Sunday, March 09, 2014
ATTACK OF THE ROBOT BUREAUCRATS
Via Bookworm, here is a truly appalling story from Minnesota. When the fire alarm went off at Como Park High School, a 14-year-old girl was rousted out of the swimming pool, and–dripping wet and wearing only a swimsuit–directed to go stand outside were the temperature was sub-zero and the wind chill made it much worse. Then, she was not allowed to take refuge in one of the many cars in the parking lot because of a school policy forbidding students from sitting in a faculty member’s car. As Bookworm notes:
Even the lowest intelligence can figure out that the rule’s purpose is to prevent teachers from engaging sexually with children. The likelihood of a covert sexual contact happening between Kayona and a teacherunder the actual circumstances is ludicrous. The faculty cars were in full view of the entire school. There was no chance of illicit sexual congress.
But the whole nature of bureaucratic rules, of course, is to forbid human judgment based on actual context.
Fortunately for Kayona, her fellow students hadn’t had human decency ground out of them by rules: “…fellow students, however, demonstrated a grasp of civilized behavior. Students huddled around her and some frigid classmates [sic], giving her a sweatshirt to put around her feet. A teacher coughed up a jacket.” As the children were keeping Kayona alive, the teachers were workingtheir way through the bureaucracy. After a freezing ten minutes, an administrator finally gave permission for the soaking wet, freezing Kayla to set in a car in full view of everybody.
As Bookworm notes, this sort of thing is becoming increasingly common. In England in 2009, for example, a man with a broken back lay in 6 inches of water, but paramedics refused to rescue him because they weren’t trained for water rescues. Dozens of similar examples could easily be dredged up.
The behavior of these bureaucrats is very similar to the behavior of a computer program confronted by a situation for which its designers did not explicitly provide. Sometimes the results will be useless, sometimes they will be humorous, often they will be harmful or outright disastrous.
Last year in Sweden, there was rampant rioting that included the torching of many cars. The government of Sweden didn’t do a very good job of protecting its citizens and their property from this outbreak of barbarism. Government agents did, however, fulfill their duty of issuing parking tickets…to burned-out cars. Link with picture. In my post The Reductio as Absurdum of Bureaucratic Liberalism, I said…
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
A LITTLE ADVICE FOR BARACK OBAMA
…in musical form.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open
Monday, March 03, 2014
SPIRITUAL BATTLES AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS
Beginning with the abolition of slavery, the bitter battles of American political life have often been fought over spiritual issues. It’s hard to know, for example, what else Prohibition was about. And yet the great moralizing and spiritualizing of American politics feels different these days, more complete, more all-encompassing. It’s as though our public life were not a political stadium in which spiritual footballs sometimes appear; rather the field itself has become religious. Our public life is now a supernatural game and our purely political concerns have been reduced to nothing more than footballs with which we happen to play that public game of spiritual redemption.
RTWT. I think there’s considerable truth to this: much “progressive” politics is driven by people seeking meaning in their lives, and the ostensible issues are merely markers in that search. On the other hand, though, much “progressivism” is simply about an individual’s assertion of a status position (actual or desired), and the apparent political issue is merely a “football” (to use Bottum’s term) in this status game…no spiritual angst necessarily involved. And one important aspect of status in today’s world, in many circles at least, is being perceived as “cool.”
Behind every awful, dangerous decision lurks one evil beast: the Cool.
From politics to the personal, from fashion to food, from the campus to the locker room, the desire to be cool has infected all aspects of our lives. At its most harmless, it is annoying. At its worst, it is deadly, on a massive scale.
Sunday, March 02, 2014
A HUNGER FOR NORMALCY?
The aesthetic criteria are pure cover, of course. The Oscars actually register which films the Hollywood elite think they ought to like. This is much more useful than a prize for merit. It provides a sense of the approved story lines of mass culture.
…and goes on to say that what he sees projected in the front-runners and in many other recent films is a hunger for normalcy:
This narrative is a marked change from previous years. Hollywood, and American moviegoers generally, likes the win. The common wisdom is that it wants not just a happy ending, but a triumph. Up! not down. Think Rocky. Think Gladiator, and Slumdog Millionaire, and Argo, and The King’s Speech….Obviously we can no longer stomach such victories. The story of overcoming and making a better world simply won’t fly anymore. Our version of winning, at this point, is simply being a human being, having your feet in the tall grass, having a family, being able to talk to a person in the flesh. Those are the “big wins” in America in 2013, at least by the lights of the nominees for best picture.
You can’t say it doesn’t fit the mood. We want everything to get back to normal. We want employment to return at the end of a recession. We want the American government to work again. None of it seems too much to ask, but obviously it is.
I’m reminded of a passage in C S Lewis’s fantasy novel That Hideous Strength. The protagonist, Mark Studdock, is being held captive by a sinister cult. The room in which he is being held is intended, via both its structure and its artistic decorations, to create a maximum sense of disorientation in the prisoner. But:
...the built and painted perversity of this room had the effect of making him aware, as he had never been aware before, of this room’s opposite. As the desert first teaches men to love water, or as absence first reveals affection, there rose up against this background of the sour and the crooked some kind of vision of the sweet and the straight. Something else – something he vaguely called the “Normal” – apparently existed. He had never thought about it before. But there it was solid, massive, with a shape of its own, almost like something you could touch, or eat, or fall in love with. It was all mixed up with Jane and fried eggs and soap and sunlight and the rooks cawing at Cure Hardy and the thought that, somewhere outside, daylight was going on at that moment. He was not thinking in moral terms at all; or else (what is much the same thing) he was having his first deeply moral experience.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
OPENING THE ABSCESS
I’ve previously quoted a passage from the memoirs of General Edward Spears, who was Churchill’s emissary to France in 1940. There was a disturbing amount of defeatism, and in some cases actual sympathy with the Nazi enemy, among certain government officials and other French elites. Weygand’s friend Henri de Kerillis, a Deputy and newpaper editor, had been consistently pressing Prime Minister Daladier to investigate some sinister behavior by members of the extreme Right.
“Il faut de’brider l’abces,” he had said time and time again to the Premier. He had done so again lately and received this strange answer: I have done exactly what you urged, I have opened the abscess, but it was so deep the scalpal disappeared down it, and had I gone on, my arm would have followed.” This was really very frightening, and I said so. “You cannot be more frightened than I am,” said Kerillis.
I was reminded again of this passage by some links concerning the abuse of power by Obama’s IRS. See the below excerpts from a video interview with Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who represents several individuals victimized by IRS misconduct over the past four years:
As Don Sensing says, “The IRS has become an enforcement tool of political hegemony.” I hope he is wrong when he continues:
And what is going to be done about it? Nothing. Obama has already said there is “not a smidgen of corruption” in the IRS, and as far as the news media Ministry of Truth is concerned, that’s the end of the story.It does not matter that this information is coming to light and being made public. From the president on down, the despotism will continue unabated — secretly if possible, in the open if necessary. There is no one in the country who has both the ability and the desire to stop it.The Democrats can stop it, but they are the perpetrators and even the ones who are not actively committing these crimes support them. They have the ability but certainly not the desire.
The Republicans (but by no means even half of them) have the desire but not the ability. They have abandoned the fight anyway.
The national media and the Democrat party are indistinguishable so there will be no protest raised by them.
All of these abuses will repeat in 2016 with the same effect as in 2012: opposition to the ruling party will be smothered and the election will be stolen. Again.
…but I am afraid he may be right. Those Americans who place value on individual freedom and open government had better be very, very active and assertive over the next 3 years, or it is going to be too late, and things are going to be very dark for a long, long time.
The things that we know about paint a very sinister picture of the Obama administration’s operations and intentions…imagine what sorts of corrupt, anti-liberty, and quite likely outright illegal activities lurk among the things we do not know about.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Fox News does nothing but tell lies and mistruths. They have unqualified political analysts. We need FCC to monitor and regulate them.
The vast majority of the traditional media, of course, fervently supports the Democrats. Evidently this candidate cannot stand the presence of anysource of diverse reporting and opinion.
Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is by no means rare among Democrats and “progressives.” For example, this story is about threats of legal action and potential loss of license against a TV station that dared to broadcast ads critical of Democratic candidate Gary Peters. (The lawyers who sent the letter work for the law firm of Bob Bauer, who was general counsel of the Obama campaign.)
The hostility to free expression and discussion of ideas is especially strong in many universities. For example, here’s a Swarthmore student who was appalled that conservative Princeton professor Robert George was allowed to debate against leftist Princeton prof Cornell West: ”“What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion,” Ching told the Daily Gazette, the school’s newspaper. “I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.” The same link mentions an article by a Harvard student, who calls for replacing academic freedom with something she calls “academic justice.”
Gleichschaltung is a German word which means “coordination,” “making the same,” “bringing into line.” It was a term much favored by the Nazis, who used it in the sense of “forcible coordination.” Under the Nazi regime, all aspects of society–all organizations ranging from major professional associations such as those representing the country’s legal profession, down to to folk-singing groups and small local hiking clubs–were subjected to Gleichschaltung. Not only was there to be no criticism of National Socialism in the explicitly political sphere, there was to be no truly non-political sphere at all. Everything had to be about the propagation and strengthening of the ideology of National Socialism.
The Democratic Party, the “progressive” Left, and the Obama administration are clearly attempting to establish more and more control over public discourse about political and social matters, and also about anything that could relate to these matters.
And what is “political correctness,” after all, other than a contemporary American form of Gleichschaltung?
Friday, February 21, 2014
HOW HILLARY CLINTON & BARACK OBAMA & CREW WANT YOU TO LIVE YOUR LIFE...
…as prefigured in a poem by W H Auden:
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open
Thursday, February 20, 2014
A VERY FUNNY POST ABOUT A VERY SERIOUS TOPIC
The association known as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has apparently been wracked, of late, by political-correctness insanity. SF writer Sarah Hoyt posts about her experiences with this organization. Not to be missed!
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
BAM! SLAM! SOCK! POW!
Kevin Williamson takes on some accusations by a Harvard professor…and, at a more general level, attacks the endless, hysterical, and irresponsible cries of “racism” and “sexism” by the Left and its media and academic minions. A fine piece of writing.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open
Sunday, February 16, 2014
CHARLES SORENSEN AND ROSIE THE RIVETER WOULD APPRECIATE YOUR ASSISTANCE
In October 1942, Herman Goering mocked American claims about our weapons production capabilities:
Some astronomical figures are expected from the American war industry. Now I am the last to underrate this industry. Obviously the Americans do very well in some technical fields. We know that they produce a colossal amount of fast cars. And the development of radio is one of their special achievements, and so is the razor blade…But you must not forget, there is one word in their language that is written with a capital B and this word is Bluff.
(Citing the above quote in his memoir, Luftwaffe general Adolph Galland observed acidly, “Propaganda may be horrible, but bombscertainly are.)
The “astronomical figures” turned out not to be a bluff at all, of course, and the figures were turned into reality in large part because of the production techniques pioneered and perfected at places like Willow Run.
The Willow Run plant, which covered 63 acres, was designed for the single purpose of producing B-24 bombers…and produce them it did, once it got going, at the rate of one per hour. The genesis of the plant lay in a 1940 visit to Consolidated Aircraft, where the planes were then being built, by Ford Motor Company production VP Charles Sorensen–Ford had originally been asked by the government to quote on building some components for the bomber. After watching Consolidated’s process for a while, Sorensen asserted that the whole thing could be put together by assembly-line methods. (See the link, which is Sorensen’s own story about “a $200,000,000 proposition backed only by a penciled sketch.”)
Unused since 2010, the plant had been scheduled for demolition, but there is now a project to turn it into a museum that will be focused on science education and social history as well as aviation history–the Yankee Air Museum is to be relocated there–and the history of the plant itself. Astronaut Jack Lousma and auto-industry bad boy Bob Lutz are spearheading the effort; the additional funds need to be raised by May 1.
I hope the new museum will integrate its focus on science & technology and its focus on the war production story to also cover the past, present, and future of American manufacturing, and of manufacturing generally–manufacturing being something that is too little understood and too little appreciated (beyond the platitude level) in America today. For example, in this post, which is mainly about employee evaluation, the author says:
Today’s businesses drive most of their value through service, intellectual property, innovation, and creativity. Even if you’re a manufacturer, your ability to sell, serve, and support your product (and the design itself) is more important than the ability to manufacture. So each year a higher and higher percentage of your work is dependent on the roles which have “hyper performer” distributions.
This kind of drive-by assumption about manufacturing is frequently encountered in today’s business writings: the assumption that manufacturing is a field inherently lacking in creativity, and (strongly implied in the above quote) that “hyper performers” are not important in this area in the way that they are in sales, product design, and customer service. If the museum can help Americans to understand a little more about manufacturing and its importance, then that will be a valuable thing in addition to its contributions to aviation, WWII, and social history.
Some books that provide useful information and perspective on Willow Run:
My Forty Years with Ford
, by Charles Sorensen. The whole book is very worthwhile. Sorensen gives considerable credit to Edsel Ford for the Willow Run project–Edsel committed $200,000,000 of Ford’s money to the project based only on a rough sketch, with no absolute assurance that government funding would be forthcoming–and indeed for the entire WWII armaments program at the company, Henry Ford himself having adopted what one might call a passive-aggressive attitude toward the whole thing.
It would be a shame to let the historical artifact that is Willow Run be lost–hopefully, the fundraising efforts over the next couple of months will be successful.
Friday, February 14, 2014
WORTHWHILE READING & VIEWING
Why does the question “do you like horror movies?” have predictive power when it comes to how long a relationship will last?
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
"LET ALL THE POISONS THAT LURK IN THE MUD, HATCH OUT"
A long series of derogatory tweets about Shirley Temple, by people who just cannot stand the fact that she was a Republican. Read a few of these, if you can stand it. There’s a lot of rage there, a lot of hate…can anyone doubt that many of those posting these tweets would like to see their political opponents killed, or at least thrown into concentration camps?
Andrew Breitbart observed correctly that politics is downstream from culture…but there is also a feedback path going the other direction: politics does influence culture, also. And clearly, the stoking of resentment and bitterness by Barack Obama…and really, by what is now the mainstream of the Democratic Party…has had a terribly corrosive effect on American society.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
IN CASE YOU HAVE BEEN WONDERING WHAT GOLLUM IS UP TO THESE DAYS...
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open
Sunday, February 09, 2014
STUDYING FRANKENSTEIN WITHOUT READING FRANKENSTEIN
Two of those are taken up by modern author Elizabeth McCracken telling students about the scary movies she watched as a child, including Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein as well as dreams she had. Under the heading “Critical Reading,” students are asked what movies McCracken watched as a child. Another page features a hokey picture of a Frankenstein monster circa 1955.
In the margins of the Teacher’s Edition to the textbook, teachers are encouraged to ask their students what “classic” stories of urban myths, tales of alien abductions, or ghost stories they have heard. Examples include stories of alligators in sewers, a man abducted for his kidneys, and aliens landing in Roswell, New Mexico. Students are asked to write a paragraph on “one of these modern urban myths.” The learning continues when students are challenged to write “a brief autobiography of a monster.” The editors lament that most monster stories are told from the perspective of “the humans confronting the monster.” They want to turn the tables by having students consider “what monsters think about their treatment.” Those poor, misunderstood monsters!
(As Joanne Jacobs notes, the lament that most monster stories are told from the perspective of the humans rather than the monster completely ignores the fact that much of Frankenstein is told from the monster’s perspective, albeit as quoted by Victor Frankenstein, the first-person narrator.)
Three pages out of the seventeen feature Mary Shelley’s actual words on them. But they are not selections from the novel or any kind of preparation for reading the novel. Rather, they are taken from an introduction Shelley wrote about writing the novel. The only indication that students are encouraged to read Frankenstein is a box in the margin of the Teacher’s Edition indicating that the “advanced readers” who are “interested” might read a “segment” of the novel in order to compare the monster to Shelley’s description in her introduction.
The book allocates five pages (two more than are given to Mary Shelley) to a script of a Saturday Night Live parody of Frankenstein. First, students are invited “to share their impressions of the long-running comedy show.” Again the talented-and-gifted students are called to the fore, as they are supposed to obtain props, costumes, and make-up that will enable them to “take roles and do a dramatic reading” of the script.
Thursday, February 06, 2014
IT ISN'T NICE TO KICK SOMEONE WHILE HE'S DOWN...
The New York Times (3/13, registration required) quotes Sir Howard Stringer, the new chief executive of Sony, arguing for mutual benefit between his company’s electronics and entertainment divisions. At the Consumer Electronics Show last month, Sir Howard said, “A device without content is nothing but scrap metal.”
Following the chain of logic he seems to be developing, we could also argue that a car without fuel is scrap metal…and therefore, auto companies need to own oil companies. Or that computers are useless without software…so all computer manufacturers need to possess large software operations.
Randall Stoss, author of the NYT article, observes that Sir Howard’s remark is “a platitude beneath mention–unless, perhaps, one were a mite defensive about owning both a widget factory and an entertainment factory.” Stoss goes on to credit the success of the iPod (far greater than Sony’s competitive product) to the fact that Apple has not pursued synergies between device and content…
A company thrives when it has all that it needs to make a compelling product and is undistracted by fractiousness among divisions that resent being told to make decisions based upon family obligations, not market considerations.
In his Financial Times article Why Sony did not invent the iPod, John Kay notes that there have been many cases in which large corporations saw correctly that massive structural changes were about to hit their industries–attempted to position themselves for these changes by executing acquisitions or joint ventures–and failed utterly. As examples he cites Sony’s purchase of CBC Records and Columbia Pictures, the AT&T acquisition of NCR, and the dreadful AOL/Time Warner affair. He summarizes the reason why these things don’t tend to work:
A collection of all the businesses which might be transformed by disruptive innovation might at first sight appear to be a means of assembling the capabilities needed to manage change. In practice, it is a means of gathering together everyone who has an incentive to resist change.
I’d also note that the kinds of vertical integration represented by the above mergers don’t exactly encourage other companies–which were not competitors prior to the merger but have become so afterwards–to participate in an ecosystem.
FEAR OF ROBOTS: MAINFRAME-ERA VERSION
New Yorker cartoon by David Langdon. (click to expand) I can’t find a date for this, but it was probably sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open
Monday, February 03, 2014
WHY THE GRAND INQUISITOR SENTENCED JESUS CHRIST TO BE BURNED AT THE STAKE
It seems that Jesus Christ returned to earth, sometime during the sixteenth century…at least, this is the premise of the parable that Ivan relates to Alyosha, in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov. The city to which Christ came was Seville, where on the previous day before almost a hundred heretics had been burnt by the cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor, “in a magnificent auto da fe, in the presence of the king, the court, the knights, the cardinals, the most charming ladies of the court, and the whole population of Seville. He came softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, everyone recognised Him.”
But the Grand Inquisitor observes the way in which people are being irresistibly drawn to Jesus, and causes him to be arrested and taken away.
The crowd instantly bows down to the earth, like one man, before the old Inquisitor. He blesses the people in silence and passes on. The guards lead their prisoner to the close, gloomy vaulted prison- in the ancient palace of the Holy Inquisition and shut him in it. The day passes and is followed by the dark, burning, ‘breathless’ night of Seville. The air is ‘fragrant with laurel and lemon.’ In the pitch darkness the iron door of the prison is suddenly opened and the Grand Inquisitor himself comes in with a light in his hand. He is alone; the door is closed at once behind him. He stands in the doorway and for a minute or two gazes into His face. At last he goes up slowly, sets the light on the table and speaks.
“‘Is it Thou? Thou?’ but receiving no answer, he adds at once. ‘Don’t answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us?
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
GREED FOR POWER
What could it possibly mean to be lectured on selfishness by a man whose entire career has been dedicated to no cause other than the cause of himself? “Selfishness” has been conflated with materialism and greed, but the literal meaning of the word is excessive devotion to one’s self and one’s interests. To be unselfish is to be ready to give up that which one holds most dear; for some men, that is money, but what is money to a president of the United States, who knows that in retirement he can support himself in ducal style with one day’s work a month at Bill Clinton rates, in princely style with two days’ work, and in imperial style with three? Money is an abstraction to a retired president. But the thing that he really cares about — power — Barack Obama guards in a fashion more miserly than that of any mythical dragon watching his horde. (sic–I think he means “hoard”)
And political power, of course, is always and everywhere convertible into economic wealth. The conversion may be in the form of in-kind benefits…the dachas and special stores made available to the old Soviet elite, the extremely expensive government aircraft made available to Obama’s vacationing family (and even to his dog) as well as to himself…or it may involve the at-least-implicit conversion of influence into money. (Al Gore’s financial net worth in now somewhere around the $200 million level, the Clinton’s are at roughly the same level. Today’s WSJ mentioned that former Clinton counsel Lanny Davis has been hired by a Chinese company to defend them against charges of violating California law. Lanny Davis may be a good lawyer, but is anyone really so naive as to think that his selection for this job has nothing to do with influence?) And in the celebrity-obsessed culture of 2014 America, the public recognition that comes with political office and power increases still further the ability to turn power into economic wealth. Get the power, the wealth will come…although, of course, for many obsessive power-seekers, the psychic rewards of power itself are the primary motivators.
Obama once remarked “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” Has he ever considered the possibility that maybe at a certain point he’s accumulated enough power? I doubt it. To a considerable extent, I think, the Democratic harping on inequalities of wealth and income acts as a smokescreen to avoid discussion of the high and increasing inequalities of power.
continued at Chicago Boyz
Saturday, January 25, 2014
WHEN IS 5 PERCENT NOT 5 PERCENT?
The Iranian nuclear deal (more on the deal and the secret side agreement; see also this) refers to uranium enrichment thresholds of 5% and 20%. These may not sound too threatening, given that a nuclear weapon requires enrichment to around the 90% level. BUT the percentage enrichment of the uranium is NOT a good indicator of the amount of work required to get there.
Start with a tonne (2204 pounds) of natural uranium feed–to enrich it to 5% will require about 900 Separative Work Units–SWUs being an indicator of the amount of energy, time, and capital equipment required for the process. Take to 5% enriched product and continue enriching it to 20%, and the incremental cost will be only about 200 SWUs, for an accumulated total cost of 1100 SWUs. And if you want to turn the 20% enriched substance into weapons-grade 90%-enriched uranium, you need add only about another 200 SWUs of effort, for a grand total of 1300 SWUs. Thus, the effort required to get to that seemingly-harmless 5% threshold is already 69% of the way to weapons grade, and 20% enrichment is 84% of the way there. See this article, which explains that “the curve flattens out so much because the mass of material being enriched progressively diminishes to these amounts, from the original one tonne, so requires less effort relative to what has already been applied to progress a lot further in percentage enrichment.”
There has been very, very little media coverage on this point. One place the issue was discussed was in February and September 2012 reports by the American Enterprise Institute, which were discussed and excerpted at PowerLine in November 2013. Note that the AEI analysis shows an even flatter enrichment curve than the one in the article I linked above–AEI is showing 90% of the total effort for weapons-grade as being required to get to 5% enrichment, rather than “only” 69%. In either case, it should be clear that possession of large quantities of material enriched to 5% is a very nontrivial milestone on the way to constructing a nuclear weapon.
Meanwhile, 4 billion dollars worth of frozen Iranian funds are being unfrozen and sent to Iran. Money is fungible, and almost certainly some of this money will go to support Iranian-backed terrorism, funding operations intended to kill American military personnel, Israeli civilians, and quite possibly American civilians in this country as well. And some of it will probably go to support R&D on advanced centrifuge technology, allowing Iran to move even more quickly to a nuclear weapon when it decides to do so.
Friday, January 24, 2014
A PLAGUE OF HIGHLY-AMBITIOUS MEDIOCRITIES
…some thoughts from Theodore Dalrymple.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open
Thursday, January 23, 2014
BOTH INTERESTING AND SAD
I saw a group of women who hated each other for over 20 years come to tears when they realized what the workflow was doing to their relationships.
Hopefully, outright hate isn’t all that common, but I do suspect that many painful relationship problems in organizations are caused by processes and incentive structures that create conflicts of a pointless, perpetual, and unresolvable nature.
Friday, January 17, 2014
SELECTED POSTS FROM 2013, continued
One more batch…
Book and Video Reviews:
Fly the Airplane. Two flight instructors write about their romance, their flight around the country in a 1938 Piper Cub, and the life lessons that can be derived from aviation.
Wish Me Luck. A very good TV series about Special Operations Executive agents working in occupied France during WWII.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
WELL, HERE'S SOMETHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY...
There aren’t too many of these around.
I don’t think there were ever any two-seat versions of the F-86 built, so a pilot’s first flight in the Sabrejet is going to have to be solo.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
ARE WE LIVING IN A POST-LITERATE SOCIETY?
Was 1950 the high point of literacy in North America?
The author notes that the post-literate individual resembles the person from a pre-literate oral culture in many ways, BUT:
On the other hand, post-literacy is not a relapse into orality, which, in its intact form, has institutions of its own such as folklore and social custom that codify the knowledge essential to living. Post-literacy can draw on no such resources, for these have only been preserved in modern society in literature, and post-literacy has not only lost contact with literature, but also it simply no longer knows how to read in any meaningful sense. It cannot refer to the archive to replenish itself by a study of its own past.
…which implies, of course, that people in post-literate societies are more susceptible to manipulation than are those in either oral or literate cultures.
Note also the description of the private college which is so desperate for tuition revenue that it forces its professors to tolerate almost any level of bad performance and outright laziness from its students. As I’ve observed before, the idea that “non-profit” institutions are inherently morally superior to for-profit entities is ludicrous, and increasingly obviously so.
Tuesday, January 07, 2014
OBAMACARE, THE WISDOM OF ROSE WILDER LANE, AND WHY NANCY PELOSI WAS SORT OF RIGHT
The “Affordable Care Act,” aka Obamacare, seems to be full of surprises. For example, it seems that many Americans are being forced onto Obamacare exchanges where most plans provide only local medical coverage…a bit of a problem for people who travel, change jobs, or have vacation homes. To take another example, this Washington Post article says Obamacare may make it impossible for people living in American territories (such as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands) to purchase health insurance policies at all. “Unexpected!” results of Obamacare seem to be almost daily news.
These surprises especially strike those ordinary Americans who are the targeted users of Obamacare, of course…but also, they seem to strike many of the creators of the program. Some members of the government classes, of course, simply lied about Obamacare’s effects…first and foremost this is notoriously true of Obama himself. But I also feel sure that there are many among those CongressCreatures who voted for this 2000-page bill who have been genuinely surprised by some or many of its outcomes. It is simply not possible to clearly predict in advance the effects of a piece of legislation so all-encompassing, so verbose, and so quickly pushed through.
Rose Wilder Lane, still at that point a Communist, visited the Soviet Union in 1919. After she explained the benefits of central planning to a disbelieving village leader, he shook his head sadly and said:
It is too big – he said – too big. At the top, it is too small. It will not work. In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God. A man has only a man’s head, and one hundred heads together do not make one great big head. No. Only God can know Russia.
Indeed, one hundred or one thousand or ten thousand heads together in the form of CongressCreatures or health care bureaucrats did not suffice to make one great big head that would fully grasp the implications of Obamacare. Nancy Pelosi was sort of right when she said “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it”…she should have carried it further and said: “We have to pass the bill so that we can find out what’s in it.”
It is precisely this difficulty in predicting the outcomes of sweeping change, on a society-wide scale, that makes such sweeping and radical change something to be usually avoided..and when indeed necessary, to be conducted with caution and careful forethought. British statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke made this point eloquently and famously. Nothing could be more anti-Burkean than Obama’s statement on October 30, 2008: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
After coming to realize that the defects of Communism are inherent and not just due to problems with one particular implementation of it, Rose Wilder Lane also became convinced that:
Centralized economic control over multitudes of human beings must therefore be continuous and perhaps superhumanly flexible, and it must be autocratic. It must be government by a swift flow of edicts issued in haste to catch up with events receding into the past before they can be reported, arranged, analyzed and considered, and it will be compelled to use compulsion. In the effort to succeed, it must become such minute and rigorous control of details of individual life as no people will accept without compulsion. It cannot be subject to the intermittent checks, reversals, and removals of men in power which majorities cause in republics.
Note how this comment ties in with the Obama administration’s tendency to adjust the healthcare insurance program via quick and arbitrary administrative rulemaking, rather than via the legislative process. RWL would say that this kind of behavior is inherent in a program intended to establish government control over vast swaths of society.
She also notes that:
Nobody can plan the actions of even a thousand living persons, separately. Anyone attempting to control millions must divide them into classes, and make a plan applying to these classes. But these classes do not exist. No two persons are alike. No two are in the same circumstances; no two have the same abilities; beyond getting the barest necessities of life, no two have the same desires.Therefore the men who try to enforce, in real life, a planned economy that is their theory, come up against the infinite diversity of human beings. The most slavish multitude of men that was ever called “demos” or “labor” or “capital” or”agriculture” or “the masses,” actually are men; they are not sheep. Naturally, by their human nature, they escape in all directions from regulations applying to non-existent classes. It is necessary to increase the number of men who supervise their actions. Then (for officials are human, too) it is necessary that more men supervise the supervisors.
…and discusses the temptations of power to a leader who believes in expansionist government:
If he wants to do good (as he sees good) to the citizens, he needs more power. If he wants to be re-elected, he needs more power to use for his party. If he wants money, he needs more power; he can always sell it to some eager buyer. If he wants publicity, flattery, more self-importance, he needs more power, to satisfy clamoring reformers who can give him flattering publicity.