Quotulatiousness

August 28, 2014

Feeding Tommy Atkins – WW1 food for British troops in the trenches

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:16

In the Express last week, Adrian Lee reports on a new exhibit at the Imperial War Museum in London:

They say an army marches on its stomach, so feeding the two million men who were in the trenches at the height of the First World War was some task. It was a great achievement that in the entire conflict not one British soldier starved to death.

Yet no one should think that the Tommies enjoyed the food that was served up by the military. According to the wags on the frontline, the biggest threat to life was not German bullets but the appalling rations.

Most despised was Maconochie, named after the company in Aberdeen that made this concoction of barely recognisable chunks of fatty meat and vegetables in thin gravy.

When served hot, as per the instructions on the tin, it was said to be barely edible. Eaten cold for days on end in the trenches, where a warm meal was usually no more than a fantasy, it was said to be disgusting.

It was the stated aim of the British Army that each soldier should consume 4,000 calories a day. At the frontline, where conditions were frequently appalling, daily rations comprised 9oz of tinned meat (today it would be known as corned beef but during the First World War it was called bully beef) or the hated Maconochie.

Additionally the men received biscuits (made from salt, flour and water and likened by the long-suffering troops to dog biscuits). They were produced under government contract by Huntley & Palmers, which in 1914 was the world’s largest biscuit manufacturer. The notoriously hard biscuits could crack teeth if they were not first soaked in tea or water.

Conservatives like small government, except in fighting the drug war

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:51

Jonathan Adler on the odd blind spot among many conservatives who support states making local decisions (the 50 laboratories of democracy model), except when it comes to things like marijuana:

In 2014, voters in Colorado and Washington state voted to legalize marijuana possession within their states. This November, voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia will get the chance to follow suit. Voters in Florida will also decide whether to join the approximately 20 states which allow marijuana possession and use for medicinal purposes. Whatever these states decide, however, marijuana will remain illegal under federal law.

Conservative Republicans often talk about the need to constrain the power of the federal government. On everything from environmental regulation to education policy, Republican officeholders argue that individual states should be able to adopt their own policy priorities, free from federal interference. Yet many of these same people are silent when the question turns to marijuana.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives voted to cut off Drug Enforcement Administration funding for raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is legal. The measure passed with the support of 49 Republicans. This is a significant increase over the last time such a limitation on the DEA had been proposed, when only 28 Republicans supported respecting state choices on medical marijuana, but it still represents less than one-quarter of the GOP caucus. So many Republicans who believe it’s federal overreach when federal law regulates health insurance or power plant emissions think its just fine when the federal government prohibits the possession of a plant, even where authorized under state law.

None dare call it an invasion

Filed under: Europe, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:49

The battles between Ukraine forces and Russian-backed rebels were one thing: you could make a case for it being a “local” issue if you didn’t want to draw attention to it (for fear the Russians might cut off your natural gas supply). It’s quite a different thing when the Ukrainians are fighting Russian soldiers rather than irregulars and paramilitaries:

Russian forces in two armored columns captured a key southeastern coastal town near the Russian border Thursday after Ukrainian forces retreated in the face of superior firepower, a Ukrainian military spokesman said.

The two Russian columns, including tanks and armored fighting vehicles, entered the town of Novoazovsk on the Sea of Azov after a battle in which Ukrainian army positions came under fire from Grad rockets launched from Russian territory, according to the spokesman, Col. Andriy Lysenko.

“Our border servicemen and guardsmen retreated as they did not have heavy equipment,” Lysenko said in a statement.

Ukrainian authorities have denounced the latest fighting as a Russian invasion of their territory, intended to prop up pro-Moscow separatists who have been losing ground to Ukrainian forces and to open a new front in the southeastern corner of Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials said earlier that Ukrainian troops were battling combined Russian and separatist forces on the new southern front around Novoazovsk, about eight miles west of the Russian border. The Ukrainian military also said Russian troops were increasing surveillance from northern Crimea, the autonomous Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in March.

Among western countries, Canada (of all places) has become snarky about the situation:

Digital “ecosystems”, “platforms”, and sunk costs

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:19

The Guardian Technology Blog looks at how digital product vendors attempt to lock you into their own (more profitable) platform or ecosystem:

Depending on your view, the stuff you own is either a boon to business or a tremendous loss of opportunity.

For example, your collection of spice bottles in your pantry means that I could possibly sell you a spice rack. On the other hand, it also means that I can’t design a special spice rack that only admits spice bottles of my own patent-protected design, which would thereby ensure that if you wanted to buy spices in the future you’d either have to buy them from me or throw away that very nice spice rack I sold you.

In the tech world, this question is often framed in terms of “ecosystems” (as in the “Google/Chrome/Android ecosystem”) or platforms (as in the “Facebook platform”) but whatever you call it, the discussion turns on a crucial different concept: sunk cost.

That’s the money, time, mental energy and social friction you’ve already sunk into the stuff you own. Your spice rack’s sunk cost includes the money you spend on the rack, the time you spent buying fixings for it and the time you spent affixing it, the emotional toil of getting your family to agree on a spice rack, and the incredible feeling of dread that arises when you contemplate going through the whole operation again.

If you’ve already got a lot of sunk costs, the canny product strategy is to convince you that you can buy something that will help you organise your spices, rip all your CDs and put them on a mobile device, or keep your clothes organised.

But what a vendor really wants is to get you to sink cost into his platform, ecosystem, or what have you. To convince you to buy his wares, in order to increase the likelihood that you’ll go on doing so — because they match the decor, because you already have the adapters, and so on.

The vendor wants to impose a switching cost on you, to penalise you for disloyalty should you defect to another ecosystem/platform. The higher your switching costs, the worse the vendor can afford to treat you — rather than supplying the best goods at the best price, he can provide the best goods at the best price, plus the switching cost you’d have to pay if you went somewhere else. Or he can offer the best price, but offer goods whose manufacture — and quality — is cheaper by a sum of about the cost you’d have to pay for switching.

QotD: “Intelligent Design” and the paradox of the human body

Filed under: Humour, Quotations, Religion, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

The human body, very cunningly designed in some details, is cruelly and senselessly bungled in other details, and every reflective first-year medical student must notice a hundred ways to improve it. How are we to reconcile this mixture of finesse and blundering with the concept of a single omnipotent Designer, to whom all problems are equally easy? If He could contrive so efficient and durable a machine as the human hand, then how did He come to make such botches as the tonsils, the gallbladder, the ovaries and the prostate gland? If He could perfect the elbow and the ear, then why did He boggle the teeth?

Having never encountered a satisfactory — or even a remotely plausible — answer to such questions, I have had to go to the trouble of devising one myself. It is, at all events, quite simple, and in strict accord with all the known facts. In brief, it is this: that the theory that the universe is run by a single God must be abandoned, and that in place of it we must set up the theory that it is actually run by a board of gods, all of equal puissance and authority. Once this concept is grasped the difficulties that have vexed theologians vanish, and human experience instantly lights up the whole dark scene. We observe in everyday life what happens when authority is divided, and great decisions are reached by consultation and compromise. We know that the effects at times, particularly when one of the consultants runs away with the others, are very good, but we also know that they are usually extremely bad. Such a mixture, precisely, is on display in the cosmos. It presents a series of brilliant successes in the midst of an infinity of failures.

I contend that my theory is the only one ever put forward that completely accounts for the clinical picture. Every other theory, facing such facts as sin, disease and disaster, is forced to admit the supposition that Omnipotence, after all, may not be omnipotent — a plain absurdity. I need toy with no such blasphemous nonsense. I may assume that every god belonging to the council which rules the universe is infinitely wise and infinitely powerful, and yet not evade the plain fact that most of the acts of that council are ignorant and foolish. In truth, my assumption that a council exists is tantamount to an a priori assumption that its acts are ignorant and foolish, for no act of any conceivable council can be otherwise. Is the human hand perfect, or, at all events, practical and praiseworthy? Then I account for it on the ground that it was designed by some single member of the council — that the business was turned over to him by inadvertence or as a result of an irreconcilable difference of opinion among the others. Had more than one member participated actively in its design it would have been measurably less meritorious than it is, for the sketch offered by the original designer would have been forced to run the gauntlet of criticisms and suggestions from all the other councilors, and human experience teaches us that most of these criticisms and suggestions would have been inferior to the original idea — that many of them, in fact, would have had nothing in them save a petty desire to maul and spoil the original idea.

H.L. Mencken, “The Cosmic Secretariat”, American Mercury, 1924-01.

August 27, 2014

Disappointingly, SpaceX plays the crony capitalist game with Texas politicians

Filed under: Business, Government, Space — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:28

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll have picked up that I’m a fan of SpaceX and other non-governmental organizations in the space race. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Elon Musk is a hero, but I’ve generally been happy about his company’s successes in bringing more private enterprise into the launch business. However, as Lachlan Markay explains in some detail, Elon Musk is not above taking government funds to do things he’d be doing anyway, just like crony capitalists in the rest of the government-industrial complex:

Shortly before a private spaceflight company’s test rocket exploded over southern Texas last weekend, state lawmakers announced millions in subsidies to get the company to continue launching rockets in the Lone Star State.

Space Exploration Technologies, commonly known as SpaceX, will receive more than $15 million in public financing to build a launch pad in Cameron County, near the Mexican border.

The subsidies came after SpaceX’s founder, billionaire tech mogul and pop technologist Elon Musk, made campaign contributions to key state lawmakers and hired lobbyists with ties to Austin.

SpaceX is one of a number of innovative and disruptive startups that, though lauded by some free marketeers for making government-run markets more competitive, are finding themselves drawn to political advocacy, whether out of shrewdness or necessity.

Of the more than $15 million in incentives for a SpaceX launch facility in Brownsville, Texas, announced this month, $13 million will come from the state’s Spaceport Trust Fund.

Initially created in 2002, the fund began to wind down together with the idea of commercial spaceflight. But with the ascendancy of SpaceX and similar companies, Texas looked to secure its place as a destination for commercial spaceflight operations.

Musk took notice. A prolific political donor, he began pouring money into the campaigns of key state lawmakers. On November 7, 2012, he donated $1,000 to state representative Rene Oliveira (D). Two weeks later, he gave state senator Eddie Lucio Jr. (D) $2,000.

The next month, the Associated Press reported that Lucio and Oliveira were working to secure state backing for a potential SpaceX launch pad in Brownsville.

As Drew M. says at Ace of Spades H.Q., it’s not like this is a new thing for businesses or for politicians, it’s just disappointing:

I’m not naive to think this sort of stuff hasn’t gone on forever and will go on forever, it’s simply human nature. That’s why making government at levels as small as possible is so important.

What does continue to surprise me when it shouldn’t is how cheap it is to buy politicians. Remember Team GOP’s hero, Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran’s longtime aide who accepted $20-30K in gifts from Jack Abrahmof in return to ensuring the felon’s clients received millions in government money?

When you think about it it’s really no surprise that politicians sell themselves so cheaply. Unlike honorable whores who sell their own bodies, politicians sell other people’s money. Plus, they make it up in volume.

This bi-partisan rush to hand out everyone’s money for their own gain is part of why I’m drifting away from conservatism and towards libertarianism. Screw them all.

The Congress System, the Holy Alliance and the re-ordering of Europe in the nineteenth century

Filed under: Europe, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:37

In my ongoing origins of World War 1 series, I took a bit of time to discuss the Congress of Vienna and the diplomatic and political system it created for nearly one hundred years of (by European standards) peaceful co-existence. Not that it completely prevented wars (see the rest of the series for a partial accounting of them), but that it provided a framework within which the great powers could attempt to order affairs without needing to go to war quite as often. In the current issue of History Today, Stella Ghervas goes into more detail about the congress itself and the system it gave birth to:

Emperor Napoleon was defeated in May 1814 and Cossacks marched along the Champs-Elysées into Paris. The victorious Great Powers (Russia, Great Britain, Austria and Prussia) invited the other states of Europe to send plenipotentiaries to Vienna for a peace conference. At the end of the summer, emperors, kings, princes, ministers and representatives converged on the Austrian capital, crowding the walled city. The first priority of the Congress of Vienna was to deal with territorial issues: a new configuration of German states, the reorganisation of central Europe, the borders of central Italy and territorial transfers in Scandinavia. Though the allies came close to blows over the partition of Poland, by February 1815 they had averted a new war thanks to a series of adroit compromises. There had been other pressing matters to settle: the rights of German Jews, the abolition of the slave trade and navigation on European rivers, not to mention the restoration of the Bourbon royal family in France, Spain and Naples, the constitution of Switzerland, issues of diplomatic precedence and, last but not least, the foundation of a new German confederation to replace the defunct Holy Roman Empire.

[...]

Surprisingly, the Russian view on peace in Europe proved by far the most elaborate. Three months after the final act of the Congress, Tsar Alexander proposed a treaty to his partners, the Holy Alliance. This short and unusual document, with Christian overtones, was signed in Paris on September 1815 by the monarchs of Austria, Prussia and Russia. There is a polarised interpretation, especially in France, that the ‘Holy Alliance’ (in a broad sense) had only been a regression, both social and political. Castlereagh joked that it was a ‘piece of sublime mysticism and nonsense’, even though he recommended Britain to undersign it. Correctly interpreting this document is key to understanding the European order after 1815.

While there was undoubtedly a mystical air to the zeitgeist, we should not stop at the religious resonances of the treaty of the Holy Alliance, because it also contained some realpolitik. The three signatory monarchs (the tsar of Russia, the emperor of Austria and the king of Prussia) were putting their respective Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic faiths on an equal footing. This was nothing short of a backstage revolution, since they relieved de facto the pope from his political role of arbiter of the Continent, which he had held since the Middle Ages. It is thus ironic that the ‘religious’ treaty of the Holy Alliance liberated European politics from ecclesiastical influence, making it a founding act of the secular era of ‘international relations’.

There was, furthermore, a second twist to the idea of ‘Christian’ Europe. Since the sultan of the Ottoman Empire was a Muslim, the tsar could conveniently have it both ways: either he could consider the sultan as a legitimate monarch and be his friend; or else think of him as a non-Christian and become his enemy. As a matter of course, Russia still had territorial ambitions south, in the direction of Constantinople. In this ambiguity lies the prelude to the Eastern Question, the struggle between the Great Powers over the fate of the Ottoman Empire (the ‘sick man of Europe’), as well as the control of the straits connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Much to his credit, Tsar Alexander did not profit from that ambiguity, but his brother and successor Nicholas soon started a new Russo-Turkish war (1828-29).

35 years later, Kate Bush returns to live performances

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:24

BBC News reports on the first live performance by Kate Bush since 1979:

Kate Bush has made her stage comeback to an ecstatic response from fans at her first live concert for 35 years.

Bush received a standing ovation as she closed the show with Cloudbusting, from her 1985 hit album The Hounds of Love.

The 56-year-old British star was appearing at London’s Hammersmith Apollo — the scene of her last live show in 1979.

Tuesday’s three-hour set kicked off a run of 22 shows, titled Before the Dawn, which sold out in minutes.

Afterwards, she thanked fans for their “warm and positive response”.

Backed by seven musicians, Bush opened the show with Lily, from the 1993 album Red Shoes.

There was a huge roar from the crowd as Bush appeared on stage — barefoot and dressed in black — leading her five backing singers.

“It’s so good to be here — thank you so much,” she told the cheering crowd.

She later introduced one of the backing chorus as her teenage son Bertie who, the star said, had given her the “courage” to return to the stage.

The first half of the show included the 1985 single Running Up That Hill and, from the same Hounds of Love album, the song suite The Ninth Wave — which combined video, theatre and dance to tell the story of a woman lost at sea.

After an interval, the second act was dominated by songs from Bush’s 2005 album Aerial.

Kate Bush BBC ad

Reason.tv – P.J. O’Rourke on Millennials and Baby Boomers

Filed under: History, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:12

Published on 26 Aug 2014

“Just this whole process of going through the baby boom’s history, I began to realize what a nicer society — kinder, more decent society — that we live in today than the society when I was a kid,” says P.J. O’Rourke, best-selling author of Holidays in Hell, Parliament of Whores, and many other titles.

O’Rourke sat down with Reason‘s Nick Gillespie at Freedom Fest 2014 in Las Vegas to discuss his new book, The Baby Boom: How it Got That Way and It Wasn’t My Fault and I’ll Never Do it Again. As the father of three kids born between 1997 and 2004, he also lays down some thoughts about millennials, noting that they live in a much nicer, more tolerant world than the one in which he grew up. “I don’t think my 10-year old boy has ever been in a fist fight,” says O’Rourke, who was born in 1947. “I mean there might be a little scuffling but I don’t think he’s has ever had that kind of violent confrontation that was simply part of the package when I was a kid.”

He also feels that the internet “fragments information” in a way that destroys the sweep of history, at least at first. “You end up with mosaic information,” he says. “Now, I think over time the kids put these mosaics together but I don’t think the internet itself lends itself to the sweep of history.”

The interview also includes a tour of O’Rourke’s long and varied career in journalism, from his humble beginnings writing for an underground alt-weekly to his time as editor of National Lampoon and his incredible work as a foreign correspondent for Rolling Stone to his current position as columnist at the Daily Beast.

A prominent libertarian, O’Rourke also discusses the difficulties in selling a political philosophy devoted to taking power away from politicians.

“If libertarianism were easy to explain and if it weren’t so easy to exaggerate the effects of libertarianism — people walking around with ‘Legalize Heroin!’ buttons and so on — I think it would’ve been done already,” says O’Rourke. “But the problem is, of course, is that libertarianism isn’t political. It’s anti-political, really. It wants to take things out of the political arena.”

QotD: More offensensitivity

Filed under: Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

‘It’s now very common to hear people say, “I’m rather offended by that”, as if that gives them certain rights. It’s no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. “I’m offended by that.” Well, so fucking what?’

Stephen Fry, quoted by David Smith in “I saw hate in a graveyard – Stephen Fry”, Guardian, 2005-06-05.

August 26, 2014

Echoes of Star Trek in The Last Ship

Filed under: Media, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:32

In his weekly football column, Gregg Easterbrook usually manages to include lots of non-football stuff, like this:

Sir, I Have Applied My Lip Gloss, Sir! On TNT’s summer ratings hit The Last Ship, about a virus apocalypse that kills most of humanity, when the titular vessel stops at a naval base and aerial recon shows everyone ashore is dead, the XO says, “I don’t like the looks of this.” Really! Then the captain goes along with the landing party, just like on Star Trek. Half the plots on the many Star Trek serials boiled down to this formula:

1. Crew notices something interesting.
2. Captain leads away team that investigates.
3. The thing is not what it seemed! Captain is in grave peril.
4. Remainder of the episode is a rescue mission.

The Last Ship has followed this formula, with its captain several times leading landing parties. At one point a three-person shore party has walked far into the Nicaraguan jungle in search of a rare monkey; two of the three persons are the captain and XO. In another episode, the captain leads a party checking out a derelict fishing boat that might have a clue about the plague destroying the world. Oh no, it’s a trap — he’s captured by the Russians, and the entire next episode is a rescue mission. Scriptwriters: Captains of ships, whether Earthbound or interstellar, do not lead landing parties. Any captain stupid enough to assign himself to a landing party should be relieved of duty!

The 2012 ABC seagoing potboiler Last Resort took considerable liberties with United States Navy vessels. The submarine that was the show’s focus carried both strategic nuclear missiles and cruise missiles (U.S. subs have one or the other), had commando teams (no strategic submarines are equipped to dispatch Marines) and possessed a Star Trek-style invisibility cloak that made it disappear from radar and sonar. The titular vessel in The Last Ship, a Burke-class destroyer with the fictional name Nathan James — it even gets a fictional designation, DDG-151 — is reasonably similar to actual Burke-class destroyers.

The James is depicted as having emergency sails, able to launch two of these — a real boat type but one found on assault ships, not destroyers — and having a main gun that can hit small moving targets, which would allow the James to clean up in any naval gunnery competition. But mostly the ship is realistic, except in that the entire crew is really good-looking.

Female personnel have served on United States surface combatant vessels for about 20 years and on submarines for about two years, so the show’s depiction of a casually mixed-gender complement is accurate. But the women of the James, on active duty aboard a warship during the apocalypse, wear eye makeup and lipstick. Don’t they know loose lips sink ships?

That was one of the things about all the Star Trek shows that bothered me: the captain, first officer, and often chief medical officer being the default configuration for any kind of work away from the ship (along with a few expendable redshirts for brief, tragic death scenes). I don’t know if it’s a carry-over from historical fiction of the Napoleonic wars, where Captain Hornblower seemed to be spending half his time at sea leading boarding parties or cutting-out expeditions, but even then he usually left his first lieutenant in command of the ship in his absence.

Political labels and low-to-no-information voters

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:50

Jim Geraghty discusses why political labelling is so limited in helping get your message across when you’re talking to potential voters who aren’t political junkies:

Liz Sheld, examining some Pew survey results and confirming our worst suspicions, that a significant minority of the electorate walk around believing that certain political terms mean the opposite of what they really do:

    Looking just at the first question, which Pew has used to determine whether people who say they are libertarians actually know what the term means, 57% correctly identified the definition of “libertarian” with the proper corresponding ideological label. Looking at the other answers, an astonishing 20% say that someone who emphasizes freedom and less government is a progressive, 6% say that is the definition of an authoritarian and 6% say that is the definition of a communist.

As E. Strobel notes, “The term ‘low-info voter’ is inadequate… More like ‘wrong-info voter’.”

Perhaps when we’re trying to persuade the electorate as a whole, we have to toss out terms like “conservative” or “libertarian.” Not because they’re not accurate, but because they represent obscure hieroglyphics to a chunk of the people we’re trying to persuade.

Tax inversions: “Canada, it would seem, is the new Delaware”

Filed under: Business, Cancon — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:04

In Maclean’s, Jason Kirby looks for reasons why Tim Hortons is interested in a deal with Burger King:

For starters, let’s consider Burger King’s motivation for buying Tim Hortons. It is not looking for synergies. Don’t expect to see Burger King roll out twinned stores, with one counter selling Whoppers, the other Timbits, as per Wendy’s strategy when it owned Tims. Instead, Burger King wants to avoid paying U.S. taxes. If the deal goes ahead (no agreement has been finalized) Burger King will achieve this through what’s known as a “tax inversion.” It would buy Tim Hortons, then declare the newly merged company to be Canadian. And because companies in Canada enjoy a lower corporate tax rate than those in America — 15 per cent in Canada compared to an official U.S. rate of 35 per cent — Burger King’s future tax bills could be a lot smaller.

Canada, it would seem, is the new Delaware.

So Burger King is buying Tim Hortons, but in doing so, the combined Tim Hortons and Burger King will be financially engineered to be Canadian, at least on paper. A statement released by the companies following the Wall Street Journal‘s initial report on the deal said Burger King’s largest shareholder, 3G Capital, a Brazilian private equity firm, would own the majority of the shares of the newly created company. And you can be sure any tax savings will flow back to shareholders in the form of higher dividends.

It’s clear what’s driving Burger King to pursue this deal. But there’s been far less attention paid to the question: what’s in this for Tim Hortons?

According to Tim Hortons, the answer — as it unceasingly has been for the past two decades — is the pursuit of international growth. In the statement from Tim Hortons and Burger King, the companies said the coffee chain will have ”the potential to leverage Burger King’s worldwide footprint and experience in global development to accelerate Tim Hortons growth in international markets.”

Update: Kevin Williamson points out that relatively few US companies actually relocate to other countries now, but that the number is clearly increasing and knee-jerk reactions to that by politicians may well make it worse.

There are trillions of dollars in U.S. corporate earnings parked overseas, and progressives want the government to shove its greedy snout all up in that, denouncing “corporate cash hoarders” and blaming un-repatriated corporate earnings for everything from the weak job market to chronic halitosis. Harebrained schemes for putting that corporate cash in government coffers abound. So the current balance could quite easily be tipped. And after years of ad-hocracy under Barack Obama et al., U.S.-style “rule of law” may not be as attractive as it once was. A few more arbitrary NLRB decisions or political jihads from the IRS could change a few minds about the value of U.S. law and governance.

The question isn’t whether you can bully Walgreens out of its plan to move to Switzerland. The question is whether the next Apple or Pfizer ever puts down legal roots in the United States in the first place. Right now, the friction works in favor of the United States, but there is no reason to believe that that will always be the case. You think that Singapore wouldn’t like to be the world’s banking or pharmaceutical capital? That Seoul lacks ambition? That the Scots who brought us the Enlightenment can’t run a decent system of law and property rights? Burger King is not talking about moving to some steamy banana republic for tax purposes, but to stodgy, stable, predictable, boring old Canada. Boring and predictable looks pretty good if you’re Burger King, especially when the alternative is unpredictable and expensive. Unpredictable and expensive is what you date when you’re young and stupid — you don’t marry it.

Update the second:

Vikings announce first round of roster cuts

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 06:57

All NFL teams begin their training camps with up to 90 players, but begin the regular season with only 53 players on the roster (and up to 10 players on their practice squads). Yesterday, the Vikings announced 14 of the required 15 cuts, including a couple of surprising moves. Inline update: today, the team announced they’d released tight end Mike Higgins, leaving 75 players on the roster. The final cut-down is due by Saturday afternoon.

Safety Mistral Raymond and cornerback Derek Cox had both been starters in earlier seasons, but Raymond had struggled to stay healthy, while Cox was unable to regain his earlier high standard of play. Raymond was waived with an injury settlement, but Cox was just released. Here is the current roster (pending one final move), with rough first, second, and third team designations (this isn’t official, but it’s based on the unofficial roster from the team).

Colour coding: Free agent signing, Drafted in 2014, Undrafted free agent in 2014, Waived, cut, or left team.

Position Starter(s) Backup(s) Third/Fourth string: On the bubble Notes
OL LT-Matt Kalil 75
LG-Charlie Johnson 74
C-John Sullivan 65
RG-Brandon Fusco 63
RT-Phil Loadholt 71
LT-Antonio Richardson 78 (UDFA)
LG-David Yankey 66 (R)
C-Joe Berger 61
RG-Vladimir Ducasse 62 (FA)
RT-Mike Remmers 67 (FA)
RT-Austin Wentworth 79 (UDFA)
RG-Jeff Baca 60
C-Zac Kerin 59 (UDFA)
C-Josh Samuda (FA) was waived due to injury in an organized team activity and then placed on injured reserve.
RT-Matt Hall (UDFA), waived 25 July.
LT-Kevin Murphy, LG-Pierce Burton (UDFA) cut 25 August.
QB Matt Cassel 16 Teddy Bridgewater 5 (R) Christian Ponder 7  
TE Kyle Rudolph 82 Rhett Ellison 85, Alan Reisner 87 (FA), Chase Ford 86   Chase Ford activated off PUP, 25 August.
A.C. Leonard (UDFA) waived 6 August.
Kory Sperry (FA) cut 25 August.
Mike Higgins (FA) cut 26 August.
RB Adrian Peterson 28 Matt Asiata 44
Jerick McKinnon 31 (R)
Joe Banyard 23, Dominique Williams 43 (UDFA)  
FB Jerome Felton 42   Zach Line 48 Line and even Felton may be on the bubble, as Norv Turner’s offence usually doesn’t have much role for traditional fullbacks.
WR Greg Jennings 15
Cordarrelle Patterson 84
Jerome Simpson 81
Jarius Wright 17
Adam Thielen 19
Rodney Smith 83
Kain Colter 13 (UDFA), Donte Foster 2 (UDFA), Jerome Simpson may be facing a multi-game suspension from the league.
Lestar Jean (FA) waived (injured) 12 June. Waived from IR, 5 August.
Kamar Jorden (FA), Eric Lora (UDFA), Ty Walker (FA), Andy Cruse (FA) cut 25 August.
DL DE-Everson Griffen 97
NT-Linval Joseph 98 (FA)
UT-Sharif Floyd 73
DE-Brian Robison 96
DE-Scott Chrichton 95 (R)
NT-Fred Evans 90
UT-Isame Faciane 76 (UDFA)
DE-Corey Wooton 99 (FA)UT-Shamar Stephen 93 (R)
UT-Tom Johnson 92 (FA), DE-Justin Trattou 94,
NT-Chase Baker 91
DE-Spencer Nealy waived 23 July.
DE-Rakim Cox (UDFA) waived 4 August.
Linval Joseph slightly injured in shooting after 1st preseason game, expected back by early September.
UT-Kheeston Randall (FA), DE-Jake Snyder (UDFA), DE-Tyler Scott (UDFA) cut 25 August.
LB WLB-Chad Greenway 52
MLB-Jasper Brinkley 54 (FA)
SLB-Anthony Barr 55 (R)
WLB-Brandon Watts 58 (R)
MLB-Audie Cole 57
SLB-Gerald Hodges 50
WLB-Michael Mauti 56, WLB-Larry Dean 51,
MLB-Mike Zimmer 59 (UDFA)
SLB-Dom Decicco (UDFA) placed on IR and SLB Justin Jackson claimed off waivers from Detroit.
CB Xavier Rhodes 29
Captain Munnerlyn 24 (FA)
Marcus Sherels 35
Jabari Price 39 (R)

Shaun Prater 27

Josh Robinson 21, Kendall James 40 (R), Julian Posey 38 (FA) Kip Edwards waived 2 June.
Derek Cox (FA), Robert Steeples cut 25 August.
S FS-Harrison Smith 22
SS-Robert Blanton 36
SS-Kurt Coleman 20 (FA)
SS-Jamarca Sanford 33
FS-Andrew Sendejo, Chris Crocker 25 (FA), SS-Anton Exum 32 (R) Chris Crocker signed 4 August. SS-Mistral Raymond waived/injured 25 August. FS-Brandan Bishop (FA) cut 25 August.
P Jeff Locke 18 N/A    
K Blair Walsh 3 N/A    
PR Marcus Sherels 35* Adam Thielen 19*, Jarius Wright 17*, Kain Colter 13* (UDFA)    
KR Cordarrelle Patterson 84* Marcus Sherels 35*, Adam Thielen 19*, Captain Munnerlyn 24* (FA)    
LS Cullen Loeffler 46 Audie Cole 57*, Michael Mauti 56*    
Practice Squad        

Cut-down dates are 26 August (to 75) and 30 August (to 53). Practice squads can be assembled 24 hours after the final cuts are made (to allow waiver wire pickups and roster adjustments). Practice squad increases from 8 to 10 this year.

* Already listed on the roster at main position.

Coach Mike Zimmer also confirmed that Matt Cassel had won the quarterback competition and would be the starter in the regular season. This was pretty clearly the way the coaching staff expected it to be, as Cassel had taken almost all the first-team snaps through training camp and had started each of the first three preseason games. Teddy Bridgewater did well, but not well enough to unseat the veteran.

The Bridgewater Underground reacts to the setback:

It was a fitful sleep, the kind where you fall asleep and then awaken; 20 minutes here, 45 minutes there. There was a feeling of uneasiness across the land, and plans were in motion should the Thing We Feared Most come to pass. At times like this, when a man is alone with his thoughts, it’s tough to not play events in your mind again, over and over. Am I doing the right thing? How will history remember us? Can I make it until morning before I have to get out of bed to pee?

Just as I was falling back to sleep, the phone rang. A phone call this late at night/early in the morning was rarely good news, and as the phone reached five…six…now seven rings, I knew that there was nothing left to do but answer it.

“Please, let this not be what I think”, I thought to myself as the word hello passed my lips.

For a moment, just enough time to make me think that this was a wrong number, or even a butt dial, there was silence on the other end. But then, just as hope began to rise in me, it was dashed. Dashed like a Brett Favre pass over the middle in the NFC Championship game.

“The long sobs of Spergeon Wynn wound my heart with a monotonous languor.”

Click. I didn’t even get a chance to acknowledge.

No. It’s happened. They did it, didn’t they?

I waited for a second to let the phrase that would key the revolution sink in.

The long sobs of Spergeon Wynn wound my heart with a monotonous languor.

No. Please, no.

It happened. Matt Cassel is the starter, and Teddy Bridgewater will ride the pine. The great thing about the Teddy Bridgewater Underground is that no underground cell can be traced back to another. My phone, as were all of the phones in The Underground, was encrypted to the point that even the NSA would have problems locating and tracing it. As long as calls were kept under a minute, and code words were used, messages could be passed freely, almost defiantly, to the rest of The Underground.

QotD: Bonfire of the humanities

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

About 15 years ago, John Heath and I coauthored Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom, a pessimistic warning about where current trends would take classics in particular and the humanities in general. It was easy enough then to identify the causes of the implosion. At the very time the protocols of the universities were proving unsustainable — more expensive administrators and non-teaching personnel, soaring tuition hikes, vast non-instructional expenditures in student services and social recreation, more release time for full professors, greater exploitation of part-time teachers, and more emphasis on practical education — the humanities had turned against themselves in the fashion of an autoimmune disease.

For example, esoteric university press publications, not undergraduate teaching and advocacy, came to define the successful humanities professor. Literature, history, art, music, and philosophy classes — even if these courses retained their traditional course titles — became shells of their former selves, now focusing on race, class, and gender indictments of the ancient and modern Western worlds.

These trendy classes did the nearly impossible task of turning the plays of Euripides, the poetry of Dante, and the history of the Civil War into monotonous subjects. The result was predictable: cash-strapped students increasingly avoided these classes. Moreover, if humanists did not display enthusiasm for Western literature, ideas, and history, or, as advocates, seek to help students appreciate the exceptional wisdom and beauty of Sophocles or Virgil, why, then, would the Chairman of the Chicano Studies Department, the Assistant Dean of Social Science, the Associate Provost for Diversity, or the Professor of Accounting who Chaired the General Education Committee worry about the declining enrollments in humanities?

[...]

If the humanities could have adopted a worse strategy to combat these larger economic and cultural trends over the last decade, it would be hard to see how. In short, the humanities have been exhausted by a half-century of therapeutic “studies” courses: Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Environmental Studies, Chicano Studies, Women’s Studies, Black Studies, Asian Studies, Cultural Studies, and Gay Studies. Any contemporary topic that could not otherwise justify itself as literary, historical, philosophical, or cultural simply tacked on the suffix “studies” and thereby found its way into the curriculum.

These “studies” courses shared an emphasis on race, class, and gender oppression that in turn had three negative consequences. First, they turned the study of literature and history from tragedy to melodrama, from beauty and paradox into banal predictability, and thus lost an entire generation of students. Second, they created a climate of advocacy that permeated the entire university, as the great works and events of the past were distorted and enlisted in advancing contemporary political agendas. Finally, the university lost not just the students, but the public as well, which turned to other sources — filmmakers, civic organizations, non-academic authors, and popular culture — for humanistic study.

Victor Davis Hanson, “The Death of the Humanities”, VDH’s Private Papers, 2014-01-28

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