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, April 30, 2012  

It's been obvious for some time that Obama simply cannot stand Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It's also increasingly obvious that the President feels a real sense of liking for and fellow-spiritedness with Turkish leader Recep Erdogan, who has moved his country away from secular democracy and disturbingly far in the direction of Islamic fundamentalism and hostility to Israel.

Which says plenty about the kind of leadership we are getting from Obama himself.

More here.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

5:11 AM

Saturday, April 28, 2012  

Nick Schulz interviews Jim Manzi about Manzi's forthcoming book Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society. Excerpt from the interview:

We are all, to some extent, the prisoners of our experience. Like everyone, my experiences have surely created numerous biases to which, by definition, I am blind. But I have drawn some conscious lessons from my various jobs. Mostly, I suppose they relate to humility about how much harder it is to get anything done out there in the world than it seems like it ought to be when you read about it in a book or discuss it in a conference room. 

A good example is that I think that most mainstream economists radically underestimate the importance in any business of what in another context Carl von Clausewitz called "friction." Headquarters rarely knows what is going on in the field; people in frontline positions have little idea of the big picture, and react to local conditions as best they can; entrepreneurs are mostly making it up as they go, and so on. Economists are of course aware of this issue conceptually, but their attempts to incorporate it into their models of the firm and the economy are inadequate in the extreme. As compared to mainstream economic doctrine, therefore, I believe that uncertainty plays a far bigger role in real world decision-making, that quantitative models of the economy are less useful as guides to action, and that trial-and-error learning as embodied in existing institutions and practices is more important.
(via Grim's Hall)

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

3:13 PM

Friday, April 27, 2012  

Building traditional dhows in Oman

The myth of the benign nature of herbal remedies

Does the acquisition of an oil refinery by Delta Air Lines make any sense? Virginia Postrel thinks not.

What's wrong with Sony? (see also my 2005 post on the problems with then-CEO Howard Stringer's views on "synergy)

Incredible pictures of the Holy Land, from 120 years ago

Newly-released photos of New York City, going back to the 1800s. (See also these NYC photos from the 1940s, which I've linked here previously)

A hybrid car from 1916

Why are barns painted red?

9:08 AM

Monday, April 23, 2012  

Last week, long-time Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen published an extremely vitriolic column attacking Mitt Romney as "a man of falsehoods." What I want to focus on in this post, though, is not the positives and negatives of Mr Romney, but rather the concluding paragraph of Cohen's article:

He often cites his business background as commending him for the presidency. That’s his forgivable absurdity. Instead, what his career has given him is the businessman’s concept of self — that what he does is not who he is. This is what enables the slumlord to be a charitable man. This is what enables the corporate raider to endow his university. Business is business. It’s what you do. It is not who you are. Lying isn’t a sin. It’s a business plan.

So, in Cohen's view, the businessman's "concept of self" inherently involves a separation of what he does from who he is...a more forthright way he could have put this, I guess, would have been to simply say that all businessmen are weasels. (It's interesting that Cohen chooses to use the term "businessman" rather than the gender-neutral term "businessperson." Does he believe that there are no female slumlords? Does he think women inherently lack the analytical skills and competitive spirit required to be a successful corporate raider?) Evidently, Cohen believes that businesspeople are much more prone to unethical behavior ("Lying isn't a sin. It's a business plan.") than are, say, tort lawyers, college professors, civil-service employees, or the executives of "nonprofit" organizations.

Of course, there is a long tradition of aristocrats looking down their long noses at those who are "in trade." (Although I expect that average aristocrat's view of a newspaper columnist wouldn't be much more positive than his view of a storeowner or a factory manager.)

Cohen is far from being on the leftmost pole of the Washington journalistic establishment, and that fact that he feels able to make such pejorative drive-by assertions about the nature of businesspeople, without the need to build a case for their validity, speaks volumes about the current climate of opinion among those who today identify themselves as liberals and "progressives"--ie, the controlling elements of the Democratic Party.

A corporate executive who despised salespeople or manufacturing people would be unlikely to be able to run the sales function or the manufacturing function of his company effectively. There is no chance that politicians from a party dominated by people like Cohen--and much worse--will be able to supervise a free-market economy in a way leading to sustainable economic recovery and growth.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

5:18 AM

Thursday, April 19, 2012  

Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. Screenwriter Robert Avrech has posted the first part of his Emmy-award-winning film The Devil's Arithmetic, which is based on Jane Yolen's book of the same name, for on-line viewing.

The DVD is available from the usual sources, including Amazon and Netflix. Highly recommended.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

7:20 AM

Wednesday, April 18, 2012  

The 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Toyko raid is being marked at the National Museum of the USAF near Dayton, OH. Four of the original raiders will be present.

Video here.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

9:32 AM

by Cynthia Bass

Speaking of the Titanic....there must have been at least a thousand books written about this ship, and quite a few of these books have been getting a marketing push from the 100th anniversary of the sinking. One worthy book that could have done with a little marketing assistance is this 1998 novel, which currently stands at #5,797,127 on Amazon.

Passenger Sumner Jordan is a 12-year-old from a wealthy Boston family, returning from a visit to his father in England. Sumner was named for the abolitionist Charles Sumner, who was beaten and nearly killed--on the Senate floor--by a proponent of slavery, and he desperately wants to live up to the level of courage shown by his namesake. He has a crush on 19-year-old Ivy Earhshaw, a dedicated suffragette.

When the ship hits the iceberg, each of them will have some decisions to make about ideals versus personal safety.

(Writing this review from memory and information on Amazon, since I can't find my copy and it's not available on Kindle)

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

8:01 AM

Monday, April 16, 2012  

(I originally posted this in early 2010--today seems like an appropriate day for a re-post)

Chevy Chase, MD, is an affluent suburb of Washington DC. Median household income is over $200K, and a significant percentage of households have incomes that are much, much higher. Stores located in Chevy Chase include Tiffany & Co, Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Saks-Jandel.

PowerLine observed that during the 2008 election season, yards in Chevy Chase were thick with Obama signs--and wonders how these people are now feeling about the prospect of sharp tax increases for people in their income brackets.

The PowerLine guys are very astute, but I think they're missing a key point on this one. There are substantial groups of people who stand to benefit financially from the policies of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid triumvirate, and these benefits can greatly outweigh the costs of any additional taxes that these policies require them to pay. Many of the residents of Chevy Chase--a very high percentage of whom get their income directly or indirectly from government activities--fall into this category.

continued at Chicago Boyz

7:06 PM

Saturday, April 14, 2012  

Ran across some information about a project to create an open-source Jacquard loom. A Jacquard has the ability to weave elaborately-patterned fabrics by controlling each individual warp thread in the weaving process. Machines that can handle a large number of threads are pretty costly...numbers I've seen are in the $30K-60K range...and there are evidently a lot of hobbyists and small businesspeople who would like such a loom but are unable to afford one. Hence, the open-source loom project.

The Jacquard is important in the history of technology, and I've been intending to write about this topic for a while. A good source is Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age, by James Essinger. (I'm not a weaver, so hope that those who are will forgive and correct any inaccuracies or incorrect use of terminology in this post.)

Traditionally, the weaving of patterned fabric was a very labor intensive process requiring that for each throw of the shuttle, a number of cords must be pulled or not pulled in order to lift or not lift specific threads. Essinger estimates only 1 inch of fabric per day, for a weaver and his assistant, could be produced--so these fabrics were definitely luxury goods.

continued at Chicago Boyz

5:14 PM

Thursday, April 12, 2012  

Don't miss this photo essay.

7:29 PM


(And yes, Timbuktu is a real place)

See post by Claire Berlinski.

7:26 PM

Wednesday, April 11, 2012  

The medallion system for taxicabs: basically a form of sharecropping

Victor Davis Hanson on the city mouse and the country mouse

Why large companies often fail to keep their top talent

(I think the assumption that these factors apply only to large companies is quite incorrect)

Why top talent leaves: 10 reasons boiled down 1

Watering and fertilizing an entrepreneurial desert

Members of the millennial generation don't seem to care all that much about cars

New York City: photos from the 1940s

Photos from Rumania

Some good photos from Segovia and Madrid

Forbes: the world's most beautiful cities

Athena encounters the technology of the ancients

8:55 AM

Tuesday, April 10, 2012  

Last week Ginny critiqued an article by a University of Iowa professor, in which said professor (who moved to Iowa from San Francisco 20 years ago) had some not-terribly-positive things to say about the people among whom he has spent the last two decades and remarked that of the places he has lived, many of them foreign countries, "none has been more foreign to me than Iowa."

Coincidentally, while resorting documents in my office I ran into the July/August 04 issue of the (sadly now defunct) magazine The American Enterprise, which has several articles on the theme "Plain America," that is, western, midwestern, and rural America. Happily, the whole issue is online, and these essays are thoughtful and thought-provoking. They include:

--a piece on the cowboy archetype, by Andrew and Judith Kleinfield
--growing up in Fargo, by James Lileks
--culture in Inner America, by Bill Kauffman
--rediscovering our Midwest, by Joel Kotkin
--small lives well-lived in small places, by Blake Hurst
--the significance of the Lewis and Clark expedition, by Karl Zinsmeister
--some thoughts by the then-governor of Colorado, Bill Owens

These essays make a good complement to Ginny's post. The text display format used at the linked site is not greatly to my liking, but it is readable, and it's well worth doing so.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

7:40 AM

Monday, April 09, 2012  

...would be the predictable result of a second Obama term. So says Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, in this video.

via Instapundit

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

7:47 AM

Saturday, April 07, 2012  

A man’s admiration of absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him

--Alexis de Tocqueville, from the preface to his The Old Regime and the (French) Revolution. (Via PowerLine)

Translations of this passage differ: the one quoted above is from this version. A different translation renders the phrase as "contempt for one's country." The actual French phrase used in the original is son pays. Either way, the point is pretty similar.

The thread of previous Worth Pondering posts starts here.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

3:56 PM

Thursday, April 05, 2012  

In Britain, an 83-year-old woman has been told that she must find a new medical practice, because travel to the one she has been attending for the last 30 years involves an unacceptable carbon footprint.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

12:50 PM

Wednesday, April 04, 2012  

The Sibling of Daedalus, who writes from Dublin, has returned to the blogosphere. Note that her URL has changed and is now:


7:36 PM

Monday, April 02, 2012  

Daniel Henninger, writing in the WSJ, argues that the Democrats--and Obama in particular--are very good at the emotional appeal to voters: the Republicans, focusing on logical argument, not so much.

Mr. Obama may not know much about the private economy, but he knows a lot about the uses of human anxiety. ..How can a president simultaneously hammer real job creation with the Keystone XL pipeline decision, then go into the country and claim kinship with the anxieties of the jobless? No problem. Just do it.

It could work. If we know nothing else about Barack Obama it is that he can play "hope" like a Stradivarius.

Read the whole depressing thing. I'd also note that Mitt Romney, in particular, has some real gaps in the ability-to-appeal-to-emotions department.

Related: the coolness/squareness factor in politics.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

5:44 PM

Sunday, April 01, 2012  

Services for Captain Carroll LeFon...Neptunus Lex...were held Tuesday March 26 at Fort Rosencrans...I wasn't there, but a large number of Lex's blogfriends were present in addition to his family, colleagues, and real-life friends. The flyover was, appropriately, by a U.S. Navy F-18 and an ATAC Kfir.

There are now more than 1600 comments on this memorial thread, and another 200+ here...many of them quite eloquent, such as this one:

I will be there, in spirit… Not as an eagle, but as a badger

Many people have written tributes to Lex on their own blogs. Fuzzybear Lioness reposted a piece she wrote in 2008, on the occasion of Lex's retirement from the Navy, in which she describes getting to know the Captain via blog and email and later meeting him in person. Well worth reading. Also, someone found a "Friday Musings" post from a few years back featuring Lex himself, on video.

My own selection of favorite Lex posts can be found here.

A new blog, The Lexicans, has been formed in order to continue the great community that grew up at Neptunus Lex. Hopefully all Lexicans and recent Lex-discoverers will check it out. And I understand that the U.S. Naval Institute plans to publish in book form "Rhythms," Lex's book-in-progress about life on an aircraft carrier, and possibly the blog itself as well.

It was a pleasure reading you and learning from you, Lex, and it was an honor to be listed as a "Wingman" on your blogroll.

cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open

6:53 PM

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