Listen to the warm

May 29th, 2015

One side of our two realities. And here’s a little bit about statistical manipulation in scientific studies. It’s long past time to ridicule the ignoramuses in the media who ask the usual hectoring questions. Our suggestion is that before answering foolish and gotcha questions, the respondent takes out a little device that starts quacking like a duck for 5 seconds.

Cause and effect

May 28th, 2015

This, that. This, that.

Backwards this time

May 27th, 2015

Via AT:

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

There was the VDH of the other day. Amusing and sad Roger Kimball, seeing current events as a farce. The Bret Stephens piece. Domestically, we’ve got a farce. It looks like Marx had it backwards, at least when it comes to US history.

Widening gyre again

May 26th, 2015

Within the lifetime and personal memories of many Americans still living, most everyone knew farmers and soldiers. As late as America’s entry into World War I, over 42% of Americans still lived on farms. Your grandparents knew farmers and soldiers. It’s hard not to know a farmer or have spent time on a farm when 4 out of 10 of your countrymen lived their lives in agriculture.

Similarly, everyone knew soldiers not so long ago. WWI drafted 2.8 million Americans, when America only had 50 million men in total. WWII took 10 million draftees, and there were 3.4 million between Korea and Vietnam. One way of looking at Vietnam, for example, is that the draftees were as many as all boys in the United States who turned 18 in 1970 — a pretty large group of Baby Boomers. And none of these figures include the men who enlisted — surprisingly, perhaps, the total number of Vietnam veterans is over 2,500,000. So for a long time in America it has been true that most Americans knew something of farming and the military in a direct personal way.

No longer. As a statistical matter today, there are almost no new soldiers or farmers in America. Annual military recruits amount to 175,000 or so a year in a country of 300,000,000. And it’s even worse in agriculture. There are lilterally almost no new farmers in America today. At the time of WWII, farming still occupied 18% of the labor force — it’s less than 2% today. Every single year America loses more farmers than it creates. Many (perhaps most?) young Americans probably have not one single friend who becomes a farmer or soldier today.

Mark Steyn asks from time to time why there have been virtually no war songs during the last decade, as opposed to WWII. Part of the reason is Hollywood, of course, but another aspect of the phenomenon is this: all Americans were involved in WWII (see the PBS Soundies program, for example); very few are involved in America’s battles today. In WWII, war songs were about us; today war songs would be about them.

We sometimes hear from voices in the new media that this is the same America that won WWII. Well, this is pretty clearly not the America of WWII. Not even close, as the 5.4 million majority of those under 30 proved last November when they voted. And there is not much memory of that older America to boot. There are justifiable reasons to be very concerned about these collective losses of experience, memory and toughness in our very dangerous world.

The inventions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were disruptive, as we noted nine years ago. But they were disruptive over an extended period of time, since their roll-outs were slow and uneven. But nine years ago there were no iPhones, no twitter, no tumblr, almost no YouTube, and indeed, our first mention of Google was only months old. Furthermore, the roll-out of these technologies has been nearly instant and worldwide. Eight years ago, for example, Facebook was arguably worth a mere billion dollars or so. Fast forward: there are two billion smartphones in use today, for example. We have a country where the young don’t know Shakespeare and haven’t read the Bible, and their lives are almost wholly unconnected with the past. No wonder that things are so messed up.

We see VDH is quoting Yeats today, as we have done occasionally. The poem was written in 1919, just after the world war. Somehow today it feels closer to the start of one.

Yes, No, etc

May 25th, 2015

Pick one, this or that. We wish Shrinkwrapped was still writing; someone needs to explain things like this. Related thoughts from Max Boot. We also offer a piece that is both uplifting and dispiriting at the same time. Have a good Memorial Day.

38 years from Dive Bomber to Kitty Hawk

May 24th, 2015

Of course the remarkable movie Dive Bomber aired this weekend. Filmed in color at NAS San Diego just before Pearl Harbor, it shows vividly just how far aviation had come in the 38 years since Kitty Hawk, and just how much further the technology had to go. (Of course the quarter century after the end of WWII was even more spectacular, with Americans on the moon and supersonic passenger aircraft flying around.)

So, 38 years from Dive Bomber to Kitty Hawk. What’s the parallel story looking back 38 years from now? The B-1 bomber was cancelled. The space shuttle made its first flight. The ban on the Concorde landing at JFK was lifted. A Pan Am B747SP circumnavigated the earth over the poles. By far the most striking thing about aviation in 1977 is there were so many crashes, including Tenerife.

Has technological and other progress slowed down a lot from the first 38 years to the most recent? Probably not. Engines are much more efficient now. Major programs like the B757 and B767 had their entire life cycles. Airbus was born and created a global duopoly. Airline deregulation spurred greater price competition and the widespread development of frequent flier programs. The technology of long range aircraft is much more advanced now. However, the airport experience today is generally so awful that it negates many the improvements, since pre-flight security lead times are often 2-3x what they were back then.

What does the next 38 years hold in store?

Mean, median, mode etc

May 23rd, 2015

This is pretty funny; it’s the same at Cal BTW. From the unfunny department, they think you’re stupid, really really stupid, and so far, they’re pretty much correct.


May 22nd, 2015

Mosul, Ramadi, all downhill from here. CK has some thoughts. How depressing to be on an ivy league admissions committee. Ok, enough downers. One other thought on the Mad Men conclusion came from this AT piece. Coke and Atlanta. We recall going to Atlanta to meet with Trust Company of Georgia in 1984, to advise the company on its upcoming merger with Sun Banks. We met with Jimmy Williams; as soon as we were seated in his office, he offered us a Coke. Not coffee, a Coke. (In 2012 Trust Company sold most of the Coke stock it received for assisting in the company’s 1919 IPO.)

Hopefully, merely a grifter

May 21st, 2015

Some guy:

the challenge I want to focus on today, the urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change. I know there are still some folks back in Washington who refuse to admit that climate change is real. They’ll say, “You know, I’m not a scientist.” the best scientists in the world know that climate change is happening. Our analysts in the intelligence community know climate change is happening. Our military leaders — generals and admirals, active duty and retired — know it’s happening. Our homeland security professionals know it is happening.

The science is indisputable. The fossil fuels we burn release carbon dioxide, which traps heat. And the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are now higher than they have been in 800,000 years. The planet is getting warmer. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have been in the past 15 years. Last year was the planet’s warmest year ever recorded.

Our scientists at NASA just reported that some of the sea ice around Antarctica is breaking up even faster than expected. The world’s glaciers are melting, pouring new water into the ocean. Over the past century, the world sea level rose by about eight inches. That was in the last century; by the end of this century, it’s projected to rise another one to four feet.

at the Academy, climate change — understanding the science and the consequences — is part of the curriculum, and rightly so, because it will affect everything that you do in your careers. Some of you have already served in Alaska and aboard icebreakers, and you know the effects. climate change is one of those most severe threats.

Climate change will impact every country on the planet. climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security. And make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act — and we need to act now. confronting climate change is now a key pillar of American global leadership. When I meet with leaders around the world, it’s often at the top of our agenda — a core element of our diplomacy.

climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict. Rising seas are already swallowing low-lying lands, from Bangladesh to Pacific islands, forcing people from their homes. Caribbean islands and Central American coasts are vulnerable, as well. Globally, we could see a rise in climate change refugees. And I guarantee you the Coast Guard will have to respond. Elsewhere, more intense droughts will exacerbate shortages of water and food, increase competition for resources, and create the potential for mass migrations and new tensions. All of which is why the Pentagon calls climate change a “threat multiplier.”

severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram. It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East.

climate change will mean more extreme storms. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines gave us a possible glimpse of things to come — one of the worst cyclones ever recorded; thousands killed, many more displaced, billions of dollars in damage, and a massive international relief effort that included the United States military and its Coast Guard. So more extreme storms will mean more humanitarian missions to deliver lifesaving help. Our forces will have to be ready.

climate change means Arctic sea ice is vanishing faster than ever. By the middle of this century, Arctic summers could be essentially ice free.

One hopes these are simply the words of a grifter looking to make a few bucks. Otherwise, help! (For comparison, here’s a different graduation speech.)

Coolidgean nostalgia?

May 20th, 2015


Fast, slow, stop

May 18th, 2015

It took 14 months to build the Empire State Building, back when America knew how to do things. 26 months for the WTC to become the tallest building around. We were in Xiamen recently and we told that the airport is to be completely torn down and a much larger one built in 4 years. Question: given what you know about California’s $68+ billion high speed rail fantasy, how long might it take to replace tiny Santa Monica airport?

Name that sequel

May 17th, 2015

We liked the first couple of seasons of Mad Men, which series concludes today. For a good long while, we particularly liked one of the first episodes — punchline: it’s toasted. However, on reflection, it actually understated the power and ubiquity of all those cigarette ads, with jingles everywhere and everyone from Fred and Barney to Granny Clampett pitching Winstons (Winstons taste bad like the one I just had; no flavor, no taste, just a thirty cent waste). We didn’t much care for the Mad Men personal dramas of the characters as the narrative arc mimicked 1960’s dissolution, but the ad business was very interesting. Of course the carousel pitch is our favorite bit of great writing and great acting.

We moved to NYC in 1974 to be a banker trainee at First National City Bank, and rented a furnished fifth floor walk-up with a toilet in the hall and a tub in the kitchen, all for $169 a month. The offices in our 399 Park Avenue bank HQ looked like those in Mad Men; the building itself was non-descript. However, the other 3 corners at 53rd street were marvels: the Racquet Club, Lever House, and the Seagram Building, home to the iconic Four Seasons and the 24-hour Brasserie. Magnificent views of both NYC history and recent progress from our 12th floor cubicle. FNCB would shortly change its name to Citibank and spend $100MM to proliferate and popularize the ATM.

Our trainee class sounds like a parody. We had a proto feminist who was married to someone with a different last name, a dapper and on-the-prowl Asian American, a hip African American (who took us to the Cotton Club where Slappy White made us the center of his jokes), a cropped haired lesbian who did something nasty to the Asian, a Navy veteran who had been in Vietnam, and various other entertaining sorts, from muscle men to nerds. Our first boss was a gay Baker Scholar and nobody cared. How we ended up in the group is a story as well. As a recent college graduate who majored in the intellectual history of the middle ages and renaissance and who had read maybe two or three pages of a Business Week magazine, we were probably not the most qualified class member. However, a kind gentleman who was also a scion of a famous Philadelphia banking family introduced us to an SVP of FNCB at an alumni event; when we told him that FNCB had “lost” our résumé, he hurumphed “we’ll see about that.” We got the job.

1974 and following also has its appeals for a TV series. Hard to believe, but the WTC was only 4 years old then. In 1974 Watergate was in motion and Nixon would resign. Hilarity would ensue with Gerry Ford’s inane Whip Inflation Now campaign, soon to be followed by Ford to City: Drop Dead, and then the MAC, Felix Rohatyn, the blizzard of 78, the 444 day hostage crisis and so forth. Surely the mix of this with the Young Bankers from the previous paragraph could be made interesting for 100 episodes. If you know Matthew Weiner give him a call, and naming suggestions for the series would be appreciated.

So far so fast

May 16th, 2015


deep conceptual shifts within twentieth-century science have undermined Cartesian-Newtonian metaphysics; revisionist studies in the history and philosophy of science have cast further doubt on its credibility; and, most recently, feminist and poststructuralist critiques have demystified the substantive content of mainstream Western scientific practice, revealing the ideology of domination concealed behind the façade of “objectivity”.

It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical “reality”, no less than social “reality”, is at bottom a social and linguistic construct; that scientific “knowledge”, far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relations of the culture that produced it

HT: JPod.

From bad to weird

May 15th, 2015

Bad, via Economist:

At the end of 2011, there were 3,082 prisoners on state and federal death rows in America. That year, 43 were executed. At the current rate (which is slowing) a condemned prisoner has a one-in-72 chance of being executed…the average time that elapses between sentence and execution has risen from six years in the mid-1980s to 16.5 years now.

Bad runs in the family BTW. Tis a pity the varmint is going to be around this long. Whatever happened to firing squads and hangings at dawn?

Change of pace: this piece has a lot of interesting information but winds up being weird.

A very bad version of The Godfather

May 14th, 2015

In retrospect, this is a particularly smarmy performance, using some nutty pronouncement by a marginal guy in order to ambush the frontrunner. But it’s par for the course. We’re living through a very bad version of The Godfather, with bad people on all sides BTW, just like the movie. So what Mitt should have said is What’s the Turk paying you?

O tempora o mores

May 13th, 2015

Don’t read Ovid. BTW, don’t read Cicero either — since really bad people quote him. It’s kind of funny that the universities have become the modern equivalent of monasteries, with screwy versions of vows of silence. Tragic too, since the kids have no idea of intellectual normalcy or what they are missing.

Good TV

May 11th, 2015

If you’re tired of watching reruns of L&O or My Friend Flicka, we recommend CNBC Asia. It’s tomorrow’s news today! Also particularly good on Sunday since it’s Monday morning in the PDT afternoon. Bernie Lo is excellent, as are many of his associates. Indeed, CNBC Asia is superior in many ways to the US broadcasts. On Sunday PDT they had Marc Faber as co-host, and he was well informed and periodically funny. He interviewed the head of BOC aircraft leasing (a subject near and dear to our heart), and we learned a lot. When was the last time you could say that about US TV?

Force, object, and you know the rest

May 10th, 2015

An author in Le Figaro:

Le supranationalisme est le résultat d’un dépassement de la pensée des Lumières dans le sens où il manifeste concrètement la croyance que des principes universels régissent la vie de l’homme. Le multiculturalisme, de son côté, vient de la perception romantique de l’Autre, envisagé comme fondamentalement bon et doté d’une identité immuable. Malgré leurs origines philosophiquement divergentes, ils ont le même effet: le démantèlement de l’État-nation. Et de façon étrange, ils semblent avoir fusionné pour s’arrêter sur la même vision de l’avenir: un monde sans frontières, sans distinction entre «nous» et «eux», sans nations, un monde pour l’Humanité…

le problème le plus profond avec l’islam, c’est la charia, une loi de compétence universelle et non-territoriale qui affronte donc frontalement la philosophie universaliste de l’UE et de la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme. Il est absolument urgent de réaffirmer devant les communautés islamiques l’importance de la loi territoriale séculaire. Et la seule façon de le faire est d’être d’une fermeté absolue en matière de loyauté nationale. Autant de choses qu’une administration bureaucratique et universelle comme l’UE ne pourra, par définition, jamais mettre en oeuvre. Les musulmans doivent faire passer la loi nationale avant les règles du Coran (un récent sondage en Hollande montre que 70% d’entre eux s’y refusent).

70% is a pretty big number. Tick tick tick, as we’ve often said. More better, more worse. Stay quiet and you’ll be okay. (BTW, the piece also uses a variant of oikophobia.)

First Prize awarded

May 9th, 2015

Here’s a candidate. Here are a couple more. Here’s a particularly outstanding candidate. Hey, here’s not one candidate but a whole self-aggrandizing bureaucracy. Fabulous! And expensive too! (Wonder who’s paying for all that.) Or how about the blatherer about Lucky 7? Or the cartoonist of college newspaper Bull Tales? Well, these are all outstanding candidates. Anyway, here’s today’s award winner, combining many of the best elements of all of the above.

Learning and not learning

May 8th, 2015

There’s an interesting Jeffrey Lord piece that, among other things, looks back 50 years. Then there’s one in TNR that also looks back 50 years. One piece is optimistic and one is not; one piece seems to have learned something in 50 years, and the other seems frozen in amber. Just sayin’