Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
The 9/11 rescue dogs: Portraits of the last surviving animals who scoured Ground Zero one decade on.
During the chaos of the 9/11 attacks, where almost 3,000 people died, nearly 100 loyal search and rescue dogs and their brave owners scoured Ground Zero for survivors.
Now, ten years on, just 12 of these heroic canines survive, and they have been commemorated in a touching series of portraits entitled 'Retrieved'.More
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Times have changed. In the 1930s, government was small. Expanding it massively in order to solve problems might or might not have been a good idea, but there's no denying it was innovative. Today government is sclerotic. Those who believe more government is the solution to America's problems are at best unthinking reactionaries. The Tea Partiers, having clearly identified this problem, are today's true progressives (to employ the term in its literal rather than ideological sense).
They are not, however, "good at government"--or, more precisely, at politics. Their purism cost the GOP as many as three Senate seats last year, and if a competent Democrat were in the White House, it probably would be helping him to re-election right now. The experience of 1995-96 is instructive here. Gingrich had the Tea Party's worst qualities: grandiosity and impatience. He was no match for a president who knew how to play the game.
Read the whole thing.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
The strangest things about the global statist crack-up are socialists’ unhappiness with their socialist utopia, and their subsequent efforts to avoid the consequences of the very redistributive state that they themselves once so gladly crafted.
Greece is the locus classicus. Why are the Greeks protesting? Against whom? They obtained long ago the promised bloated sector and high taxes that all schemed to avoid. Their alma mater EU is hardly a demonic capitalist-run plutocracy, but a kindred socialist state. Is Greece an oil producer, industrial powerhouse, high-tech innovator — anything that might explain the sort of upscale life, modern infrastructure, legions of Mercedeses, and plush second homes that one began to see in Greece after 1985?
In truth, socialist Greeks are furious that they have impoverished themselves and demand that private money and far harder-working Germans bail them out — but why so, when socialism should not need outside capitalist-generated dollars? Could not the Greeks, Soviet style, set up a Cuban collective, and adjust their lifestyles (there goes Kolonaki culture) to their means, living in an opportunity of result utopia with a huge public sector, more siestas, high but ignored taxes — with a collective good riddance to those awful intrusive German bankers?
Read the whole thing.
In the wake of the victories by the North Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge, many liberals simply ignored what followed their ascension to power. Progressives believed the leadership of these countries were comprised of enlightened agrarian reformers who would improve the everyday lives of people in both countries. What the South Vietnamese and the Cambodian people got instead was unimaginable brutality and horror — and what we heard from many on the left were excuses and indifference.
By 1939, he was announcing that, if adopted by “a single Jew standing up and refusing to bow to Hitler’s decrees,” such methods might suffice to “melt Hitler’s heart.” This may read like mere foolishness, but a personal letter to the Führer in the same year began with the words My friend and went on, ingratiatingly, to ask: “Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?” Apart from its conceit, this would appear to be suggesting that Hitler, too, might hope to get more of what he wanted by adopting a more herbivorous approach. Gandhi also instructed a Chinese visitor to “shame some Japanese” by passivity in the face of invasion, and found time to lecture a member of the South African National Congress about the vices of Western apparel. “You must not … feel ashamed of carrying an assagai, or of going around with only a tiny clout round your loins.” (One tries to picture Nelson Mandela taking this homespun counsel, which draws upon the most clichéd impression of African dress and tradition.)
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
If deficits were temporary — they were certainly justified to temper the recession — or small, they would be less worrisome. That was true for many years. No more. An aging population and uncontrolled health costs now create an ongoing and massive mismatch between spending and revenue, even at “full employment.” The great threat is a future debt crisis, with investors balking at buying all the Treasury bonds the government requires to operate. So President Obama and Congress face a dilemma: The more they seek to defuse the economic problem of too much debt, the greater the political risks they assume by cutting spending or raising taxes.
The package to prevent a shutdown barely touches the prevailing stalemate. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposed 2012 budget forthrightly addresses health spending but doesn’t make any cuts in Social Security. Ryan’s plan would ultimately gut defense and some valuable domestic programs; it wouldn’t reach balance until about 2040. Compared with Democrats, however, Ryan is a model of intellectual rigor and political courage. Obama would run huge deficits from now to eternity; the Congressional Budget Office has projected about $12 trillion of added debt from 2010 to 2021 under his policies. Obama urges an “adult” conversation and acts like a child, denying the unappealing choices.
Unions are in a difficult position today. They exist to get "more", but they can only get more if someone else can be forced to take less. As economies have globalized, capital has become increasingly mobile, making it impossible for unions to extract "more" from business owners. This has forced unions to seek to try to get "more" at the expense of nonunion workers, taxpayers, and the involuntarily unemployed. Even with the support of government force, "more" is becoming increasingly difficult to come by, and union efforts to extract "more" are becoming increasingly resented.
Saturday, April 09, 2011
As Washington geared up for war in late summer of 1940, Alan Lomax fired off a round of heated memos to his boss in the music division at the Library of Congress. As assistant in charge of the Archive of American Folk Song, the 25-year-old Lomax had ambitious plans for serving the cause, such as publishing songbooks for draftees at military camps and arranging antifascist war ballads for marching bands and pop singers, even recording conscripts with musical talent.
Sunday, March 06, 2011
THE soldier now known as Towton 25 had survived battle before. A healed skull fracture points to previous engagements. He was old enough—somewhere between 36 and 45 when he died—to have gained plenty of experience of fighting. But on March 29th 1461, his luck ran out.
Towton 25 suffered eight wounds to his head that day. The precise order can be worked out from the direction of fractures on his skull: when bone breaks, the cracks veer towards existing areas of weakness. The first five blows were delivered by a bladed weapon to the left-hand side of his head, presumably by a right-handed opponent standing in front of him. None is likely to have been lethal.
Mothers and fathers used to bring up children: now they parent. Critics used to review plays: now they critique them. Athletes podium, executives flipchart, and almost everybody Googles. Watch out—you’ve been verbed.
The English language is in a constant state of flux. New words are formed and old ones fall into disuse. But no trend has been more obtrusive in recent years than the changing of nouns into verbs. “Trend” itself (now used as a verb meaning “change or develop in a general direction”, as in “unemployment has been trending upwards”) is further evidence of—sorry, evidences—this phenomenon.
Friday, March 04, 2011
English per capita income in the late Middle Ages was actually of the order of $1,000 (as expressed in 1990 dollars), compared to modern-day Zaire, where a comparable per capita income is $249. Even on the eve of the Black Death, which first struck in 1348/49, the researchers found a per capita income in England of more than $800 using the same 1990 dollar measure.
Interesting. Apparently in some places, things are so awful a return to the middle ages would be an improvement.
The article is here.
WARNING: The article is safe for work. The rest of the site, not so much.
Japan's budget is in a truly terrifying state. Reading about the government's behavior reminds me of the worst accounts of compulsive spenders on the verge of personal bankruptcy--a sort of "What the hell, we're screwed anyway, so let's not think about it and maybe go to Cabo for the weekend." The budget's structural position is what is known technically to economists as "completely hosed"; borrowing now exceeds tax revenue, and debt service costs now eat up almost half of the tax revenue the government collects. "Unsustainable" is too weak to describe the situation; I don't know how they're doing it now.
A cautionary tale.
In a fashion similar to human girls, some young chimpanzees seem to play with sticks as if they were dolls.
The findings, reported in the Dec. 21 Current Biology, are the first documented evidence of boy and girl primates in the wild playing differently with their toys. Though these patterns’ origins will surely be argued, they add to the constellation of behaviors shared by humans with our closest living relative.
“We find that juveniles tend to carry sticks in a manner suggestive of rudimentary doll play and, as in children and captive monkeys, this behavior is more common in females than in males,” wrote anthropologists Richard Wrangham of Harvard University and Sonya Kahlenberg of Bates College.
Wrangham’s group has studied chimpanzees in Uganda’s Kibale National Park since the late 1980s, following in the methodological steps of his mentor, Jane Goodall, whose exhaustive, patient fieldwork first revealed that chimpanzees use tools and are more like humans than once thought.
They are our cousins.
As Grey explains, he's protected by the Leidenfrost Effect, in which a liquid that comes into contact with something much hotter than itself forms an insulating layer of vapor to prevent the liquid from immediately boiling. (You can read all about the Leidenfrost Effect in our primer on the subject.) This vapor layer provided short-term protection for his hand against the dangerously cold liquid nitrogen, allowing him to safely place his hand in the liquid nitrogen again and again - although only for a split-second each time.
We no longer build the world’s tallest buildings – other countries do. We no longer reaching towards the moon – other countries are. And when we do attempt something big – universal health care, alternative energy, improved educational standards, mass transportation – the initiative inevitably snarls up in bad planning, corruption, political pay-offs, lack of leadership, impracticality and just sheer incompetence. The comparatively tiny Lincoln Administration managed to win the Civil War, open up the Great Plains through the Homestead Act, and kick off construction of the transcontinental railroad. . .all in four years.
Why are things so different now? Why can’t we seem to do big things well anymore?
Read the whole thing.
Yet there are very good reasons why public transit occupancy rates will never rise much above their current levels of about one-fifth full. Suppose you take a bus or train to work during rush hour and it seems full. But it really only seems full as it approaches the center of town. It is likely to be nearly empty when it starts its journey in the suburbs, and be nearly full only when it gets close to the city center. Over a single, one-way journey into town (or out of town in the afternoon), the vehicle is likely to average only about half full.
Plus, that bus or train has to return in the other direction, and then it could be nearly empty. Now the transit line averages just one-quarter full. Add to that all the trips made during non-rush hours, and it is hard to imagine that transit vehicles can possibly average much more than one-fifth full.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Why do I defend Palin in this case? I don't agree with her political philosophy: She is an arch conservative. I am a liberal with sanity. I know that I am setting myself up for attack when I ask, why did Emile Zola defend Dreyfus? Palin is no Dreyfus and I am certainly no Zola. But all of us have an obligation, particularly those in politics and public office, to denounce, when we can, the perpetrators of horrendous libels and stand up for those falsely charged. We should denounce unfair, false and wicked charges not only when they are made against ourselves, our friends or our political party but against those with whom we disagree. If we are to truly change the poisonous political atmosphere that we all complain of, including those who create it, we should speak up for fairness when we can.
The rest is here.
We're not talking about a program that isn't serving quite as many people as expected. We're talking about a program that was supposed to serve almost 400,000 people, and is instead serving around 2% of that number. Nor have these people been turned away due to budget constraints; they don't seem to have applied in the first place.
Milton Friedman correctly argued in 1999 that the "real cost of government—the total tax burden—equals what government spends plus the cost to the public of complying with government mandates and regulations and of calculating, paying, and taking measures to avoid taxes." He added, "Anything that reduces that real cost—lower government spending, elimination of costly regulations on individuals or businesses, simplification of explicit taxes—is a tax reform."
Read the whole thing.