Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Planned for Hitler, a Fate Worse Than Death?

I recently came across a Business Insider article about an October 1943 report for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) on Adolf Hitler by a psychologist, Dr. Henry Murray. The current reporting on this has centered around Hitler's life and mental state, but what I found somewhat amusing was to picture Murray's suggestion for post-war Hitler, if they could keep him from killing himself or otherwise seeking martyrdom.

The suggestions included, following the trial and execution of the other Nazi leaders:
"Commit Hitler to an insane asylum (such as St. Elizabeth's, Washington, D.C.) and house him in a comfortable dwelling specially built for his occupancy. Let the world know that he is being well treated." (p. 34)
He would be spared from death because it would lessen his "legend" to become a mental patient. This was to be accomplished by convincing him he could live out his life like Napoleon on St. Helena when in fact he would have been studied, monitored, and displayed until he was no longer interesting:
If taken in a routine, scientific and undramatic manner the pictures will become quite tiresome after a while and the people will get bored with Hitler in a year or so.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Regarding the eventual replacement of the great Justice Scalia, we have two conflicting but both literally correct statements from Senate leaders.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Reuters):
"It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat," he said in a statement.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (The Washington Times)
"The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year," he said.

The vacancy itself is unprecedented. Senate confirmation has not been an issue simply because a similar vacancy has never happened "in recent history." The Senate has not left an election year vacancy vacant in the last 80 years because an election year vacancy has not occurred since 1932, 84 years ago.

To borrow a phrase from President Obama, the Senate majority might start saying "elections have consequences."

Saturday, February 13, 2016

High Minimum Wage Stunts Job Growth

From Generation Opportunity:
According to Investor’s Business Daily, when Washington D.C., Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago started paying low-skilled workers more, job creation dropped to its slowest in the last five years in the leisure and hospitality sector. Many minimum wage jobs fall within this field, which includes restaurants and hotels.
And this isn't just a quarter-to-quarter slowdown. The cities deviate from other parts of their states over the same time period:
When San Francisco and Oakland bumped their minimum wages to $12.25, the highest in the country, employment rates for the fourth quarter dropped from 4.7 percent to 2.5 percent. And yet in the rest of California where minimum wage was around $3.25 less, employment grew by 4.8 percent last year.
And from the Investor's Business Daily article:
Job gains at Seattle-area restaurants rose just 1.8% from a year ago, down from 4.6% growth a year earlier, in their worst year for employment since 2009. Meanwhile, in the rest of the Washington state, restaurant employment gains accelerated to 6.3%.

Monday, February 08, 2016

On Campaign Music

A frequently under-reported point about music for political campaign events: musicians can complain, but this is because of free speech, not because they actually control their music. From the Politico:
As long as the campaign or the venue has bought a “blanket license,” which is standard practice, it can use any song from the music library of the organization granting the license. (Use of music for campaign commercials is more complicated and typically requires an artist’s permission.) It’s not the law that stops politicians from using certain songs; it’s the embarrassment factor, which has been significant.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

On Production Costs, or, the $350,000,000 Saturn

A fun fact from NDIA might put the cost of some defense systems in context, especially for dramatically reduced orders:
While working on the B-2 bomber, [Tom Vice, president of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems] recalls, the company studied General Motors’ production process for introducing its new Saturn line and estimated that if only 20 cars had been built, each would have cost $350 million.
In the case of the B-2, this happened:
The company set up an assembly line in a one million square-feet facility to build 132 bombers, but the order was truncated to 21. The poor economies of scale inflated the price of the aircraft to about $2 billion each.
The fixed costs of production (designs, machinery, tools, etc.) have to be covered by what is actually produced, whether 20 or 20,000.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2,431 Words, Not One of Which Was "Federalism"

In the New York Times, Thomas Edsall tries to find the mysterious explanation of how Republicans could possibly be successful at the state level in recent years. The divisive president is overlooked, but Charles and David Koch are referenced nine times. Most notable, however, is the omission of the one simple advantage that Republicans have over Democrats at the state level: an interest in federalism (the division of power between states and the central, or federal, government).

The closest he comes is to note, referencing an interview with a liberal strategist
the right can tap into an embedded structure of community-based cultural, religious, social organizations — churches, Elks, veterans halls, gun groups, local business organizations, etc. — that are gathering places with offices, meeting halls, phones and computers that can be used by activist troops for logistical and operational support.
Or, put another way, Republicans are more involved in their communities than Democrats.

Federalism is central to the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats as a party believe in central planning and dictates from the capital (e.g., ObamaCare), while Republicans are more likely to encourage states to solve their own problems and learn from each other (even RomneyCare would seem to fit here). That is a natural advantage at the local level. Republicans are more inclined to look for local solutions while Democrats pray to DC for theirs.

For example, an article in The Atlantic about the future of work as automation increases was useful when it stayed on topic, but went on to propose a "national policy that directed money toward [community] centers in distressed areas..." A Republican would be more likely to say, "we need a community center in our community--let's build it." than to suggest laundering money through Washington, DC where bureaucrats could choose which community centers to fund among the thousands of communities.

Who is more appealing: the candidate who wants the community to build a community center or the one who promises to lobby the federal government for the return of laundered tax dollars to build a community center?