American squalor


Regulations themselves aren’t the problem, though. Germany, like much of northern Europe, is a high-regulation society, but it’s also high-trust, compared to the US. Here, nice and fully functional things are built without fear of misuse. For Americans, who have both a high-regulation and low-trust society, this is all rather depressing; it’s the combination that means we can’t have nice things.

I like to live here, but the reality is we are rapidly falling behind the rest of the world in liveability, especially when you adjust for our wealth. Our cities are being frozen in time by an absurd, centralised regulatory mindset, which sees human flourishing as dirty and unsafe, and seems determined to wring out the last drops of any soul from our urban spaces. A mindset that manifests as one useless La Sombrita at a time.

By Chris Arnade.

Book Thoughts: Eisenhower in War and Peace


My first book of 2024, Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith.

One of my favorite biographies. Incredibly well paced and readable.

I think Ike has to be in the top 5 most influential Americans. Some of my contenders, in no particular order:

  • Washington <- not becoming a King or Emperor is arguably the most influential thing about the country to date
  • Grant <- wins the Civil War, two term president, leader of Reconstruction
  • FDR <- 4 term president, New Deal, leads the country through World War II
  • Lincoln <- holds the country together during the Civil War
  • MLK <- for the Civil Rights Movement and its impacts

Ike obviously belongs in this list. As much as it pains me to say it, I think he's obviously above Lincoln, who is my favorite of the group, but just isn't on the national stage for long enough.

Here's the case for Ike:

  • Wins the war in Europe
  • Incredibly popular 2 term president
  • Repeatedly refuses to use tactical nuclear weapons in early Conflicts, leading to today's norm of not using them

Assorted other stuff I enjoyed from this book:

  • Eisenhower had a mistress during his time as the Supreme Allied Commander. Kay Summersby started as his driver and became his companion. The book provides good evidence that when the war was over, Eisenhower cabled Marshall to say he was staying in London with her and divorcing his wife and Marshall said he'd run him out of the Army. Ike then leaves her behind while taking the rest of his staff. The War Department removes her from photos (!) and then Truman destroys the cable to protect Ike (!). And you thought he was boring!
  • The planning for invasion of Europe reminds me of ~every major product launch I've ever done. They Allies agree super early on, like 1942 that they must invade Europe via France, no other routes make sense and then spend 2 years doing everything but this while Eisenhower reminds them why they have to do it.
  • The book makes a compelling case that Eisenhower prolongs the war and cedes Berlin to the Soviets by ignoring Monty's advice in September of 1944. I'm not enough of a military historian to critique the case, but it was interesting.
  • Ike has basically zero command experience before becoming Supreme Allied Commander and was mostly put in as a placeholder for Marshall.
  • His most important skill was his ability to drive consensus and still make his own decisions.

The imagined history of Ellis Island


Via Marginal Revolution:

The explanation for this is pretty obvious when you think about it. Just as today, people bought tickets and their names were written on the tickets.

I never get tired of the "you were taught this in school, but it probably didn't happen" type of thing.

Indirect driving deaths caused by 9/11


Gaissmaier and Gigerenzer found that Americans flew less and drove more in the year after 9/11, which led to 1,600 more traffic deaths over that period than would otherwise have been expected.

From Range Widely by David Epstein