Wednesday, March 14, 2012

This Blog Has Moved

You can now find my blog at its new url.

The new RSS can be found here.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

on Immigration

Why do we restrict immigration? From what I understand the answer is that we want to protect American jobs. I think thats hogwash and there is evidence to back me up. If smart and wealthy people want into the club that is America they should be given the opportunity to do so. Those individuals will come here and spend, work, innovate and hire other Americans. In short they will help grow America and help bring down costs for us all. Anyone who says otherwise is either prejudiced or just plain scared.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

on Afghanistan

As it has been in the news quite a bit the past few days, the accidental burning of Korans has been on my mind as of late. While I understand that the burning of religious texts can be seen as an affront to ones religion and it being done by people who seem to share very little in common with the average Afghan can can not help but make it worse, I find it perplexing that the outrage is so strong. It was an accident after all, for which the President of the United States apologized for in an election year. It was an accident unlike the death squads, the torture, the corruption, the desecration of corpses and the 10 year occupation that can and is associated with American forces in Afghanistan.

But it's the Korans they are mad about. Something has gone terribly terribly awry in that country, and I don't think we know who exactly is to blame.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

on Language Barriers

One of the books I am currently reading is Nicholas Wapshott's Keynes Hayek (a book I probably wont get into much on here due to my lack of confidence in talking about economics, but as always I reserve the right to change my mind) and the following passage represents something that keeps beating me over the head through out the whole book:

Teaching gave Hayek pleasure, though his difficulty with English hampered his ability to transmit his message. “All of us were excited to hear that Hayek had arrived,” recalled Theodore Draimin, an LSE undergraduate in 1932. “When we arrived for the first lecture he commenced to talk in English. After a few minutes, it became apparent that none of us could understand a word he said. Some suggested he speak in German. This he did, and those of us unable to understand had to leave the course.” 

Here is a man who is arguably one of the more brilliant minds of his generation but because he did not speak English his arguments either were muddled or never heard by any one who did not speak German.

It is striking that speech, something that small children do with ease, can cause such division and distrust when it is not completely understood. Here's to someone bringing our world the equivalent of the babel fish for he will be the bringer of peace and prosperity. Or not.

Monday, February 13, 2012

on The Command

As you may or may not know, I enjoy reading Marc Ambinder. So it should not surprise anyone that when his short e-book on JSOC, titled The Command, was released, I devoured it in a weekend. If you are at all interested in America's Special Forces then I highly recommend the book. Ambinder and Grady really hit this one out of the park, go buy it.

What most fascinated me was the swift and extremely effective change that occurred right before the surge in Iraq in the way JSOC gathers, disseminates and acts open intelligence throughout the US military and Federal bureaucracy. I used to think what we see in the Bourne movies was pure fantasy, but now I'm starting to think it reflects reality fairly well:
Here is how a colleague of General Flynn’s described the change in procedures on the ground: “What would normally happen is: the shooters would kick down a door and snatch everyone and drag them to the front room, and then take everything with them, and put it in a trash bag. The bad guys would be taken to a detention facility and the pocket litter would come back to [the intelligence analysts]. Flynn thought this was stupid. Instead, he gave the shooters—think of this—the Delta guys, mini cameras, and schooled them in some basic detective techniques. When you capture someone, take a picture of them exactly where you captured them. Take detailed notes of who was doing what with what. Don’t merge all the pocket litter.”  
He continued, “Then, the shooters were supposed to e-mail back an image of the person they captured to Balad [JSOC’s intelligence headquarters], where analysts would run it through every facial recognition database we have, or fingerprints or names, or what have you. We’d get hits immediately. And so our intel guys would radio back to the team in the field, ‘Hey, you’ve got Abu-so-and-so, or someone who looks like them. See if he knows where Abu–other-person is.’”
And that’s what the shooters would do. They’d tell their captured insurgents that for a price, they could help them. A senior JSOC intelligence commander said, “They’d say, ‘I know you, you’re so-and-so. And if you want us to help you, you need to tell us where this other person is.’ And it would work. And then, when we got a new address, sometimes within twenty minutes of the first boot on the door, we’d have another team of shooters going to another location.” Follow-up interrogations were plotted out like dense crime dramas, with dozens of participants, including some by video teleconference.  
Instead of three operations every two weeks, JSOC was able to increase its operations tempo (or “optempo”) significantly, sometimes raiding five or six places a night. This completely bewildered insurgents and al-Qaeda sympathizers, who had no idea what was going on. In April 2004, according to classified unit histories, JSOC participated in fewer than a dozen operations in Iraq. By July 2006, its teams were exceeding 250 a month. McChrystal’s operations center was open for fifteen hours a day, regardless of where he was. There is a strong correlation between the pace of JSOC operations, the death rate of Iraqi insurgents and terrorists, and the overall decline in violence that lasted long enough for U.S. troops to surge into the country and “hold” areas that used to be incredibly dangerous.
They went from under 12 operations a month to over 250 a month! That's just insane! Ambinder & Grady don't mention it explicitly here but what I really think is the revolutionary thing is not the change in tactics per se but the trust and decision making placed in the hands of the "shooters". By empowering them to do the on the ground investigation and analysis it enabled the intelligence to be acted upon much earlier and more than likely put the enemy on their heals. A lot like when an offense goes no huddle in football and as a result of the defense not being prepared the entire momentum of the game shifts.

Friday, January 6, 2012

on Health Jobs

I'm starting to think that while growth in the healthcare sector is good for the economy in the current jobs crisis over the long run it is not ideal. Here is Ryan Avent in his book The Gated City:
(People are) moving to places where job growth is heavily concentrated in non-export industries with very low productivity growth: largely health care and education.
It is less likely to innovate and as Sarah Kliff points out, with 1 in 5 people moving into the profession we are less likely to stem the debilitating cost growth in the health care sector. What I am personally worried about is that this going to draw highly intelligent, productive members of our society away from densely populated, highly productive regions of the country (New York, San Francisco, DC & Boston) to less desirable, sprawl ridden areas of the country. Drawn away to fill jobs, while very much needed and admirable, that will give little in the way of innovation and economic growth. These individuals would be better suited working in a densely packed metropolis with a multitude of biotech, pharmaceutical and health research firms to feed off of and innovate. Not parts of the countries whose greatest claim to fame is the availability of cheap land.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

on Farming and Manufacturing in the South

You  can thank/blame better farming equipment for the conditions that led to "Right to Work" laws in the South:
Agricultural productivity pushed millions of farm workers off their land and created a large pool of poor, jobless workers. Finding employment for those workers became a high priority for southern politicians, many of which underwent a dramatic political transformation -- from a focus on protecting southern culture from the federal government, to aggressively recruiting new enterprises from the industrial portions of the country. State leaders began to wave generous incentive packages at northern firms, including tax breaks and right-to-work laws, in order to attract production facilities. And many were successful; industrial employment rose sharply across the south, turning the southern Piedmont into the country's second industrial heartland. 
That is from Ryan Avent's book The Gated City.

All of this makes sense; a large pool of labor puts pressure on politicians who, to save their own jobs, bend over backwards to entice business to their states. Which in turn hurts labors position in said states. A sacrifice locals don't mind because having a low paying non-union job is better than not having a job at all, but to workers in the midwest it was a death sentence. A well played game by management.