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May 12, 2014

"How the Media Again Failed on the Duke Lacrosse Story"

Unsurprising but still inexcusable

May 11, 2014

"Hava Nagila: The Movie"

My wife and I really enjoyed this

The documentary introduced me to the lovely Hebrew word davka

May 03, 2014

"Genghis Khan's Secret Weapon Was Rain"

Historians were, apparently, wrong again:

The traditional view has been that the Mongols were desperately fleeing harsh conditions in their craggy, mountainous homeland. The Lamont-Doherty team, however, found just the opposite: Between 1211 and 1225—a period that neatly coincides with the rise of Genghis Khan and the Mongol empire—central Mongolia enjoyed a spell of sustained benign weather unlike anything the region has experienced during at least the past 1,100 years and probably much longer.

April 30, 2014

"The 1970s’ False Prophets of Doom"

Message: take the U.S. and other (mostly) free economies and give the points

April 21, 2014

"President Obama (And Others) Who Don't 'Get' Liberty Should Read This Book"

I haven't read it yet, but George Leef makes it sound very worthwhile:

In early America, people spoke about liberty a great deal. Patrick Henry famously declared, “Give me liberty or give me death.” The preamble to the Constitution  speaks to the importance of securing “the blessings of liberty.”

These days, however, we hear or read the word much less often. It doesn’t seem to be in President Obama’s vocabulary at all. He has declared that inequality is the greatest problem we face, but can anyone remember his ever talking about the importance of liberty?

But while the president and all his minions toil away to subject us to an ever-increasing burden of mandates, prohibitions, and taxes, a few individuals are trying to convince people that we have already lost a great deal of liberty and should strive to get it back.

One of them is Tom Palmer of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Palmer has written and edited quite a few books, most recently Why Liberty: Your Life, Your Choices, Your Future.

George Will comments on another, related books that sounds worth reading: "Progressives are wrong about the essence of the Constitution".

And a current application of the argument: "In D.C., Republicans are the enablers, Democrats the mandators". (See also "Cataloging Washington’s Hidden Costs: Part 1: The Loss of Liberty".)

March 18, 2014

"What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline"

Young economist Noah Smith tells us the Ming dynasty collapsed because it "allow[ed] itself to become isolationist, stagnant, and backward-looking . . ." He thinks we're on the road to doing the same thing. Led by conservatives, we're becoming anti-science. And we manifest growing "anti-immigrant sentiment"--which side of the red/blue divide is responsible for that, I wonder?

But why did the Ming dynasty become stagnant? Here, Professor Smith cites two historians who argue that "when a country thinks it's in a golden age, it stops focusing on progress".

Sorry, but "a country" is too vague. Who, exactly, in Ming China thought it was in a "golden age"? I'm no specialist on Ming China, but I have read William Baumol's terrific article, "Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive and Destructive" (Journal of Political Economy, October 1990). Professor Baumol attributes the change in China's fortunes to a very tiny ruling class, supported by a tiny intelligensia, that put its narrow welfare above the economy of the larger nation. 

Now that has an important possible lesson for "American decline"!

March 15, 2014

"For Holocaust Escapee, a 'Fairy Tale' Come True"

Lovely story: at 11, Simon Gronowski escaped from a train taking him to Auschwitz.

This week, at 82, he got to play in Woody Allen's band

March 12, 2014

"17 Times Winston Churchill Proved He’s The Prime Minister Of Burns"

Sir Winnie was simply unmatched

On Conservative politician and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin: "He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried along as if nothing had happened."

On Prime Minister Clement Attlee: "A modest man, who has much to be modest about."

And 15 more winners.

March 11, 2014

"Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg"

New book argues that Pickett's Charge wasn't as stupid as it seems

Carhart makes a compelling case that Lee had planned a large scale three pronged and brilliant strategic attack that would ensure that his army was as successful the on the third day as it had been on July 1 and 2. The third day’s three pronged strategic and simultaneous assault would ensure the destruction of the Army of the Potomac and southern triumph. The singular disaster of Pickett’s unsupported charge was not to happen the way that it ultimately played out. Carhart makes the argument that Lee had focused his considerable and brilliant strategic efforts on a simultaneous operation where Pickett would hit the Union Center, Ewell would attack Culp’s Hill and turn the Union flank and Jeb Stuart, incommunicado until the end of the 2nd day with detrimental effect for his commander, would on the third day execute the coup d’grace with a attack on the Union rear in concert with Pickett and Ewell.

March 09, 2014

"Here's What 14 Major Cities Looked Like Then And Now"

Unsurprising but still interesting to see: a lot can change in 50 years

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