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  • You Can Drown in a Lake Whose Average Depth is 6 Inches

    Posted by David Foster on August 29th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Where electrical power is concerned, it seems quite difficult for many people to grasp the importance of peak versus average demand and of  peak versus average supply.

    A letter in today’s WSJ argues in favor of solar power, noting that “unlike large generation plants, enormous wind turbines and especially nuclear reactors, all of which require years of planning, personal and small industrial solar installations can be planned and installed in a month or so”  The writer says that utilities are seeing these installations diminish their income, and hence “understandably are fighting back by charging not just for electricity, but separately for connection to the grid.”  He argues that as utilities raise their connection charges to compensate for the newly disconnected, more and more people will think that utility power is a bad deal and will disconnect totally, which will “ultimately result in electric utilities holding sway only in urban or perpetually cloudy areas.”

    What happens with solar will be largely dependent on the future improvements in battery or other energy storage technologies, but I think it is most unlikely that most people will be comfortable disconnecting from the grid totally.  With any economically-reasonable level of local storage, a run of bad weather is likely to result in running out of power totally, with very uncomfortable consequences.

    What most people who invest heavily in solar are likely to do, IMO, is to maintain a backup grid connection for those exceptional cases.  The problem is that the exceptional conditions will occur for thousands of households and other sites at the same time over a broad area…requiring the utility’s generation and transmission facilities to be sized for these exceptional conditions, with capital expenditures made accordingly.

    Continuing financial viability of the utilities will require these costs to be recovered, either via a connection fee (“readiness-to-serve charge”) or a very high kwh charge for these infrequent and difficult-to-handle customers.  But the solar people will argue vehemently against these charges, asserting that they represent nothing more than corporate greed and hostility to new technology, and are likely to gain considerable political support.

    In this scenario, in those areas with substantial distributed solar power, the utilities will be driven into financial distress or will have to raise rates considerably on their non-solar customers…which in turn will encourage more people to invest in solar, but will create great economic pain from those people and businesses who cannot do this, and eventually result in the costs of the entire vast grid infrastructure and its maintenance being allocated against an ever-declining base.  This seems unlikely to end well.

     

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Tech | 11 Comments »

    Tales of Luna City: The Gonzalez/Gonzales Families

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on August 28th, 2015 (All posts by )

    (A diversion, in the form of an excerpt explaining the background and history of Luna City, especially one of the most prominent and long-established local extended family. This is forming up to be one of my next books, hopefully finished by the end of the year.)

    Final Cover with Lettering - smallerThe main farm-to-market county road, which skims past Luna City does not actually go into the heart of Luna, per se. The old McAllister house is there, of course, set back from the roadside in a lavish and well-tended garden set out in Victorian design – a lady tastefully withdrawing her immaculate skirt from the dirt of vulgar commerce and transportation. The house itself is set at a slight but perceptible angle from the roadway itself, which the cognoscenti know is proof that the house predates the road by any number of years. Miss Letty McAllister, whose family home this is – is now in her mid 90s, the oldest living inhabitant of Luna City, and the living repository of civic memory, public and private. It has been at least twenty years since Miss Letty has seen to maintaining the garden; one of the myriad Gonzalez-with-an-z family enterprises sees to that.

    The sprawling and interrelated clans of Gonzales-with-an-s and the Gonzalez-with-a-z are acknowledged freely by all Luna-ites to be the oldest family in the area – their shifting residency within five or six miles of the place where the road between San Antonio and the coast crosses the river – where Luna City would come to be – predates the founding by at least a hundred and twenty years and possibly more. There are supposed to be records in the colonial archives in Madrid, Spain, of a royal grant to a Don Diego Manuel Hernando Ruiz y Gonzalez or Gonzales of a league and a labor of land in the area. In 1968, there was a careful archeological excavation made of the foundations of a small adobe brick building not far from the present-day main gate to the Wyler Lazy-W Ranch. The results were included in A Brief History of Luna City, since Dr. McAllister was privy to the reports of findings. It was judged to be a residence by the eminent archeologist from San Antonio who oversaw the dig – but a relatively comfortless and primitive one: two thick-walled rooms, sheltering humans in one and draft animals and goats in the other.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Diversions, Humor | 2 Comments »

    America is in Play

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on August 28th, 2015 (All posts by )

    trump

    UPDATE: Tom Perkins has now published the defense of Carly Fiorina that she needed. He had to do it as a full page ad since they would not accept a response. This is the answer and puts her in place to catch the debris if Trump blows up.

    “Not only did she save the company from the dire straits it was in, she laid the foundation for HP’s future growth,” reads the ad, which is signed by Tom Perkins, a member of the HP board during much of Fiorina’s tenure and the founder of California venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers. “I have no question that Carly is a transformational leader who uniquely has both vision and the expertise to implement it.”

    Peggy Noonan has a column today that has lots of people talking.

    I have been pessimistic about the future of the country for a while. Recently, I have been very pessimistic.

    One of the arguments for the impossibility of an event is lack of previous failure. “It never failed before and thus can never fail ever”. The Washington Post’s editorial board invokes a variant of this logic to refute Donald Trump’s border policy, arguing there are so many illegal immigrants it is too expensive to deport them all, leaving no alternative but to accept more.

    Naturally, the WaPo is certain they know what could happen.

    A useful case study is California, whose economy accounts for about 13 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and whose 2.6 million undocumented workers include almost a tenth of the state’s workforce.

    Well, guess what ? Peggy is talking to Hispanics.

    Something is going on, some tectonic plates are moving in interesting ways. My friend Cesar works the deli counter at my neighborhood grocery store. He is Dominican, an immigrant, early 50s, and listens most mornings to a local Hispanic radio station, La Mega, on 97.9 FM. Their morning show is the popular “El Vacilón de la Mañana,” and after the first GOP debate, Cesar told me, they opened the lines to call-ins, asking listeners (mostly Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican) for their impressions. More than half called in to say they were for Mr. Trump. Their praise, Cesar told me a few weeks ago, dumbfounded the hosts. I later spoke to one of them, who identified himself as D.J. New Era. He backed Cesar’s story. “We were very surprised,” at the Trump support, he said. Why? “It’s a Latin-based market!”

    What is going on ?

    On the subject of elites, I spoke to Scott Miller, co-founder of the Sawyer Miller political-consulting firm, who is now a corporate consultant. He worked on the Ross Perot campaign in 1992 and knows something about outside challenges. He views the key political fact of our time as this: “Over 80% of the American people, across the board, believe an elite group of political incumbents, plus big business, big media, big banks, big unions and big special interests—the whole Washington political class—have rigged the system for the wealthy and connected.” It is “a remarkable moment,” he said. More than half of the American people believe “something has changed, our democracy is not like it used to be, people feel they no longer have a voice.”

    I could not agree more. I keep recommending Angelo Codevilla’s essay in American Spectator. I even saved it on this blog because Spectator dropped it for a while. Now it seems to have become such a topic of conversation that it is back on their web site.

    I have even been saying that we need a revolution, and maybe it is coming.

    “It is accepted that primary schools have increasing numbers of pupils, which causes all manner of problems, but what is frequently not referred to is why we have such a boom in numbers.

    “And the answer is unlimited immigration into this country. It hits some areas harder than others but there cannot be many primary schools in the country which have not been affected at all,” said Mr Nuttall, UKIP Education spokesman.

    Wow ! That is Britain ! I will be in Britain in little more than a week and it will be interesting to have this conversation with my friends, a retired British Army physician and his wife. We will go to Belgium while avoiding the Chunnel to avoid rioting at Calais as “migrants” try to invade Britain though the Chunnel in search of the Dole.

    finn_calais_port__3080803k

    This might even be the start of the West trying to save itself from the predicted Suicide.

    In 1964, as today, it is very easy to see how a thinking person might see the intellectual drift to the left as a move toward societal suicide. For liberalism is a cry for the supremacy of general good intentions over the practical application of common sense. Burnham said that liberals are often driven by “profound non-rational, often anti-rational sentiments and impulses.” Ideas like the welfare state and leniency on criminals to facilitate rehabilitation may have sounded good coming out of the mouth of a liberal, but they were disastrous in practice.

    Burnham’s book, “Suicide of the West”, was in effect a warning that leftward drift would ultimately destroy all affluence and freedom in the world. Fortunately, many of the readers of his book heeded Burnham’s cry and helped stem the leftward movement of policy and ideas in America.

    Is it ending ?

     

    Posted in Big Government, Britain, Civil Society, Current Events, Elections, Immigration, Leftism, Politics, USA | 14 Comments »

    “At least, he has principles” they say repeatedly

    Posted by Helen on August 27th, 2015 (All posts by )

    It is possible that nobody outside the United Kingdom has noticed that we have been going through a very lengthy and painful process: the election of several party leaders. So far we have done with the Liberal-Democrats and with the Scottish Labour Party (in Scotland three of the main parties are now led by women so one can only wonder what John Knox would have made of that) and are still without a national Labour Party leader. Members of the Scottish Labour Party may have voted for their leader but they are also voting for the national one. Much to everybody’s astonishment the front runner by a long way is Jeremy Corbyn, a hitherto little known extreme left-wing MP, who still holds economic and political views that had been shown to be useless and harmful by the 1970s and cannot possibly be relevant to the modern Britain, who consistently supported the IRA and whose buddies in other countries are, without exception, tyrannical, bloodthirsty, Islamic fundamentalist, anti-Semitic and, in some exceptional cases, Holocaust deniers. In a couple of weeks he may well be the Leader of Her Majesty’s no longer loyal opposition. The mind boggles.

    Ah yes, we are told by people who support him and others who hastily add that they do not, he has principles and that is very attractive in the modern unprincipled political world. Needless to say, many of the people who say this scream abuse at the very mention of Margaret Thatcher’s name and yet if ever there was a principled politician, it was she. On the other hand, as all politicians in democracies she also recognized that other people had other ideas and principles, even people in her own party, and their support, too, was necessary.

    My own view is that just having principles is hardly sufficient. One needs to know what those principles are and, in the case of Jeremy Corbyn, they are devastating for this country and our Western allies. Let me just add that as a little known and long ago sidelined backbencher, Mr Corbyn has, until now, achieved nothing in his political career. He has made speeches and appeared a great deal on Russia Today and Press TV as well as public platforms that he shared with various terrorists and other jolly people listed above. One cannot help wondering how those principles will stand up to the realities of party leadership.

    Here is my blog on the subject that might be of interest to American and other readers.

     

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain | 13 Comments »

    What is to be done?

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on August 26th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Just got done listening to the talking heads arguing whether gun control or more mental health treatment is a better way to prevent the next wacko shooter. I’ve got another idea.

    Accept that there are evil people in the world who will find a way to do bad things to others no matter how many laws we write. Even in China. Then figure out how to minimize the number of them who become cult figures to inspire other evil people.

    How about denying these nuts their 24 hours of fame. Don’t broadcast their picture or name their name on air. Let them die in the anonymity they so richly deserve without the opportunity to inspire the next nut. By all means name the victims and describe the beginning of the destruction and greif brought to their families and communities. But don’t give these shooters any publicity at all.

    It also seems like time to mandate that all live broadcasts are on 7 second delay.

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Law, The Press | 14 Comments »

    Risk: An Allegory

    Posted by Jonathan on August 26th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Here’s an interesting article on CNBC’s website: Katrina anniversary: Will New Orleans levees hold next time?

    The 100-year threshold is also a statistical guess based on data on past storms and assessments of whether they’ll occur in the future. That means the models change every time a new hurricane strikes. The numbers being used as guidelines for construction are changing as time passes.
     
    The standard also does not mean—can’t possibly mean—that a 100-year storm will occur only once per century. It means that such a storm has a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year. So for example, it’s technically possible for several 100-year floods to occur in just a few years, although it’s highly unlikely.

    One way to look at it is that the engineers need to estimate how high a wall New Orleans needs to protect itself against a reasonably unlikely flood — say, a 1-in-1000-year event. This is the line of discussion pursued in the CNBC article.

    Another way to look at it is to observe that the odds of another Katrina, or worse, within a specified period are highly uncertain. In this case a radical course of action might be called for. You do something like: take the best estimate for the wall height needed to protect against a 1000-year flood and then double it. Building such a levee would probably be extremely expensive but at least the costs would be out in the open. Or you might decide that it’s not the best idea to have a coastal city that’s below sea level, and so you would discourage people from moving back to New Orleans, rather than encourage them by subsidizing a new and stronger system of walls.

    In this kind of situation the political incentives are usually going to encourage public decisionmakers to ignore radical solutions with high obvious costs, in favor of the minimum acceptable incremental solution with hidden costs: probably subsidies to rebuild the levees to, or perhaps a bit beyond, the standard needed to protect the city in the event of another Katrina. And it’s unlikely that any local pol is going to advise residents to move out and depopulate his constituency. Thus, eventually, a worst case will probably happen again.

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Environment, Human Behavior, Markets and Trading, New Orleans Tragedy, Predictions, Public Finance, Statistics, Systems Analysis, Tradeoffs | 14 Comments »

    On the Outside of the Hugos, Looking In

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on August 25th, 2015 (All posts by )

    The 2015 Hugo awards were given out over last weekend, at Worldcon in Spokane, and the meltdown is ongoing. The commentary on this at the follow-up post at According to Hoyt has gone over 1,000 comments, a record that I haven’t seen on a blog since the heyday of a certain blog that is not mentioned any more (but whose name referenced small verdantly-colored prolate spheroids). I’ll admit, right from the get-go, that as a writer and blogger I have no real dog in this fight over the Hugo awards – not even the smallest of timid and depressed of puppies, but I did feel enough of an interest in it to post about it a couple of times. I merely observe with sympathy as an interested internet ‘friend’ and fan of some of those who are deeply involved, rather than a directly-involved author. I love Connie Willis’s books and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga, used to love Marion Zimmer Bradley – alas, my collection of her books is now boxed and moldering away in the garage . My science fiction and ‘con’ activity extends only as far as having an entire run of Blakes’ 7 taped on VHS from when it was broadcast on KUED in Salt Lake City in the 1990s, having gone to the Salt Lake City ‘con several times, and once to the Albuquerque ‘con’ when it happened to be on a weekend at the time  I was TDY to Kirtland AFB for a senior NCO leadership class. I had a marvelous time, on all those occasions … but my personal writing concentration is on historical fiction, and to a lesser extent, socio/political blogging.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Conservatism, Diversions, Uncategorized, USA | 39 Comments »

    Here We Go !

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on August 24th, 2015 (All posts by )

    ghost

    I have been pessimistic for several years. That may be just my own psychological makeup but I am not the only one.

    California is getting a bit agitated about what is happening in China.

    Gyrations in the stock market have taken California’s fragile finances for a ride before — when the dot-com bubble burst, when the Wall Street crash sank the national economy less than a decade ago.

    So when the market continued its dive Monday, state officials began glancing around for their seat belts.

    More than most states, California depends heavily on taxes from the wealthy, pulling about half of its income tax revenue from just 1% of residents in recent years.

    California is a top down society because it depends on income tax. Texas doesn’t and its state government is funded by sales tax, which everyone pays, even illegals.

    The Obama Administration has been playing a Ponzi Scheme for years.

    A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation where the operator, an individual or organization, pays returns to its investors from new capital paid to the operators by new investors, rather than from profit earned by the operator.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Leftism, Politics | 5 Comments »

    Beating Trump on Immigration, the Easy Way

    Posted by TM Lutas on August 24th, 2015 (All posts by )

    From a common sense perspective, Donald Trump is weak on immigration. He is weak because he’s more focused on rabble rousing and being a blowhard rather than actually creating a humane solution consistent with American principles. A competing GOP candidate could easily get to the right of Trump while getting more of the Latino vote. All it takes is being an ordinary human being that looks at these people as equal to everybody else.

    A candidate can say the ugly truth that unaccompanied minors from Latin America are victims of child abuse by US standards. Cooperating with originating-country governments to open and manage a child abuse case would be a primarily federal responsibility due to the international nature of the case, though there would be room for a strong state role. Just think about it. If a mother from Miami, FL put her 12 year old on a freight train, destination, San Francisco, CA there is no question that child endangerment and abuse would be on the prosecutor’s menu when the kid’s caught. It would be unthinkable to have different treatment if the point of origin were Boston, MA. This is America and we believe in equal treatment under the law. So why is the legal treatment different when the kid’s from Guatamala, Mexico, or Panama? Their children are not inferior to ours and their treatment should be held to the same standards when they are within our borders. Trump’s plan doesn’t do this. That is weakness. For the general election, this line has the additional advantage of setting up Hillary Clinton as soft on child abuse.

    On the larger issue of immigration, the US civil war provides lessons. The destruction of slavery and the plantation system left an enormous pool of labor at loose ends and in desperate need and we mobilized to meet that emergency during the war. Today, the mitigation and end of several types of economic slavery has put the whole world in the same boat. The Deng reforms mitigated the Maoist economic slave system and unleashed hundreds of millions of people in search of jobs. The end of the Permit Raj in India released hundreds of millions more. The end of the Soviet system unleashed yet more within both Eastern Europe and all over the third world. As Republicans we rejoice in the mitigation and the ending of human bondage whether it’s outright slavery, serfdom, or goes under some modern label like communism. But the problems of how such recently liberated people are integrated into the world economy are just as daunting today as they were during our own civil war.

    While much of the adjustment to that tidal wave has already taken place, the global political class is failing to create enough work to occupy all those idle hands which will put pressure on wages so long as the failure continues. In desperation many seek to enter the US illegally and our system for welcoming and integrating newcomers is swamped, something that is as dangerous as swamping a boat, or overfilling a house to the point of collapse.

    We should not forget that for the vast majority of these economic migrants, plan A is getting a good job in their own society. Migration, especially illegal immigration is pretty far down on the list of preferred life plans for the vast majority of illegal immigrants.

    So long as large pools of unemployed and underemployed exist anywhere that connects with the global economy, wages will continue to have downward pressure and Americans will feel the economic pain. A wall on the border is a single layer of defense. It is not enough.

    The best defense is a defense in depth. While we build the wall, we need to significantly increase the number of jobs we create so that we drive unemployment down to its frictional rate of 3% and keep pressing on with job creation even after that so that jobs on the other side of the border increase and migrants stop there instead of here. The ideal is for people to have jobs in their own countries, in their own hometowns.

    This can only be accomplished by getting government out of the way in terms of job creation and encouraging people to become part time or full time capitalists where they can.

    Trump’s plan is weak because it is reactive and offers nothing in terms of reducing immigration pressure beyond our border where the first level of defense should be.

     

    Posted in Current Events, Elections, Immigration, Political Philosophy, Politics | 56 Comments »

    Secretaries of State march on for two hundred years – but we still count it in feet

    Posted by Ginny on August 23rd, 2015 (All posts by )

    I’ve been reading Daniel Walker Howe’s The Political Culture of the American Whigs(1979). It slowly gave me a better understanding, since I started in a complete fog. Like his Making the American Self, here Howe chooses representative figures to give narrative, character & understanding. Just because the book is forty doesn’t mean insights don’t remain. Howe enlivens the Whigs and reminds us our parties still have more than a bit of the Whig & the Jacksonian. But, surprisingly, an anecdote used to illuminate John Quincy Adams reminds us of a spring candidacy.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Religion, Science | 3 Comments »

    How Systems Get Tired

    Posted by David Foster on August 22nd, 2015 (All posts by )

    This great post by Richard Fernandez  reminded me of a quote from George Eliot:

    The sense of security more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for this reason it often subsists after such a change in the conditions as might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened is, in this logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent.

    (from Silas Marner)

     

    Posted in Big Government, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Political Philosophy, Tech | 20 Comments »

    Tales of Luna City – Mills Farm

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on August 21st, 2015 (All posts by )

    (A diversion for a Friday – a bit of my own and my daughter’s version of a Texas version of  Lake Woebegon or Cecily; the chronicles of Luna City, the small Texas town that the railway bypassed in the 1880s, which has a hopeless high school football team but a splendid marching band … )

    Oh, what is there to say about Mills Farm, the destination event-venue, country-themed retail emporium, petting zoo, specimen garden, and country amusement park just to the south of Luna City which has not been said a thousand times already in expensive full-page advertisements in glossy lifestyle and travel magazines, or in television spots that are enticing mini-movies all crammed into sixty seconds? Because Mills Farm is owned and run by a large corporation who also own and run many similar properties – all tailored to local idiom and conditions – star-scattered across the United States and Europe, the money and expertise is most definitely there.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Diversions | 7 Comments »

    Celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by Leaving it Alone

    Posted by David McFadden on August 20th, 2015 (All posts by )

    The fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed by President Lyndon Johnson August 6, 1965, has revived proposals to fill a much-needed gap in the Act, to borrow one of Hanna Gray’s favorite expressions.

    The gap is thanks to the felicitous 2013 Supreme Court case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, which I discussed last year in these pages. The Court held unconstitutional the Act’s archaic test for determining which states must get preclearance from the Justice Department or from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to change their election laws. The preclearance requirement–Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act–was supposed to be a temporary, emergency provision expiring five years after the Voting Rights Act became effective. But as Milton Friedman said, “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.” Congress renewed Section 5 four times, most recently in 2006, when Congress renewed it for another 25 years.

    Writing for the Court in Shelby County v. Holder, Chief Justice Roberts said that preclearance sharply departs from basic constitutional principles by allowing the federal government to veto state laws before they go into effect, reversing the burden of proof, and forcing an oddly selected group of the states to beseech the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department or a distant court to allow them to implement a new election law.

    The Court held that this onerous regime can no longer be based on a coverage formula that sweeps in states because in the 1960s or 1970s they had low voter turnout or a literacy test. Striking down the coverage formula left Section 2 of the Act still in effect. Under Section 2, state voting laws can still be challenged in court. Section 2 does not reverse the burden of proof but leaves it where it normally is in the law—on the challenger.

    Nonetheless, the party line still compels liberals to recite, in nearly every article in which they mention the subject, that in Shelby County the Supreme Court “gutted” the Voting Rights Act–or better yet committed an “Historic Gutting.” Substituting a synonym for “gutted” seems to be frowned upon and may even require a trigger warning.

    “Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act,” wrote the President in a letter to the editor of the New York Times last week. He and others on left remain under the misconception that in striking down the coverage formula for preclearance, the Supreme Court invited Congress to write a new one and now Congress just needs to get about the business of accepting his invitation. There was no invitation, just a warning that a new preclearance formula based on current conditions would raise the question of whether the preclearance requirement itself is unconstitutional.

    Republicans in Congress do not need to help set the stage for that controversy. Instead, they should take the offensive and counter that as the states ought not to be treated like vassals, it’s time to consider repealing Section 5 altogether. Short of that, they should leave to languish in committee proposals to rehabilitate an anachronistic affront to federalism.

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Elections, Law, Leftism | 7 Comments »

    Healthy Lifestyle 24/7

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on August 18th, 2015 (All posts by )

    The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating, to me, article on A Simple Fix for Drunken Driving called Sobriety 24/7 now implemented in North and South Dakota, and Montana.

    (DUI) Offenders in 24/7 Sobriety can drive all they want to, but they are under a court order not to drink. Every morning and evening, for an average of five months, they visit a police facility to take a breathalyzer test. Unlike most consequences imposed by the criminal justice system, the penalties for noncompliance are swift, certain and modest. Drinking results in mandatory arrest, with a night or two in jail as the typical penalty.
     
    The benefits of the program aren’t just confined to road safety; counties using 24/7 Sobriety experienced not only a 12% drop in repeat drunken-driving arrests but also a 9% drop in domestic-violence arrests. Unlike interventions that only constrain drinking while driving, the removal of alcohol from an offender’s life also reduces the incidence of other alcohol-related crimes.
     
    Why do repeat offenders change their behavior in response to relatively modest incentives? Patients continue using cocaine in the face of great harm to their families, livelihoods and physical health, yet they could still be induced to refrain from it when promised a small reward, like $10 for a negative urine test. The reward was relatively trivial, but it was unlike other potential consequences because it was both certain and immediate.
     
    It turns out that people with drug and alcohol problems are just like the rest of us. Their behavior is affected much more by what is definitely going to happen today than by what might or might not happen far in the future, even if the potential future consequences are more serious.

    Today we were talking to a big data company that can extract enormous amounts of information from your cell phone and make even more incredible inferences about your life style. How long will it be before your wearable will have a bluetooth connection to your phone to transmit all kinds of information on your biologic state? Certainly within two decades, possibly less. It will be able to monitor your body function and relate it to the unhealthy lifestyle choices you made in the last 24 hours.

    At least half of our medical costs are the result of behavior that will not happen today and might or might not happen far in the future. Let’s assume that insurance costs $5,000 per person, probably not far off. Would you sign up for a policy that cost only $2,500 but required you to wear the monitor system and took $10 from your checking account and told you what you did the day before to warrant it any time you engaged in sufficiently unhealthy life style? It’s coming within years to auto insurance. I can’t imagine living in that world. That’s why it’s good we are mortal. One can only take a limited amount of change. And progress requires change.

    Somewhere Mary Baker Eddy and BF Skinner are smiling.

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Political Philosophy | 27 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on August 18th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Richard Fernandez:

    If you had to name ten things “which changed everything” in the last 2 decades nearly all the good stuff will have crept out of woodwork from the inner pages while all the bad stuff was parading above the fold. You can even think of the inner pages as being in an endless war with the front page, in an unending battle between the ordinary working stiff and the self-important leaders. The working stiff makes and the self-important leader taxes and wastes. Booms happen when the regular Joe can temporarily outpace the great men and the years of the locust occur when the opposite is true.

    This is a nice post that touches a number of important themes about progress and how people perceive it. Worth reading.

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, History, Media, Politics, Predictions, Quotations | 9 Comments »

    The Last Man to Die in World War 2 (+70 Years)

    Posted by Trent Telenko on August 17th, 2015 (All posts by )

    On August 18, 1945, in a second day running of violations of the Potsdam cease fire, fighters of the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked American B-32 Dominator bombers on photo reconnaissance missions over the Tokyo area. During these attacks the last American serviceman to die in combat during World War 2 fell.

    B-32 Photo mission over Japan

    This is a painting of the final B-32 photographic mission over Japan after acceptance of the Potsdam terms, and before the formal Japanese surrender in early September 1945.

    Stephen Harding’s book LAST TO DIE: a Defeated Empire, a Forgotten mission, and the Last American Killed in World War II describes in a prologue, seven numbered chapters and afterword, with index, bibliography and copious footnotes the ill-fated mission that lead to the death of Anthony James (Tony) Marchione, an Italian-American gunner-photographic assistant, over the skies of Japan.

    The prologue sets up why Stephen Harding wrote the book, the first two chapters are biographies of Tony Marchione, how he came to his unit — the 386th Bombardment Group — for the mission, and a thumb nail history of the trouble plagued B-32 Dominator super-bomber’s development and combat history. The B-32 was a back up “Very Heavy Bomber” (VHB) to the B-29 Superfortress that USAF documents would not even admit was a “VHB” design post-war!

    Chapters Three through Five are the set-up for and a description of the desperate fighting action that saw Tony Marchione killed by a 20mm shell while giving first aide to two other B-32 crewmen wounded in an earlier fighter attack on his B-32 plane, tail number 578.

    Chapter Six focuses on General MacArthur’s wisdom in not launching immediate retaliatory strikes on the Japanese. Thus allowing The Emperor and his loyal retainers to shut down numerous mutinous air units, to include the IJN air bases where the fighters that killed Marchione were based.

    Chapter Seven has the grim details of the notification of Tony Marchione’s next of kin and the mechanics of getting his personal effects, and eventually his body, to his small-town Pennsylvania home for final funeral services in 1948.

    All in all I found the book satisfying both as story telling and as a foot-noted history. It has my strong buy recommendation.

     

    Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Markets vs Bureaucracies

    Posted by David Foster on August 17th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Glenn Reynolds has an article in USA Today:  free markets automatically create and transmit negative information, while socialism hides it.  Excerpt:

    It is simple really: When the “Great Leader” builds a new stadium, everyone sees the construction. Nobody sees the more worthwhile projects that didn’t get done instead because the capital was diverted, through taxation, from less visible but possibly more worthwhile ventures — a thousand tailor shops, bakeries or physician offices.

     At the same time, markets deliver the bad news whether you want to hear it or not, but delivering the bad news is not a sign of failure, it is a characteristic of systems that work. When you stub your toe, the neurons in between your foot and your head don’t try to figure out ways not to send the news to your brain. If they did, you’d trip a lot more often. Likewise, in a market, bad decisions show up pretty rapidly: Build a car that nobody wants, and you’re stuck with a bunch of expensive unsold cars; invest in new technologies that don’t work, and you lose a lot of money and have nothing to show for it. These painful consequences mean that people are pretty careful in their investments, at least so long as they’re investing their own money.  Bureaucrats in government do  the opposite, trying to keep their bosses from discovering their mistakes.

    Indeed, this is an important point, and one that is too rarely understood.  Rose Wilder Lane, the author and political thinker, offered the example of British versus French and Spanish approaches to colonial management:

    The Governments gave them (in the case of the French and Spanish colonies–ed) carefully detailed instructions for clearing and fencing the land, caring for the fence and the gate, and plowing and planting, cultivating, harvesting, and dividing the crops…The English Kings were never so efficient. They gave the land to traders. A few gentlemen, who had political pull enough to get a grant, organized a trading company; their agents collected a ship-load or two of settlers and made an agreement with them which was usually broken on both sides…To the scandalized French, the people in the English colonies seemed like undisciplined children, wild, rude, wretched subjects of bad rulers.

    Yet the English colonies, economically-speaking, were generally much more successful.

    RWL also explained the way in which central planning demands the categorization of people:

    Nobody can plan the actions of even a thousand living persons, separately. Anyone attempting to control millions must divide them into classes, and make a plan applying to these classes. But these classes do not exist. No two persons are alike. No two are in the same circumstances; no two have the same abilities; beyond getting the barest necessities of life, no two have the same desires.Therefore the men who try to enforce, in real life, a planned economy that is their theory, come up against the infinite diversity of human beings. The most slavish multitude of men that was ever called “demos” or “labor” or “capital” or”agriculture” or “the masses,” actually are men; they are not sheep. Naturally, by their human nature, they escape in all directions from regulations applying to non-existent classes. It is necessary to increase the number of men who supervise their actions. Then (for officials are human, too) it is necessary that more men supervise the supervisors.

    And the planner will always demand more power:

    If he wants to do good (as he sees good) to the citizens, he needs more power. If he wants to be re-elected, he needs more power to use for his party. If he wants money, he needs more power; he can always sell it to some eager buyer. If he wants publicity, flattery, more self-importance, he needs more power, to satisfy clamoring reformers who can give him flattering publicity.

    Read  Glenn’s whole article, and  my post about Rose Wilder Lane’s ideas and writing

     

    Posted in Big Government, Britain, Economics & Finance, France, Leftism, Political Philosophy, USA | 4 Comments »

    70 Years On

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on August 17th, 2015 (All posts by )

    This last weekend marked the 70th anniversary of VJ-Day; the surrender of Japan to the Allied forces. This marked a day of wild rejoicing in New York, Honolulu, London and in practically every town and city across the Western world which had sent armies and navies into a bitter fight against Imperial Japan – a fight which had been up and running in China long before Japan chose to take the fight to America by launching an attack on Pearl Harbor.

    Time has had its’ usual way with those who fought in it, and survived. The generals and admirals who stood at the top of the military chain of command are long gone, being middle and late-middle aged in the 1940s. The colonels and naval commanders are pretty much gone from the scene, the captains and ensigns vanishing likewise; most of the veteran survivors still with us were very young men and women, little more than teenagers at the time of the war; young and happy to be reprieved from fighting in a war which looked to drag on for another five or six bloody years. By the next significant anniversaries – the 75th and the 80th, there will be even fewer remaining. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Society, Current Events, History | 6 Comments »

    History Doesn’t Repeat Itself, But It Does Rhyme

    Posted by Jonathan on August 15th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Dennis Praeger on the Obama administration’s Iran deal:
     


     

     

    Posted in History, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, Obama, Terrorism, Tradeoffs, Video, War and Peace | No Comments »

    The Rise of “Conventional” Warfare

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on August 15th, 2015 (All posts by )

    After WW2 and Vietnam there was an era of relative peace as the two major superpowers stared at each other, laden with nuclear weapons, through proxy states and alliances. During this era, the major powers continually upped their weapons’ capabilities, but rarely tested them, and not against one another.

    Certainly there was war of various sorts throughout the world, but the sort of “conventional” warfare analogous to WW2 battles with armor, air power, and crushing violence rather than guerrilla tactics was far from the norm.

    The additional, tacit, assumption was that many of the modern democracies were far removed from the front lines and as such they let their military traditions die. In fact, many openly scoffed at the military as wasted dollars, or used their military spending substantially for the purpose of protecting local jobs and / or technologies along with export markets (see Airbus and most of Europe).

    The world was on a hair-trigger of nuclear annihilation for so long that the thought of a conventional war became archaic and not normally contemplated. Alongside that was the general feeling that the borders of the nation state were inviolate, and while occasional splits would occur (Czechs and Slovaks, etc…) the vast majority would occur without violence and the transition would mainly involve economic concerns.

    While the US, Russia and China would be loathe to directly face off head to head due to the very real sense of potential world destruction, everything else has become fair game. Russia takes Crimea, parts of Ukraine, and threatens the Baltic states. Is it conceivable that Putin would move in and take over one or more of the Baltic states? Absolutely. This sort of thinking would have been viewed as the raving of a lunatic ten years ago.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in History, Military Affairs | 28 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (July 2015)

    Posted by Jonathan on August 15th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos that Chicago Boyz readers viewed and/or ordered in July 2015 via Amazon links on this blog. (A cumulative list of Chicago Boyz readers’ Amazon book purchases is here.)

    Your book and non-book Amazon purchases help to support this blog via the Amazon Associates program. Chicago Boyz earns a percentage on all of your Amazon purchases as long as you get to the Amazon site by clicking on Amazon links on this blog (including the Amazon banner in the blog header, the link under the Amazon banner, and even Amazon links on Chicago Boyz for products other than the ones that you want to buy).

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes | 5 Comments »

    Friday Night Lights – The Luna City Mighty Fighting Moths

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on August 14th, 2015 (All posts by )

    (A diversion – the surprising high school football traditions in Luna City. This particular project is coming right along, and may yet be my next book. More chapters are posted at my book website, here.)

    Final Cover with Lettering - smallerThe marquee sign outside Luna City High School makes note of the fact that the school is home to the Mighty Fighting Moth Football Team – District Champions – 1967 – 1971 – 1974. That there is only a small space left to insert another champion year or two is clear indication that the Mighty Fighting Moths football coach, school administrators and team boosters have completed their journey through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and accepted the sure and certain knowledge that there will likely never be another district championship in their future with quiet fortitude. It’s not that the Moths lack heart and determination; players and boosters alike begin each football season in the spirit of game optimism, and in the hope that maybe this year the Karnesville Knights or the Falls City Beavers – which are the two regional football powerhouses and die-hard rivals – will not be able to defeat them 80+ to 6 with the casual absentmindedness of a man swatting a fly while thinking of something important. Texans live for high school football; it is simply the expected thing to do, and Luna-ites are heart and soul Texans, even those who came from somewhere else, like the Walcotts or the Steins, or Chris who bartends and manages the Ice House, Gas & Grocery.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Diversions | 8 Comments »

    Open Letter

    Posted by David Foster on August 14th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Tony Parker, Treasurer–RNC

    Reince Priebus, Chairman–RNC

    Gentlemen,

    I recently received a letter from Tony Parker which is excerpted below:

    Chairman Priebus has written to you several times this year asking you to renew your Republican National Committee membership for 2012  As the Treasurer of the RNC, I’m concerned that we haven’t heard back from you…I know other things come up, and perhaps you’ve just been delayed in renewing your membership.  If that’s the case I understand….I hope you haven’t deserted our Party.

    Oh, no, Tony, I haven’t forgotten.  I’ve made substantial political contributions in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.  But at present, I believe the highest leverage can be obtained by contributing directly to campaigns I like, rather than to the RNC or the various umbrella campaign organizations.

    For one thing, I’m not very impressed with the way the Republican leadership has chosen to conduct itself, which seems more oriented toward ensuring long-term employment (followed by comfortable retirement) for members of the Republican side of the political class, than it does with pursuing the needed political change.  But in addition,  I am extremely unimpressed by your political marketing skills, particularly those having to do with the ever-more-critical Internet arena.

    Please review my post at the Chicago Boyz blog, for some thoughts on this:

    Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is…do you, Mr Priebus?

    You are failing at social media, not using it effectively either offensively or defensively.  For example, this morning the following image was being circulated on Facebook:

    11885204_907892592606031_7481520359598440573_n

    Note the assertion that the problems with medical services for veterans are to be laid at the door of the Republican Party.  A competent political marketing organization would monitor for things like this and make a hard-hitting response post available for sharing immediately.  You don’t seem to be able to do this, or even to see the need for it.

    You’re not very good at traditional direct-mail marketing, either.  Most of the very high volume of mail I get from you is so bad it’s embarrassing.  Your DM people seem to think that we are living in the ’50s….not the real ’50s, but some highly stereotypical version thereof:

    “Maw!  Maw!  We got us a letter from these political people up in Washington DC…and it must be REAL important!  It has this really long number on it, and it says we HAVE to answer it!”

    Most people who have enough money to make significant political contributions have at least some degree of astuteness, and are not likely to respond well to this sort of thing.

    The verbal communication of the senior Republican leadership is also generally pretty terrible.  There is too much talking like a Martian, as Thomas Sowell has pointed out:

    When the government was shut down during the Clinton administration, Republican leaders who went on television to tell their side of the story talked about “OMB numbers” versus “CBO numbers” — as if most people beyond the Beltway knew what these abbreviations meant or why the statistics in question were relevant to the shutdown. Why talk to them in Beltway-speak? 

    As Sowell also said:

    You might think that the stakes are high enough for Republicans to put in some serious time trying to clarify their message. As the great economist Alfred Marshall once said, facts do not speak for themselves. If we are waiting for the Republicans to do the speaking, the country is in big trouble. 

    Democrats, by contrast, are all talk. They could sell refrigerators to Eskimos before Republicans could sell them blankets.

    You…the institutional Republican party…are doing a very poor job at selling and marketing.  The consequences for this country and the world of your failure are likely to be very severe.  I hope that you will solve the problem before it is too late, but history does not lead me to be very optimistic on this front.  Unless and until I see serious evidence of change and improvement, I will be directing my political contributions to individual candidates who appear to “get it,” rather than to the RNC or to the various Republican umbrella campaign organizations.

    Regards

    David Foster

    via: paper mail and electronic mail; posted at the Chicago Boyz blog and the Ricochet blog

     

    Posted in Elections, Marketing, Politics, Rhetoric, Tea Party | 32 Comments »

    Hiroshima, Nagasaki & The Invasion That Never Was (+70)

    Posted by Trent Telenko on August 12th, 2015 (All posts by )

    It has become something of a tradition for western leftists to commemorate the August 6th and 9th 1945 US A-bomb attacks on Imperial Japan, and to try and make the case that even if the first bomb was needed — which it was not — that the second bomb was what amounted to a war crime because the American government and military knew the Japanese were trying to surrender, but wanted to intimidate the Soviet Union with the A-Bomb.

    I have dealt with this annual leftist commemoration ritual with myth-destroying commemorations of my own explaining why leftists are wrong on this. See the following posts:

    2014 — History Friday — The WMD Back-Up Plans for the Atomic Bomb
    2013 — History Friday: US Military Preparations The Day Nagasaki Was Nuked
    2012 – Nagasaki Plus 67 Years
    2011 – Happy V-J Day!
    2010 – Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Saving Hirohito’s Phony Baloney Job and
    Hiroshima — The A-bomb plus 65 years

    My Chicago Boyz commemoration is different this year in that it is a list of reviews from popular culture video and books that show how American culture looks at what might have happened — if Japan had continued fighting World War 2 after the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and there had to be “The Invasion That Never Was”. Each review will be a text thumbnail of the content, a link, my impression and at the end of all the reviews I’ll share what I see as the problems that all of them share. Problems that amount to a cultural paradigm blind spot that I mentioned in my “Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Saving Hirohito’s Phony Baloney Job” back when I started these annual columns in 2010.

    The first review is of the old History Channel series “Secrets of War Declassified” Episode 2 of 20: “Japan: The Invasion That Never Was”. This Charlton Heston narrated video is available through both Amazon.com and its current content-rights owner, Mills Creek Entertainment, at this link.

    The video gives a reasonable back story to a 1990s cable channel audience on the historical military and political forces leading to the alternative decisions of invasion or to drop the atomic bombs by President Truman. It is told predominantly from the American professional academic military historian point of view, which while I agree with generally, leaves out much of the Chinese, Russian and British Commonwealth perspective on these events. This was reasonable editorial choice, as there is only so much you can put in a 51 minute video for an American cable channel audience. Overall the video has aged well in terms of production values from its original History Channel airing and the rich-voiced Charlton Heston narration make it a must-own for those interested in the era.


    Full Episode is also on Youtube and a link is embedded above.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Japan, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, War and Peace | 26 Comments »

    In the Garden …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on August 12th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Meet Charlotte II, the orb spider
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Diversions, Photos | 5 Comments »