Quotulatiousness

December 9, 2017

Berlin Airlift: The Cold War Begins – Extra History

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Germany, History, Military, Russia, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 7 Dec 2017

Tension between the Soviet Union and their former World War 2 Allies escalated into a hostile blockade of Berlin. All sides wanted to avoid another war, but the United States, Great Britain, and France refused to bend to Stalin’s pressure. They came up with a daring plan to supply Berlin by air.

The unique culture that is Quebec

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Paul Wells on the latest blow struck in the never-ending battle against the English language in La Belle Province:

This is the thing about language politics in Montreal. It’s a game with many participants but few spectators. It’s addictive fun to play and unbearable to watch. If you’re not arguing about the state of the fragile equilibrium — standoff? Cold war? — between the local francophone majority and the continental anglophone majority, then you’re just living your life. And living your life is almost always very different from whatever the current argument is about.

The latest argument is so stupid I have avoided it for a week. Probably you have heard anyway. Quebec’s National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution urging merchants to greet customers with a hearty “bonjour! The unstated subtext was that they should stop there and not add an incriminating “Hi!” in English. In fact, in the motion’s original wording, as presented by the Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée, it wasn’t even unstated. The frequent use of “Bonjour-hi” by Montreal merchants was described as an “irritant,” until Quebec premier Philippe Couillard sat down with Lisée and haggled over the motion, line by line, eventually removing the bit about “hi” being an irritant.

Thus amended — essentially, Say ‘bonjour!’ to customers, because the English language is… well, you know — the motion was adapted unanimously by the National Assembly.

Unanimous motions of the National Assembly are believed, by its members and by about three staffers at Le Devoir, to carry a particular weight, because they mark occasions when the representatives of the Québécois nation put aside their differences to speak with one voice in sacred defence of the besieged descendants of France on American soil. Unfortunately, the rush of passing such a motion must be intense to the point of addiction because for many years now, the members of the National Assembly have been passing so many that by now the effect is ruined.

Here is a partial list of unanimous motions going back to 1960, including 15 so far this year alone. Five in November. On Nov. 14, the representatives of the Québécois nation put aside their differences long enough to demand a share of federal subsidies for electric-car recharging stations proportional to Quebec’s share of Canada-wide electric car sales. Come on. I’m a big fan of the National Assembly, but these days, it’s precisely at its most solemn moments that it’s the biggest farce.

History of the Gun Part-11: Semi-Auto Pistols

Filed under: History, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

RugerFirearms
Published on 7 Apr 2010

The “History of the Gun” online video series produced by Ruger is a unique look at the progression of firearms technology throughout the years, hosted by Senior Editor of Guns & Ammo Garry James. Part 11 examines semi-automatic pistols.

QotD: Staying beautiful

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

To understand what it takes to be beautiful, we need to be very clear about what being beautiful means — being sexually appealing to men. And then, instead of snarling that male sexuality is evil, we need to accept that it’s just different — far more visually-driven than female sexuality. To focus our efforts, we can turn to an increasing number of studies by evolutionary psychologists on what most men seem to want. For example, the University of Texas’ Devendra Singh discovered that men, across cultures, are drawn to a woman with an hourglass figure. Men like to see a woman’s waist — even on the larger ladies — so burn those muumuus, which only reveal your girlish figure in a Category 5 hurricane, and if you don’t have much of a waist, do your best to give yourself one with the cut of your clothes or a belt.

Too many women try to get away with a bait-and-switch approach to appearance upkeep. If you spend three hours a day in the gym while you’re dating a guy, don’t think that you can walk down the aisle and say “I do…and, guess what…now I don’t anymore!” A woman needs to come up with a workable routine for maintaining her looks throughout her lifetime and avoid rationalizing slacking off — while she’s seeking a man and after she has one. Yeah, you might have to put five or ten extra minutes into prettying up just to hang around the house. And, sure, you might be more “comfortable” in big sloppy sweats, but how “comfortable” will you be if he leaves you for a woman who cares enough to look hot for him?

Like French women, we, too, need to understand that a healthy approach to beauty is neither pretending it’s unnecessary or unimportant nor making it important beyond all else. By being honest about it, we help women make informed decisions about how much effort to put into their appearance — or accept the opportunity costs of going ungroomed. The truth is, like knowledge, beauty is power. So, ladies, read lots of books, develop your mind and your character, exercise the rights the heroes of the women’s movement fought for us to have, and strive to become somebody who makes a difference in the world. And, pssst…while you’re doing all of that, don’t forget to wear lipgloss.

Amy Alkon, “The Truth About Beauty”, Psychology Today, 2010-11-01.

December 8, 2017

But what about “whataboutism”?

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle on the folks who automatically resort to “what about x”:

Last week, as you may have noticed, Republicans passed a tax bill. As you may also have noticed, Democrats were aghast. Passing a bill like that on straight party lines! Using a parliamentary maneuver to push through something that could never have survived a filibuster! How could Republicans be so brazen, so immoral, so fiscally irresponsible?

Those of us who remembered saying many of the same things during the passage of Obamacare had to beg them to stop. I mean, we could have been seriously hurt, laughing that hard.

But when I pointed this out, the good citizens of Twitter informed me over and over that this was mere “whataboutism.”

Whataboutism is defending some indefensible action by pointing to some equally indefensible action that was supported, or at least not condemned, by your opponents. (Whataboutism is usually defined as a version of the tu quoque fallacy, attacking the questioner rather than answering the question. It’s also a red herring.) After lobbing a few “What about you?” grenades, you use the resulting chaos to duck uncomfortable questions.

It is a favorite tactic of our president, whose campaign platform was “What about her emails?” Every time someone brings up the FBI investigation that is creeping closer to the highest echelons of his staff, he is fond of asking, apropos of nothing, why Hillary Clinton’s not in jail.

Halifax Explosion – Peace in the East? | THE GREAT WAR Week 176

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 7 Dec 2017

This week in the Great War, we see some action in Italy and none at all in Russia – the peace negotiations are well underway. The Allied Supreme War Council meets for the first time as the Battle of Cambrai comes to a close. Two ships collide in Nova Scotia resulting in a deadly explosion.

Final hurdle for US tax reform efforts

Filed under: Law, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Veronique de Rugy looks at the two differing tax bills passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives and what needs to be done to blend them into a single bill for the President to sign:

The House and Senate passed their own versions of a tax reform bill surprisingly fast. But now the hard work starts, as they need to turn those two bills into one. The trick is to produce a bill that can pass both chambers again, meaning a bill that appeases some powerful interest groups while still making the budget math work.

In some respects, this conference process may be easier than we think. Once lawmakers have come this far with such a big bill—when stakes are this high—it’s hard to imagine them not doing everything they can to cross the finish line. Helping in the process is the fact that their bills aren’t so vastly different in terms of philosophy and provisions that it makes reconciling differences impossible.

[…]

It’s worth considering some worst- and best-case scenarios resulting from this conference process. Worst-case scenario, the final bill would water down the investment provisions and entirely preserve many tax preferences currently targeted in both bills. It would also preserve the House version’s individual rates, including a 12 percent bubble rate for top income earners, which effectively would impose a marginal tax rate of 45.6 percent, as opposed to the current 39.6 percent.

It would expand the child tax credit value beyond the levels passed in the House ($1,600) and the Senate ($2,000). That change would remove a large number of taxpayers from the tax rolls, which would be problematic because Republicans also refuse to cut spending. This also would shift more burden to the top 10 percent (taxpayers making above $138,000), who already pay 70 percent of the total federal income tax. If members of Congress also were to expand the refundable part of the credit, it would dramatically increase government spending, too.

The cherry on a very unsavory tax cake would be if lawmakers adopted the House’s tax base erosion provisions, which include an idiotic excise tax that resembles the dreaded border adjustment tax, which was killed in recent months.

To finish on a positive note, allow me to dream a little. My best-case scenario would maintain the permanent 20 percent corporate tax rate. It would also delay the adoption of anti-tax avoidance provisions until lawmakers get to assess the full impact that cutting the corporate tax rate has on avoidance behaviors by companies. Congress would adopt the Senate version of the individual tax rates or even cut the top marginal rate further.

History of the Gun Part-10: Revolvers

Filed under: History, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

RugerFirearms
Published on 24 Mar 2010

The “History of the Gun” online video series produced by Ruger is a unique look at the progression of firearms technology throughout the years, hosted by Senior Editor of Guns & Ammo Garry James. Part 10 examines revolvers.

QotD: Why mid-20th century Americans ate what they did – 7

Filed under: Economics, Health, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Entertaining was mandatory [in the 1950s]. Because people didn’t go to restaurants so much, they spent time having people over, or eating at someone else’s house. If someone had you over, you had to have them over. This meant people had to have “company dinners” they could make, or at least a stock of canapés they could throw together for a cocktail party, even if they weren’t very good at it. Cue the weird focus on prettying everything up, more than occasionally to the detriment of the food itself: if you can’t make it good, you can at least make it pretty, to show people you made an effort.

Megan McArdle, “Friday Food Post: The Economics Behind Grandma’s Tuna Casseroles”, Bloomberg View, 2015-10-30.

December 7, 2017

The battleships of Pearl Harbour

Filed under: History, Japan, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Last month Naval Gazing ran a three-part series on the US Navy battleships at Pearl Harbour on the morning of 7 December, 1941, their post-attack fates, and later careers in World War 2. Part 1 was about the initial Japanese attack:

In Pearl Harbor on December 7th were eight battleships: Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Tennessee, California, West Virginia and Maryland. All of them were of First World War vintage, representatives of what was known as the Standard Type. These were ships commissioned between 1914 and 1923, all of broadly the same size, and the first ships designed for long-range combat using an all-or-nothing armor scheme. All had four turrets, and all but West Virginia and Maryland mounting 14” guns. (They had 16” guns instead.)

Pearl Harbour at the beginning of the attack, Battleship Row at the top (the waterspout is the first torpedo hit on the USS West Virginia)

All of the ships except Pennsylvania (which was in drydock) were moored along Ford Island in the famous ‘battleship row’. I’m going to focus on the stories of the individual ships during the attack, moving north to south. The attack began at 0748 on Sunday, December 7th, and a total of 353 Japanese aircraft were involved, in two waves.

A map of Pearl Harbour before the attack

The second post in the series covered the salvage of the damaged US Navy battleships:

When we left Pearl Harbor, it was the evening of December 7th, and most of Battle Force was on the bottom of the harbor. But what happened to the ships afterwards? We’ll go through the ships in the order which they returned to service (if they did) and then look more broadly at the use of the survivors during the war.

Battleship Row, 8 December 1941. Left-to-right: Maryland, Oklahoma, Tennesee, West Virginia, Arizona.

Maryland was the first ship ready to go to sea again, albeit with some damage. Tennessee was slightly behind her, as she was wedged by the West Virginia. Both ships were sent to Puget Sound at the end of the year, and repairs were completed in February. Pennsylvania was sent to San Francisco at the same time, returning to duty in March. All three ships (along with Colorado, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Idaho) served as part of TF 1, the backup to the carrier fleet until after Midway. Tennessee and Pennsylvania were sent to the states for comprehensive refit, running 8/42-5/43 and 10/42-2/43 respectively. Both received the standard upgrade, a reconstructed superstructure resembling those on the fast battleships (although there was less work done on Pennsylvania than the others), 5”/38 secondary guns in place of the former mixed secondary battery and upgraded fire control. Tennessee was also blistered against torpedoes, restricting her to the Pacific or a long journey around South America. Maryland was never refitted.

Part 3 discussed the Pearl Harbour survivors at the battle of Leyte Gulf:

The invasion began on Leyte Island in October of 1944, and triggered the largest naval battle in history, the battle of Leyte Gulf. The Japanese, who had long planned for the ‘Decisive Battle’ between their battleships and those of the US, planned a counterattack on the US landings in three main groups. Their carriers would come in from the north and draw off the US carriers covering the invasion, while two groups of battleships would sneak up on the invasion fleet from the east, passing through the Philippines and pincering the US transports from the north and south.

USS Pennsylvania leads a column of battleships into Lingayen Gulf.

The northern group (basically without planes after severe losses in June during the Battle of the Philippine Sea) managed to draw off Admiral Halsey. He’s often criticized for this, but in fairness, he was tasked with destroying the Japanese fleet, and the US didn’t realize how badly the carrier air groups had been hammered. The center group (with the faster battleships) had been detected, and appeared to have turned back after Musashi, Yamato’s sister ship, was sunk. They in fact resumed their course, and their encounter with escort carrier group Taffy 3 is the stuff of legend, but also a matter for another time.

Fifty years since the end of the 20th Century

Filed under: Business, History, Railways, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In early December 1967, the New York Central finally had to give up on their famous passenger train, the 20th Century Limited between New York City and Chicago. Kevin Keefe tells the sad story:

The streamlined steam locomotive New York Central Hudson No.5344 “Commodore Vanderbilt”, as it left Chicago’s LaSalle Street station pulling the 20th Century Limited.
Photo via Wikimedia

I don’t know what I was doing on the afternoon of December 3, 1967, but I know where I should have been: on the platform of Union Station in South Bend, Ind., awaiting the passage of the last westbound edition of New York Central’s legendary 20th Century Limited. That’s right, it’s been 50 years since NYC pulled the plug on what was generally considered the “world’s most famous train.” The final runs of trains 25 and 26 were unceremonious, as depicted in various photos that ran in the March 1968 issue of Trains. But “unceremonious” doesn’t begin to do justice to the westbound edition: it arrived in Chicago’s La Salle Street Station hours late due to a freight derailment the night before in eastern Ohio. Just looking at these sad images from December 2-3, 1967, you can image how relieved NYC and its president, Al Perlman, must have been to be done with the train once and for all.

The economics that drove NYC’s decision were brutal. As author Fred Frailey reported in his terrific book Twilight of the Great Trains, the Century’s traditional patrons deserted the train. “On May 20, 1967,” wrote Frailey, “the westbound Century carried but 18 people in coach, 34 in the sleepercoach (budget sleeper) and 40 in sleeping cars; its eastbound counterpart had 31 in coach, 42 in sleepercoach and 20 in the sleepers. In other words, you could have seated almost everyone in one seating in the twin-unit dining car.”

Editor David P. Morgan understood the passenger-train economics that drove Perlman to kill the Century, but in that March ’68 issue of Trains he couldn’t suppress his disgust at NYC’s cavalier behavior for the last runs: “Such a train deserved better than the noiseless euthanasia it received. Kansas doodlebugs have been lopped off with as much ceremony.”

The most poignant images of that day are images of both trains 25 and 26 pausing alongside a wet platform at Buffalo’s Central Terminal, their two observation cars that night, Wingate Brook and Hickory Creek, headed in opposite directions to die forever.

Photos of the 20th Century Limited on the final run at the link.

Frankenstein: Radical Alienation – Extra Sci Fi – #6

Filed under: Books, History, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 5 Dec 2017

What draws us to Frankenstein, and to sci fi as a whole? As the novel wraps up and our time with its characters draws to an end, Mary Shelley lays out the final theme which shaped the identity of science fiction as a genre: radical alienation and the search for a place to belong.

Lawrence Solomon makes his pitch for “most hated by the bike mafia”

Filed under: Economics, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

This was published last week, but I didn’t see it until it was linked from Instapundit:

Today the bicycle is a mixed bag, usually with more negatives than positives. In many cities, bike lanes now consume more road space than they free up, they add to pollution as well as reducing it, they hurt neighbourhoods and business districts alike, and they have become a drain on the public purse. The bicycle today — or rather the infrastructure that now supports it — exemplifies “inappropriate technology,” a good idea gone wrong through unsustainable, willy-nilly top-down planning.

London, where former mayor Boris Johnston began a “cycling revolution,” shows where the road to ruin can lead. Although criticism of biking remains largely taboo among the city’s elite, a bike backlash is underway, with many blaming the city’s worsening congestion on the proliferation of bike lanes. While bikes have the luxury of zipping through traffic using dedicated lanes that are vastly underused most of the day — these include what Transport for London (TfL) calls “cycle superhighways” — cars have been squeezed into narrowed spaces that slow traffic to a crawl.

As a City of London report acknowledged last year, “The most significant impact on the City’s road network in the last 12 months has been the construction and subsequent operation of TfL’s cycle super highway … areas of traffic congestion can frequently be found on those roads.” As Lord Nigel Lawson put it in a parliamentary debate on bicycles, cycle lanes have done more damage to London than “almost anything since the Blitz.”

As a consequence of the idling traffic, pollution levels have risen, contributing to what is now deemed a toxic stew. Ironically, cyclists are especially harmed, and not just because the bike lanes they speed upon are adjacent to tailpipes. According to a study by the London School of Medicine, cyclists have 2.3 times more inhaled soot than walkers because “cyclists breathe more deeply and at a quicker rate than pedestrians while in closer proximity to exhaust fumes … Our data strongly suggest that personal exposure to black carbon should be considered when planning cycling routes.” Cyclists have begun wearing facemasks as a consequence. A recent headline in The Independent helpfully featured “5 best anti-pollution masks for cycling.” Neighbourhoods endure extra pollution, too, with frustrated autos cutting through residential districts to avoid bike-bred congestion.

Health and safety costs aside — per kilometre travelled, cyclist fatalities are eight times that of motorists — the direct economic burden associated with cycling megaprojects is staggering. Paris, which boasts of its plan to become the “cycling capital of the world,” is in the midst of a 150-million-euro cycling scheme. Melbourne has a $100-million plan. Amsterdam — a flat, compact city well suited to cycling — is spending 120 million euros on 9,000 new bicycle parking spots alone. Where cold weather reigns for much of the year, as is the case in many of Canada’s cities, the cost-benefit case for cycling infrastructure is eviscerated further.

An answer might be dedicated bicycle-only routes, but the usual problem arises: the cost of the land necessary to build and maintain the routes will almost always be far higher than municipalities can afford to pay, and the benefits accrue more to upper-income users while the costs fall on the whole population. That’s just what we need: another way to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich.

History of the Gun Part-9: Repeating Rifles

Filed under: History, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

RugerFirearms
Published on 10 Mar 2010

The “History of the Gun” online video series produced by Ruger is a unique look at the progression of firearms technology throughout the years, hosted by Senior Editor of Guns & Ammo Garry James. Part 9 examines Repeating Rifles.

QotD: Why mid-20th century Americans ate what they did – 6

Filed under: Economics, Health, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Look at the sources of our immigrants. Immigration is still the major way that countries get new foods (if you don’t believe me, go out for Mexican food in any European country and report back). With the notable exception of the Italians, in the 19th century, most immigrants were from places with short growing seasons and bland cuisines, heavy on the cream and carbohydrates. After we restricted immigration in the 1920s, that’s what we were left with until immigrants started coming again in the 1960s. Of course, Louisiana had good French food, California and Texas had a Mexican influence, but by and large what we ate in 1960 was about what you’d expect from a German/English/Irish/Eastern European culinary heritage, adapted for modern convenience foods. And people liked it for the same reason I like jello salad: It’s what they were used to.

Megan McArdle, “Friday Food Post: The Economics Behind Grandma’s Tuna Casseroles”, Bloomberg View, 2015-10-30.

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