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Archive for December, 2009

Vive la France!

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

The French equivalent of the Supreme Court reveals the extent to which global warming alarmism was always intended as a justification for a sophisticated tax-farming rip-off of normal people by oligarchical elites:

….The tax, which would have started on Jan. 1, was set at 17 euros ($24.38) per ton of carbon-dioxide emissions, President Nicolas Sarkozy said in September. To make the tax more palatable, he partially or fully exempted power plants, public transport, airlines, farming and fishing, as well as 1,018 older cement, steel and glass factories.

In all, 93 percent of all industrial carbon emissions in France would have avoided paying the full tax, the constitutional court said in a decision published on its Web site. The tax would have fallen disproportionately on fuel for heating and cars, it said.

Emphasis mine. 

Jesus, 93 %? Was anybody with connections paying the tax?  Warmer, colder, who cares?  Just so long as widows, hotel maids and slum dwellers are paying through the nose in carbon taxes while Total S.A. skates! That is to say, the burden is on the ignorant peasantry who did not go to Ecole Nationale d’Administration.

Or on our side of the pond, Harvard.

ADDENDUM:

Science Daily - No Rise of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Fraction in Past 160 Years, New Research Finds

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Adding to the Towering Antilibrary Pile

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

The Landmark Xenophon’s Hellenika by Xenophon. Edited by Robert Strassler

Strassler’s “Landmark” series are gems. After enjoying this year’s Xenophon Roundtable at Chicago Boyz, I was glad to see Hellenika newly released. A little pricey though in hardcover.

I am adding more books to my Antilibrary, keeping in the spirit of  Nassim Nicholas Taleb, from his book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable:

….The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. he is the owner of a large personal library ( containing thirty thousand books), and separates vistors into two categories: those who react with ‘Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?’ and others – a very small minority- who get the point that a private library is not an ego boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real estate market allow you to put there. You wil accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call the collection of unread books an antilibrary.

While the real estate markets are no longer “tight”, the substance still applies. Here’s what else I just picked up:

             

After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC  by Steven Mithen

Panzer Leader by General Heinz Guderian

Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark

Strategy by B.H. Liddell Hart

Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present by Michael Oren

The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe by Wiliam Hitchcock

This last was an Xmas gift from my scientific amigo, Dr. Von

  

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Dave’s Greatest Speeches

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Actually the speeches that Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye considers the greatest – not speeches made by Dave himself. Though, being an erudite fellow, he probably can give a good speech.

The Greatest Speeches

…..Another reasonable criticism is that some of the speeches, in my view probably anything from before about 1500 CE, are fictional.

But it’s a good, interesting, thought-provoking list that includes George Washington’s Farewell Address, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, his Gettysburg address, several memorable speeches from Theodore Roosevelt, FDR’s first inaugural speech, several of Churchill’s wartime speeches, Douglas MacArthur’s farewell address, several of John Kennedy’s speeches, and several of Ronald Reagan’s speeches.

Ignoring speeches less than twenty years old which can reasonably be thought not to have withstood the test of time and just off the top of my head, here are several speeches in chronological order that I think are worthy of consideration in a “best” list:

  • Elizabeth I’s Golden Speech
  • Napoleon’s farewell to the Old Guard
  • John Quincy Adams’s speech on the Fourth of July, 1837
  • Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech
  • Garibaldi’s speech of 1860 to the troops
  • Bismarck’s “Blood and Iron” speech
  • Lenin’s speech on the Soviet power
  • Nehru’s “Tryst With Destiny” speech
  • Mao’s speech of June 30, 1949, the 28th anniverary of the Chinese communist party
  • Khrushchev’s “We will bury you” speech

I think Dave’s criticism of the ancient speeches in the Art of Manliness list is reasonable, though saying they are entirely “fictional” might be going too far ( though in some cases that might be true). Real events often become “mythologized” and accrue a thick crust of romanticism but attain a historical staying power because, unlike with pure fiction, there was a real event underneath acting to legitimize the story. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address will probably still be remembered in 2500 AD by someone, even if we Americans have vanished but how they reconstruct it may involve some invented context.

ADDENDUM:

On a humorous note, Schmedlap points to Peter’s Evil Overlord List

… 55)  The deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legions of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first see if there is anyone else equally qualified who would attract less attention.

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The 35 Greatest Speeches Ever

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Well, some at least would make every historian’s greatest hits list and all are, by any objective standard, excellent examples of oratory. A lost art.

They are from the highly enjoyable The Art of Manliness site, recommended a while back by stalwart blogfriend and sometimes collaborator, Historyguy99.

The 35 Greatest Speeches in History – Brett and Kate McKay

The Art of Manliness thus proudly presents the “35 Greatest Speeches in World History,” the finest library of speeches available on the web.

These speeches lifted hearts in dark times, gave hope in despair, refined the characters of men, inspired brave feats, gave courage to the weary, honored the dead, and changed the course of history. It is my desire that this library will become a lasting resource not only to those who wish to become great orators, but to all men who wisely seek out the great mentors of history as guides on the path to virtuous manhood.

I know that readers of blogs are often more likely to skim than to read in-depth. But I challenge you, gentlemen, to attempt a program of study in which you read the entirety of one of these great speeches each and every day. I found the process of compiling and reading these speeches to be enormously inspiring and edifying, and I feel confident that you will find them equally so.

How did we compile this list?

Great oratory has three components: style, substance, and impact.

Style: A great speech must be masterfully constructed. The best orators are masters of both the written and spoken word, and use words to create texts that are beautiful to both hear and read.

Substance: A speech may be flowery and charismatically presented, and yet lack any true substance at all. Great oratory must center on a worthy theme; it must appeal to and inspire the audience’s finest values and ideals.

Impact: Great oratory always seeks to persuade the audience of some fact or idea. The very best speeches change hearts and minds and seem as revelatory several decades or centuries removed as when they were first given.

Read, listen and/or view the 35 greatest speeches here.

A special bonus, How to Run a Meeting. By God, I wish I could make this mandatory…….

ADDENDUM:

Blogfriend and cybersecurity guru Gunnar Peterson points us to 100 Incredible Lectures from the World’s Top Scientists . Nice!

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Fouche on “Libeling Boyd”

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Joseph Fouche blasts eminent scholar Dr. Colin S. Gray for doing to strategic theorist John Boyd what Gray’s fellow Clausewitzians complain that Martin van Creveld does to Carl von Clausewitz:

Libeling Boyd

Contrast this passage with two passages from Gray’s Another Bloody Century, published seven years later:

Air Force Colonel John Boyd touted a tactical insight derived from personal experience from aerial combat as a general theory  of conflict. His OODA loop, standing for Observation, Orientation, Decision, and Action, is revered by many as summarizing the wisdom of the ages on how to win. The core notion is that success rewards the warrior who can operate within the decision cycle of the enemy. It is a sound idea, but as the philosopher’s stone for victory for victory at all levels of warfare it is distinctly sub-Clausewitzian. A major problem with the OODA loop is that its devotees assume that a tactical insight, even principle, will be no less valid at the operational and strategic levels of warfare. It is fairly clear this is not the case.

…and…

As we noted earlier, Colonel John Boyd, USAF fighter pilot turned guru, applied his tactical knowledge of air combat to warfare at all levels  by means of his simple formula of the ‘OODA loop’. Unmatched speed in the sequence of observation, orientation, decision, and action is held to be the key to victory. This insight, banal statement of the obvious, or panacea-take your choice-is probably the most important concept undergirding the current US programme of long-term military transformation. The OODA loop is a formula for decisive success in a manoeuvering style of warfare. American technology, particularly in the realm of the real-time gathering, processing, and diffusion of information, enables US forces to act effectively with a speed that leaves their enemies gasping in their wake. At least, that is the theory.

This is like reading from Baby’s First Boyd Briefing and reflects a child’s understanding of Boyd’s theory. Dr. Gray, a distinguished strategist of the ultra-Clausewitzian school, often complains about the van Creveld School’s shallow (or, in my opinion, actively duplicitious) reading of Clausewitz. Keegan and van Crevald get taken out back for a well deserved whipping for their mis-characterization of Clausewitz and somehow John Boyd gets taken along in the same sordid ranks. Gray sees this:

Faster! FASTER!

Faster! FASTER!

and reduces Boyd to a child who runs along side a children’s carousel shouting “Faster! FASTER!”. If the carousel spins fast enough, victory is at hand. If it slows down, defeat is inevitable. This is the vulgar version of Boyd’s theory, the one that the marketing directors of defense contractors can understand and spout. If Dr. Gray is, as he frequently claims to be, a professional strategist, he should be able to see that Boyd’s OODA loop, inasmuch as it really is….

Much more here.

Outstanding post.

“Libeling Boyd” seems to me to be an accurate call by Joseph Fouche. I find it difficult to believe that a defense intellectual of Dr. Gray’s caliber does not know the difference between the ideas of John Boyd and Art Cebrowski. Or that there are Soviet antecedents of the Pentagon’s RMA. Or that Boyd’s history as an anti-defense contractor Pentagon gadfly is unknown to him. Or that Gray was too lazy to look up easily available material on the OODA Loop. If it would help, I’d be happy to send Gray a copy of Col. Frans Osinga’s Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd .

Whether it would help though, is debatable.

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