports asserting that there are large numbers of skimmers sitting around doing nothing because of bureaucratic confusion and waffling. I wonder if---anywhere in the country, in any government or private organization---there is a list of all skimming vessels and their current status.

Regardless of the truth about the severity of the skimming-vessel shortage, you can bet that the Obama administration and the "progressives" will use this as ammunition to shut down offshore oil drilling, as part of their generalized hostility toward all practical energy sources and their desire to punish the American people for what they see as our excessive prosperity and energy use.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:15 AM

Saturday, July 03, 2010  

For the last several years, I've put up Fourth of July posts featuring the Stephen Vincent Benet poem Listen to the People, which was first read over nationwide radio on July 7, 1941--five months before Pearl Harbor. The link I've been using for the full text of the poem doesn't work anymore, but Google Books has the original Life magazine issue in which the complete poem appeared. It's on pages 90-96...link here.

Last year, I also linked a post by Cassandra which remains highly relevant. See also her post for this year.

Interesting item here on a significant terminology change between an early draft of the Declaration of Independence and the final version.

Since the Life version of the Benet poem is a little cumbersome to read on-line, here's the beginning part as simple text...

continued at Chicago Boyz

7:28 PM

Friday, July 02, 2010  

Here's a manufacturing company which has reviewed 3600 job applications while seeking to hire 100 new employees...and found only 47 people so far who can meet its hiring standards. The key issue: they need employees who can read and understand math at a 9th grade level.

Other companies have reported similar concerns.

Mass production of goods may not be as big a part of the American economy as it once was, but there is one kind of mass production at which our society has become very, very good: the mass production of ignorance. This form of mass production is carried out on a large scale by far too many of America's public schools, with "process design" by American's disgraceful ed schools.

Meanwhile, naive idiots drive around with bumper stickers saying things like "Won't it be great when the schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a new bomber?" There is, of course, no amount of money sufficiently large to make the schools function effectively as long as they are largely managed by politicians for the purpose of rewarding political allies, using approaches designed by ed-school professors eager to show their alignment with the fads du jour.

See also my post cookie monster.

UPDATE: Here's an item on the inability of many college graduates to perform simple mental tasks...an example being, "Go to this person's bio online and write a three or four -sentence version of their bio for us to include in a conference packet." The author says that most of the interviewees who have proven unable to function at this level are graduates of so-called "elite" colleges.

via Joanne Jacobs

12:21 PM

Thursday, July 01, 2010  

Iran has transferred an advanced radar system to Syria. According to the WSJ report, this has at least three strategic implications. First, it helps to protect Hezbollah from Israeli retaliatory strikes. Second, it makes more difficult an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Third, it improves the accuracy of Hezbollah missile attacks, including potential SCUD attacks on Israeli cities. (Presumably by allowing observation of the missile trajectory up through its final stages so that the aim of succeeding missiles can be adjusted.)

WSJ says that the transfer was a "blow to U.S. strategy on Damascus." It also should have been a totally predictable one.

The radar report is likely to place greater pressure on the Syria strategy of the Obama administration, which has aimed to tamp down tensions with Syria as it tries to rebuild diplomatic ties.

U.S. officials including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who sent a high-level trade delegation to Damascus in June, continue to argue that Washington has the best hope of altering Syrian President Bashar Assad's behavior, and weakening his alliance with Tehran, through diplomatic dialogue.

In dealing with regimes like that of Syria, diplomacy is useful only when backed by the credible threat of military force and by a clear willingness to stand by committments to allies. Obama's feckless policies have greatly reduced our credibility on the military dimension, while his evident hostility toward Israel offers great encouragement to that country's enemies. Hillary Clinton, who should know better and quite possibly does, is acting as his enabler.

Speaking of radar systems, see this item about the way in which poor maintenance policies are damaging the effectiveness of the naval AEGIS system. Note that these problems threaten not only the traditional role of AEGIS in supporting air/sea combat, but also its new role as a ballistic missile defense system.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:38 AM

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