History

"'The Six-Day Miracle': The 1967 War and How It Changed Israel"

I found this bit especially interesting:

I went out with this [U.S.] Air Force team to one of the big Israeli Air Force bases. The commander gave a briefing and our guys asked a lot of questions. One of our guys said, “You just said you were getting six or seven sorties a day out of your aircraft. That’s impossible. We can’t do that.”

The Israeli said, “Well, that’s what we did. We’ve got excellent ground crews and we can turn a plane around in X minutes and get it fully armed, fueled, and everything.” Our guys just were astounded and they challenged the Israelis, saying, “It can’t be done.”

So, the Israeli commander trotted out a ground crew, a plane, and demonstrated just how they did it and how fast they could do it. Our Air Force people still didn’t believe it. . . . 


"The Strange Quest to Crack the Voynich Code"

"It’s an approximately 600-year-old mystery that continues to stump scholars, cryptographers, physicists, and computer scientists: a roughly 240-page medieval codex written in an indecipherable language, brimming with bizarre drawings of esoteric plants, naked women, and astrological symbols. Known as the Voynich manuscript, it defies classification, much less comprehension."


"War for the West: What if the Persians had defeated the Greeks?"

". . . what if the Persians had defeated the Greeks in the Greco-Persian War of 490–479 B.C.? Had this happened, there might have been no Plato, no Aristotle, no Roman Empire, no Christianity, no Western Civilization. A Great King, a lineal descendant of Darius, might still rule the world. All might worship the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda, with men going about in turbans, women remaining at home or in harems."


"Bowling Alone: How Washington Has Helped Destroy American Civil Society and Family Life"

Interesting article at Ammo.com. (If you're in the market for ammunition--handgun, rifle, shotgun, or rimfire--you may well want to visit this site.)

The piece offers a different explanation from Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, for the recent decline in American participation in social life. Whereas Putnam blamed technology, this piece blames big government.

It's an argument that I mostly agree with. I think the decline of the family and civil life is, as the piece contends, at least partially attributable to the Great Society and the subsequent growth of the federal government. I'd like to see those programs and expenditures rolled back at the margin. But unlike Liberals I'm a realist. I would be mostly content just to see the growth level off. 

On one point I disagree with the author. He claims that part of our problem is the market:

If one sees the United States as nothing more than a group of consumers, there’s nothing to fret about here. If, however, one sees the United States as a nation with a value beyond its simple GDP, the replacement of civil society with the marketplace is a disastrous scenario. . . .

While cheap, imported widgets from Walmart benefit consumers with lower prices, they also create an intangible and difficult-to-quantify social problem. When big business replaces small business, wealth is not only centralized, it is also centralized outside of the communities that it serves.

The market creates winners and also some losers. But there are usually enormous net gains. "Big business" and "market concentration" offer little to worry about in my opinion, except where they receive explicit or implicit favors from government. (The author appears to partially recognize this: "The massive amounts of government handouts to big business, in the form of both direct subsidies as well as favorable legislation for regulations and taxes alike, creates an environment favoring those most capable of purchasing influence – namely, big business.") On this, I--amazingly--agree partly with Liberals. When big business gets entry restrictions or tariffs or other government aid in restricting competition, that's bad for society. Liberals want to fix the problem by greatly limiting big business. I, however, would address the problem by limiting government. As a wag once said, "Nobody spends a lot of time or money trying to influence the local dog catcher." If government were smaller, attempts to purchase influence would be smaller, too. There is a vital distinction between the market--capitalism-- and what economists call "crony capitalism," in which businesses earn money not by serving customers and employees better but by purchasing favors from the government. Conservatives have, and should, focus on the huge defects of crony capitalism while continuing to praise "ordinary" capitalism.

That disagreement aside, it's an interesting argument. I wonder what Professor Putnam would think about it.