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
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the daily brief
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012  

Obama and his political operatives have decided to rebrand those Americans now under 40 as "Gen44." Specifically, Gen44 is the name of his "council to cultivate and empower a rising generation of leaders in the Democratic Party."

Why the number 44? Why, that would be because Obama is the 44th President of the United States, of course. It's all about him. As Tina Korbe writes:

Can you say, “hubris,” anyone? It’s almost like pleading to restart the calendar with 2008 as 1 Anno Obama.

Every time I think I have fully grasped the height of this man's arrogance and the depth of his narcissism, I find that I have underestimated both.

Can anyone imagine Lincoln calling his reelection campaign "Gen16?" Obama's self-positioning in this matter as in so many others is not that of a democratically-elected hired executive leader; it is that of an absolute monarch or totalitarian dictator.

And what of those core supporters of Obama who are willing--even eager--to submit themselves to uncritical leader-worship? How, in a free society, did we ever wind up with a considerable number of such people?

(links via Bookworm)

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

1:07 PM

Tuesday, March 27, 2012  
by Eugene Yelchin

Saw this book on the new-books-for-kids table at the local library, and it looked unusual enough that I picked it up and checked it out. The story covers 2 days in the life of Sasha Zaichik, a boy who lives in Russia sometime during the Stalin era.

Far too little attention has been paid--by academics, the film industry, and the media in general--to the crimes committed in the name of Communism. Claire Berlinski, in her post a hidden history of evil, notes the astonishing lack on interest in copies of secret Kremlin archives that have been smuggled out of Russia. “I offer them free of charge to the most influential newspapers and journals in the world, but nobody wants to print them,” says one former Soviet dissident. “Editors shrug indifferently: So what? Who cares?”

So I applaud Eugene Velchin for writing this book, Henry Holt & Co for publishing it, and the American Library Association for giving it a Newbery Honor award.

Sasha is 10 years old, devoted to Communism and to his father, who works as an official of the secret police. He has finally reached the age at which he is eligible to become a member of the Young Pioneers, and is looking forward to the ceremony at which he will receive the red scarf signifying his membership in this organization.

Then his father is arrested...

A quick and gripping read, with illustrations by the author.

Yelchin has a synopsis of the book, with background information and photos, on his website. Link here.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:42 AM

Friday, March 23, 2012  

It's been reported that GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who is also head of Obama's jobs council, is increasingly appalled at the President's economic ideas. Charlie Gasparino says:

Friends describe Immelt as privately dismayed that, even after three years on the job, President Obama hasn’t moved to the center, but instead further left. The GE CEO, I’m told, is appalled by everything from the president’s class-warfare rhetoric to his continued belief that big government is the key to economic salvation.

The "Just Unbelievable" title of this post does not refer to Mr Immelt's belated recognition of the problems with Obamaism (if such has really occurred--the Gasparino story is based soley on unidentified sources)--but rather to the headline that the major financial website Business Insider chose to put on this story:

GASPARINO: Here's Why GE CEO Jeff Immelt Is Going To Stab Obama In The Back

(The "stab in the back" phrase does not actually appear in the Gasparino article, but was added by the BI author or headline-writer)

continued at Chicago Boyz

5:33 AM

Tuesday, March 20, 2012  

Amazon is acquiring Kiva Systems for $775 million in cash. Kiva makes robotic systems for picking, packing, and shipping products in fulfillment centers for distribution operations. It seems clear that Kiva is intended to play a dual role at Amazon: supporting Amazon's own distribution centers, and generating expanded revenues through the sale of Kiva systems to other companies.

There is a parallel with what Amazon has been doing in cloud services: Amazon developed an extensive set of capabilities for data center operations, which it needed to support its massive e-commerce business, and several years ago began selling these capabilities to other companies as well as using them internally. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud has now become a leading provider, perhaps the dominant provider, in the cloud services marketplace.

Use of a technology investment both to support internal operations of a company and as the base for an externally-saleable product or service has a strong appeal; however, it can be fraught with problems. Priority decisions in product development are likely to become highly politicized due to the conflicts between internal needs and the demands of the external marketplace, and potential external customers can be scared off by fear of being put in the position of competing with their supplier. Amazon's success with Cloud, however, builds confidence in their ability to navigate these tricky waters successfully.

Interestingly, Kiva is backed by Bain Capital Ventures.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

4:54 AM

Thursday, March 15, 2012  

...a selection of the passages I bookmarked in the Kemble journals.

On American women

The dignified and graceful influence which married women, among us, exercise over the tone of manners, uniting the duties of home to the charms of social life, and bearing, at once, like the orange-tree, the fair fruits of maturity with the blossoms of their spring, is utterly unknown here. Married women are either house-drudges and nursery-maids, or, if they appear in society, comparative ciphers ; and the retiring, modest, youthful bearing, which among us distinguishes girls of fifteen or sixteen, is equally unknown. Society is entirely led by chits, who in England would be sitting behind a pinafore ; the consequence is, that it has neither the elegance, refinement, nor the propriety which belongs to ours ; but is a noisy, rackety, vulgar congregation of flirting boys and girls, alike without style or decorum.

On the absence of desperate poverty in America

This country is in (one) respect blessed above all others, and above all others deserving of blessing. There are no poor I say there are none, there need be none ; none here need lift up the despairing voice of hopeless and help less want towards that Heaven which hears when men will not. No father here need work away his body s health, and his spirit s strength, in unavailing labour, from day to day, and from year to year, bowed down by the cruel curse his fellows lay upon him. ..Oh, it makes the heart sick to think of all the horrible anguish that has been suffered by thousands and thousands of those wretched creatures, whose want begets a host of moral evils fearful to contemplate; whose existence begins in poverty, struggles on through care and toil, and heart-grinding burdens, and ends in destitution, in sickness, alas! too often in crime and infamy. Thrice blessed is this country, for no such crying evil exists in its bosom; no such moral reproach, no such political rottenness. Not only is the eye never offended with those piteous sights of human suffering, which make one s heart bleed, and whose number appals one s imagination in the thronged thoroughfares of the European cities ; but the mind reposes with delight in he certainty that not one human creature is here doomed to suffer and to weep through life ;not one immortal soul is thrown into jeopardy by the combined temptations of its own misery, and the heartless self ishness of those who pass it by without holding out so much as a finger to save it. If we have any faith in the excellence of mercy and benevolence, we must believe that this alone will secure the blessing of Providence on this country,

continued at Chicago Boyz

5:39 AM

Wednesday, March 07, 2012  

Captain Carroll LeFon, USN (retired)...known to the blogosphere as Neptunus Lex....was killed yesterday. Lex was flying an Israeli-made Kfir fighter for a contractor that provides "adversary" services for training U.S. combat pilots. Details of the accident are not yet clear; however, it's been reported that weather conditions included both fog and snow.

This is a terrible loss. Lex was a great writer and an incisive thinker, extraordinarily well-read in literature and history. He must have been a great officer; some of his leadership qualities can be seen his discussion of various shipboard incidents and the gentle but firm way he managed the occasional out-of-control comments exchange on his blog. He was a true patriot, devoted to his family, he loved the Navy, and he loved aviation. He had a great sense of humor, and he was that rare thing, a truly morally serious person.

Herewith, a collection of some of my favorite Neptunus Lex posts...

The captain wakes before dawn...with a feeling that all is not well with the ship

Reading Solzhenitsyn at the US Naval Academy

Movie vs reality. Lex, who served as executive officer of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN), answers some question's from his daughter's friend about the movie.

Hornets, Tomcats, Scooters, Girls & Guys, Oh My!

Lex, in a pensive mood

Some reflections on a less-than-perfect carrier landing, a verbal interchange that probably shouldn't have happened, and the nature of leadership

Have you ever killed anyone? asked the massage therapist, after learning that Lex had been in the Navy.

You're having a dinner party and have the magical ability to invite 10 people--5 men and 5 women--from all of history. Who would you pick?

Tennyson's Ulysses, personalized and hyperlinked. Created by Lex to mark his retirement from the Navy. Perhaps my favorite of all of Lex's posts, and particularly appropriate today.

As Cassandra says, quoting Hamlet:

He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

3:07 PM

Monday, March 05, 2012  

As the election approaches, Obama is turning up the volume on his assertions that he's been a great friend to Israel.

This video tells a different story, and I think clearly a much truer one.

The video is long...30 minutes...but it is well-done. If you value the safety and survival of Israel...if you are concerned about the threat of terrorism to Americans and others around the world...if you believe it would be a very bad thing for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons...and if you are even remotely considering voting for Barack Obama or sitting out the election, then you owe it to yourself to watch this video.

link via Robert Avrech

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

2:06 PM

Sunday, March 04, 2012  

How hyper-regulation has choked the Greek economy: the Athens bookstore and cafe that can't sell books or serve coffee

The plague of bureaucracy is not limited to Greece: read about trying to open an ice cream shop in San Francisco

Sibling of Daedalus has some photographs of the Dublin parks

A selection of landscapes

Revolutionaries and outlaws: one thing they tend to have in common

Hiring college graduates for low-level jobs and letting them sort themselves out based on skill and drive: the occupational centrifuge

Entrepreneur Phil Sugar has some thoughts about the management of growing companies

9:39 AM

Friday, March 02, 2012  

I've read that the above slogan was prominently displayed at polling places during the "elections" held during the early years of the Nazi regime. While the only definitive links on I can find on this poster are at the search summary screen here, it is clear that these elections (in 1933, 1936, and 1938) were marked by a climate of extreme intimidation, as well as the banning of opposition parties. This link suggests that to the extent people were still able to choose to vote by secret ballot, surreptitious means were used to identify those who had voted "incorrectly."

In Venezuela, in 2003, dictator-in-waiting Hugo Chavez asserted that "those who sign against Chavez are signing against their country and against the future", and added, "whoever signs against Chavez, there will remain his name recorded for history.

And in the United States in 2012, a tweet sent out under the name of and with the evident approval of Barack Obama said:

Add your name to demand that the Koch brothers make their donors public: http://OFA.BO/mfLtZX

(The reference is to the organization Americans for Prosperity, to which the Kochs have contributed but of which they are not officers or directors.)

Pressuring a political organization to make the names of its donors public is intimidation, pure and simple. Should Obama win a second term, you can expect the level of intimidation directed against American citizens not in his camp to rise to levels which are now almost unimaginable.

via Ricochet

Also see PowerLine: Why can't the Obama administration make its case without disseminating hate?

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

2:10 PM

Thursday, March 01, 2012  

I knew that Fanny Kemble was a 19th-century British actress, but that's about all I knew about her prior to encountering her description of an 1830 train ride and thoughts about the contrasting attributes and social values of George Stephenson the engineer and Lord Alvanley the aristocrat. Fanny seemed like an astute observer and a good thinker, and one of the first things I did after getting my Kindle was to download her very extensive memoirs. She was born in 1809 to a noted theatrical family, achieved fame as an actress in both Britain and America, wrote two plays and a novel, married an American plantation owner and lived in coastal Georgia, and throughout her life recorded her thoughts and observations in her journal and in letters to friends. Publication of her impressions of America (in 1835) created quite a stir, as did the 1863 publication of her plantation journal, with its searing observations about the realities of slavery.

Fanny's writing is a valuable source for anyone interested in the social history of Britain and America during her era; she also has many thoughts about the theater and especially about the plays of Shakespeare; her writing is vivid, intelligent, and often quirky. She can quickly segue from an aesthetic observation of a railway journey to thoughts about governance and religion:

The road from Birmingham here is quite pretty; the country in a most exquisite state of leaf and blossom; the crops look extremely well along this route; and the little cottage gardens, which delight my heart with their tidy cheerfulness, are so many nosegays of laburnum, honeysuckle, and lilac.

The stokers on all the engines that I saw or met this morning had adorned their huge iron dragons with great bunches of hawthorn and laburnum, which hung their poor blossoms close to the hissing hot breath of the boilers, and looked wretched enough. But this dressing up the engines, as formerly the stage-coach horses used to be decked with bunches of flowers at their ears on Mayday, was touching.

I suppose the railroad men get fond of their particular engine, though they can't pat and stroke it, as sailors do of their ship. Speculate upon that form of human love. I take it there is nothing which, being the object of a man's occupation, may not be made also that of his affection, pride, and solicitude, too. Were we—people in general, I mean—Christians, forms of government would be matters of quite secondary importance; in fact, of mere expediency. A republic, such as the American, being the slightest possible form of government, seems to me the best adapted to an enlightened, civilized Christian community, a community who deserve that name; and, you know, the theory of making people what they should be is to treat them better than they deserve—an axiom that holds good in all moral questions, of which political government should be one.

Fanny's father Charles, himself a noted Shakespearean actor, unfortunately took an investment and management interest in the Covent Garden Theater--which position carried personal liability for the theater's debts and kept the family in scary financial straits for many years. It was largely in the hope of creating a new star who would bring in ticket revenues and head off financial disaster that Fanny was first put on stage, in the role of Juliet, in 1829. She quickly achieved great popular acclaim, but the bottomless quicksand of Covent Garden's finances led Charles to organize a theatrical tour in the United States for himself and his daughter.

The decision to publish Fanny's journal describing her impressions of America was driven by the need to generate money for the care of a beloved aunt who had suffered a serious carriage accident. The publishing project was vehemently opposed by Fanny's new American husband, Pierce Butler, whom she married in 1834, and the conflict set the tone for what was to be a disastrous marriage.

The "Journal of a Residence in America" got a lot of attention, much of it negative. Edgar Allan Poe objected to Fanny's "dictatorial manner" and felt that the self-confident tone of the book was contrary to "American notions of the retiring delicacy of the female character"...yet he went on to speak of the "sound sense and unwelcome truth" of much of her comment and the book's "vivacity of style" and "beautiful descriptions." On the other side of the Atlantic, soon-to-be Queen Victoria told her diary that the book was "very pertly and oddly written...not well bred"..."full of trash and nonsense which could only do harm"....yet a few days later she was admitting that there were "some very fine feelings in it."

continued at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

4:07 AM

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