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    Hope for Illinois?

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 26th July 2014 (All posts by )

    My mother, who still lives in Rockford, Illinois, sent me a link today that was pretty surprising. It says that the Republican candidate for governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, has an actual shot at winning, and it appears that he isn’t insane. I am going to do a mini-fisking of the article and ask some questions along the way that I hope that some of our Chicago/Illinois based readers can answer.

    Why are the stakes so huge? Because Illinois is arguably the worst-run state in America.

    I don’t think there is really any question that Illinois is THE worst-run state in America, hands down.

    Illinois could become a laboratory experiment about whether conservative ideas can work in a state that has been ruled by teachers’ unions and a self-serving political machine in Springfield and Chicago.

    How could this experiment possibly happen with a solid majority in the Illinois House and Senate? I guess Rauner could slag them unmercifully in the press when they don’t change anything, but I am not sure how that will work.

    I caught up with Mr. Rauner in Chicago last week. He’s ruffling liberal feathers by going into black inner-city schools and Hispanic neighborhoods and talking about school choice, economic opportunity, family stability, and jobs. “I’m getting standing ovations when I go to black churches and talk about school choice,” he says. “Parents understand it is their kids that are victimized by lousy public schools in Chicago.”

    This seems like very good politics to me. The Chicago Public School System is a disgrace.

    He’s running as a non-politician who has the business experience to turn around the state’s finances. He won his five-person primary by telling voters, “I’m the only one up here who isn’t a professional politician. These are the people who created the problems in Springfield.” In this era of rage against the political class, the message (and the millions of dollars he poured into his campaign) carried the day.

    Sounds like he has money and is sincere. This may be an appealing choice to the people of Illinois.

    He’s promised to take a jackhammer to the bloated state budget. The Left is already rolling off the shelf the anti–Mitt Romney campaign — i.e., rich people like Rauner don’t care about people like you.

    “The Left” won’t vote for him anyways. But again, I don’t see how effective the “jackhammer” will be without help from the House and Senate.

    Some skeptics say that even if Mr. Rauner wins, he won’t be able to overturn the corrupt machine in Springfield. Don’t be sure about that. If Rauner makes it to the governor’s mansion, he will have a gigantic mandate from voters to turn Springfield upside down and get the finances in order. The big losers will be the teachers’ unions, whose clout will be greatly diminished — it couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people.

    I hope he wins, and I hope this last paragraph is right. Maybe, perhaps, finally, the people of Illinois have had enough of the nonsense. At least this might be a start.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Illinois Politics | 16 Comments »

    RIP Johnny Winter

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 17th July 2014 (All posts by )

    An honorary ChicagoBoy and an American classic if there ever was one. Thanks for the good times, Johnny.

    Posted in Music, Obits, Video | 3 Comments »

    Bon Appetit

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 15th July 2014 (All posts by )

    I love a lot of things about France, and the food is probably one of the things I love the most. The French, at most restaurants that aren’t fast food joints, take their time eating and put all that they can into making their meals taste great and look great. Even when I dined at lower end establishments, they did whatever they could with what they had to make some sort of artistry on the plate. They just appreciate it more than having meat, veggie and potatoes all separate with a hunk of parsley as plate filler like we do in the states.

    I am not saying that once in a while I don’t like a great steakhouse and/or ‘Mercun style meal. I do. I am saying that I prefer to take more time, relax and enjoy the artistry of a meal.

    One thing I really hate about restaurants in France (at least in the south of France where I have cycled the last four years) is that they all let dogs in. Bars too. At first I thought it was novel and cute, but that wore off rather quickly. Most of the time I see the dogs under tables. This scene above from a few weeks ago made my skin crawl.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in France, That's NOT Funny | 17 Comments »

    Ban Overturned

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 7th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Yesterday here in Wisconsin, a (Jimmy Carter appointed) federal judge here in Dane County struck down the constitutional amendment that did not allow gay marriage. Immediately the clerks offices here in Madison opened up for extended office hours and began the ceremonies. Other counties did not follow suit, waiting for clarification.

    The clarification is for the legal beagles to figure out. Some say you can start the gay weddings now, some say not. Of course the Dane County clerk doesn’t really care and off we go.

    Glad they had extended office hours when conceal carry was decriminalized. Oh.

    Me? Well, gay marriage is something that I never really cared that much about. Personally, I have no clue why the state is even involved in marriage, but that doesn’t seem to be the point. The gay marriage issue seems to me to be about the money. Of course, outside of being married, you can leave your assets to anyone you choose, assign powers of attorney and health care to anyone you choose, etc. etc. So to me, it is just about getting on someone’s insurance? Outside of that, I don’t see why so much time and energy was wasted on the gay marriage deal. In general, gays weren’t persecuted, like most Muslim countries where they are beheaded or stoned or whatever. So it is about insurance = money. Is that really it? Is it all about money?

    That might be a bit cynical. But that’s me.

    The constitutional amendment banning gay marriage passed 60% to 40%. That is pretty overwhelming. Now a judge overturns it. So much for the power of the people. But people need to be careful here. Don’t think that in the future, something else may be overturned. Anyone that can afford a good attorney can play this game.

    It seems that the end game is in sight for gay marriage and honestly, I am somewhat happy. I am very tired of seeing gay pride marches, parades, and all the rest. All of this should now end, no?

    I don’t care if anyone is gay. Just do your deal and live your life like the rest of the non gay people. I don’t go around parading my sexuality for everyone to see. It all seems so childish.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Current Events, Law | 22 Comments »

    It Is Great, Until It Isn’t

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 25th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Living in Madison, I associate with a larger than typical number of lefties, liberals, and others who lean to the left of the political spectrum. Oddly, being a leftist seems to be associated with anti-science and other oddities.

    When at parties and having discussions with locals, I always stay out of politics. I always shift the subject. Most of the people I deal with are extremely nice, good folks, but they are true believers, and nothing I say will do anything but make situations uncomfortable. But one subject I never hold back is not getting your kids vaccinated. My wife always cringes if it comes up because she knows the bazooka is coming out.

    I use the big words too, like “bullshit”, “nonsense” and interesting catch phrases like “have you ever seen a child with whooping cough?” or “I hope your kids don’t get measles because mine won’t”. It does fall on deaf ears, but with the anti-vaccers (is that a word?) I don’t care.

    Separately, my wife, while not a squishy leftist, does have a soft spot for marketing buzzwords like “organic”, “natural” etc. She typically spends more money than need be to offer food choices to my kids that are pesticide free, purchases “safer” chemicals and does other things like that – things that I offer to you are probably nonsensical. However, I have chosen not to “die on that hill”. Besides denting my wallet a bit, I don’t think that it is harming anything, so I let it go. I don’t have many complaints about my wife and I am probably way ahead of most husbands in that department (she puts up with me so that pretty much overrides any of my tiny complaints).

    But. Lice. Several years ago, both of my children got lice from school. Fortunately (?) I lost my hair a long time ago so was not in the loop, but my wife was mortified. I will never forget the moment – she said (and I am almost quoting) “get down to Walgreens and get the nastiest, strongest chemical you can find and get back here and help me with this”. I almost fell over and stumbled out to the car in a daze, wondering how my wife could have made such a radical change in the five minutes since my kids came home from school.

    But I did learn something. When the excrement hits the air conditioning, people want this crap solved. Now.

    Back to the anti vaccination folks.

    Everything is great and works until it doesn’t. Today I note this story about a famous anti-vaccination group, the Amish. Funny how one’s religion doesn’t seem that important when your kids contract a terrible disease. All of a sudden, vaccines look pretty good.

    More than 135 people crowded into a local woodworking business Thursday where nurses used up every available dose of vaccine — and then ordered 300 doses more, said Pam Palm, a spokeswoman for the Knox County, Ohio, Health Department.
     
    “Not getting immunizations has been the way the Amish have felt in the past, but they certainly have responded in this situation,” Palm said.
     
    The outbreak was detected this week when four unvaccinated Amish community members showed evidence of measles infection following a March trip to the Philippines to offer humanitarian aid to typhoon victims. More than 20,000 people have caught measles in the Philippines and at least 50 have died in a severe ongoing outbreak.
     

    I think this might be a good example of stated preferences vs. revealed preferences. Revealed in a most uncomfortable manner. I assume most of my left leaning friends here in the Madison area would do the exact same thing in the circumstances.

    My wife, while succumbing to some of the marketing for organic and natural products, thankfully didn’t fall for the vaccine scares that were prevalent when our children were born.

    I think if anyone were going to a third world place that was under duress (like the typhoon ravaged Philippines) that they would be REQUIRED to get boosters for measles, cholera, and whatever else I could think of. And why wouldn’t you anyways? But I guess that is my Midwestern common sense sneaking through again, and heck, what do I know.

    I do know this. Kids with measles = parents getting measles vaccines for everyone.

    Posted in Leftism, Medicine, Personal Narrative, Politics | 16 Comments »

    Cigars All Around!

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 22nd April 2014 (All posts by )

    Lookie here – an Easter present for the farm. Introducing Dexter. We think.

    We were lucky enough to receive this bundle of joy on Easter Sunday. It comes right up to humans and other cattle alike. Pretty friendly. We think it is a boy, which is awesome. A dun bull calf is highly prized in the world of Scottish Highland cattle, and there are already breeders and others sniffing around the farm to take a look at him. If it is a boy, this will be the first one we outright sell for breeding purposes, and his name will have our farm’s prefix in it, and so will his descendants, which is pretty cool. It also saves us the hassle of us castrating him. Which isn’t that big of a deal, but still. We won’t have our normal beef haul from this guy, but the money we will get for him will more than offset that little inconvenience.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Diversions, Photos | 7 Comments »

    Scott Walker Wins Again

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 18th April 2014 (All posts by )

    I do enjoy watching things blow up for the left. That I will admit.

    Today, the Seventh Circuit Federal Appeals Court upheld Act 10, in yet another victory for the Walker administration.

    After all the protests and nonsense in 2011 – after all the Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth – after the senators fleeing the state and all of the other drama, the left pulled out one of their “old reliable” tricks – try to win in the courts. Each and every time, they have lost. Lost, lost, lost.

    So the score now reads Walker infinite, the left, zero. The left is out of money, and running out of court options. The only thing left that I know of is a pending Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that I predict will also go in favor of the Walker administration.

    The election this fall for Gov. of Wisconsin, according to the latest poll, sits at Walker 56%, and the Democrat candidate Burke, 40%. Unless Walker seriously screws something up, he will coast. The DNC will not be sending Burke any money for what is essentially an election that is over before it starts.

    Posted in Leftism, Politics, Polls, Unions | 4 Comments »

    Warren Buffett/America 3.0

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 28th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Somewhere, sometime, I read a bit of great investing advice. A guy listed ten things to do and not do over your investing life, and number one on the list of things to do was to read Warren Buffet’s shareholder letters. I finally found some time to read this years version, which recaps 2013. You can find them all here.

    The letters are always entertaining to me, and I just love the way he uses “plain” English to describe his successes, operations, and failures.

    One part really stuck out this year from page 6:

    Indeed, who has ever benefited during the past 237 years by betting against America? If you compare our country’s present condition to that existing in 1776, you have to rub your eyes in wonder. And the dynamism embedded in our market economy will continue to work its magic. America’s best days lie ahead.

    In the title of America 3.0, it says:

    America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century-Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come

    Yes, we will have some short term pain, but I have fully come around to thinking that indeed, we are eventually going to move forward at a rapid and profitable pace. And I won’t be betting against Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger any time soon.

    Disclosure: I own Berkshire Hathaway B shares.

    Posted in America 3.0, Business, Markets and Trading | 16 Comments »

    Letter From The Past

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 13th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Last Friday I was the MC for our first Midwest Business and Markets Conference. It was a great day, and Zen went over it pretty well in this post.

    The day before, Thursday the 6th, I had a few hours to kill so I worked out and walked all around the Union League Club of Chicago. The place is like a museum.

    Of greatest interest to me was the library.

    It is an old school room, where they are still using the Dewey Decimal System. It reminded me of days long gone, when I used to have to go to the library in my hometown of Rockford, IL or at school at U of I and use the Dewey system to find out where texts were that I needed.

    The ULCC library isn’t that large, so I just strolled around looking at all of the books and magazines. They have a giant signed book collection of the people who have spoken there, as well as many rare volumes under plexiglass. There were a couple of old guys who were sleeping in the soft leather chairs. It was QUIET in there and the only audible sounds were guys pecking away at their keyboards and the turning of pages.

    I sort of enjoyed this quiet, as my life doesn’t afford much quiet time with work and kids and wife and farm and all the rest.

    After a while I grabbed an unusual volume (to me), and below you can see the title page:

    Basically, this offers a prayer (or a few) for every day of the year, including holidays and other special events. The book was printed in the thirties, and had a calendar for the prayers extrapolated out to 2013.

    Some of the prayers were interesting to me, as I don’t really know squat about the Episcopalian religion. I also read a few Psalms. It brought back a few memories as when I was a child I was raised Baptist and we were forced to memorize many of the Psalms (in the King James Version).

    The books in the library could be checked out by ULCC members and they used the old school cards in the front of the book, stamped with the date it needed to be returned. The prayer book had been checked out a total of once, in 1993. That may have been the last time it was touched, besides to be moved or cleaned.

    Most importantly, when I opened the volume, a note fell out into my lap.

    Watch over our child, O Lord, as her days increase; bless and guide her wherever she may be.
    Give us, her parents, the wisdom to teach her the realities of life.
    Strengthen her when she stands for what she believes in; comfort her when she is discouraged or sorrowful; raise her up if she falls in trying to grow; and in her heart may your peace which passeth understanding abide all the days of her life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    After reading some of the prayers and Psalms, I carefully folded the letter, placed it back in the book and put the book back on the shelf.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Personal Narrative, Religion | 16 Comments »

    (insert Prime Minister of Ukraine’s name here)

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 1st March 2014 (All posts by )

    Over and over President Zero bungles things that are to me, supposed to be slam dunks. I have blogged about this before but it is now getting to the point where it is driving me crazy.

    Yesterday on the way home from work, Bloomberg radio broke in on this hastily arranged presser:

    Lets just step outside of the fact that I am sure that Putin and the other principals of the situation are laughing (or cringing, as the case may be), knowing that our administration literally has no clue what to do right now.

    My main point is that if you are arranging a presser on a matter of importance, I imagine you may want to understand who the major players are in the scenario. At the 2.21 mark, Obama boots the name of the Ukrainian prime minister. As I was sitting in my car I wondered aloud if he was reading off of a teleprompter, or was going off the cuff. I am glad I found the video above, but it doesn’t really answer my question completely.

    After looking at it a few times, I am not sure if he was unable to pronounce the name, or if it wasn’t on the cue cards he was reading off of. Either way, he looks like a dunce, and once again, America looks to be a laughingstock to the rest of the world.

    With my sooper seekrit ciphering abilities, I was able to find the name and figure out how to pronounce it.

    Whether or not Obama’s handlers didn’t have the name on the card or he was unable to pronounce it (at least make a stab at it, Barack!) isn’t really that important in the big picture. What is more important to me is the following.

    Are Obama’s handlers this dumb, or is he just blowing them off, or a combination of both? These things like state dinners, quick pressers, and the like that Obama constantly bungles should be no-brainers, and the work should be 100% correct each and every time. No excuses.

    Posted in Current Events, Obama, Russia | 17 Comments »

    Descent of the Chioula, and GoPro

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 27th February 2014 (All posts by )

    Last year on my annual pilgrimage to cycling valhalla in the Pyrenees I took my GoPro camera for the first time. Below is my descent of the Col du Chioula, headed back toward Ax les Thermes (best viewed in HD).

    This was probably my best descent of last year, the road surface and weather being just right. Everything fell into place. For those wondering, my top speed on this descent was 48.2 mph.

    I took an insane amount of footage with my GoPro last year, and I am glad I did. But the problem is that when you bring back these hours and hours of video, there is nowhere for you to go with it. Options are buying an external hard drive and storing them there, or uploading them to one of many websites that do this sort of thing. I am about two thirds of the way done uploading my videos to YouTube, and it takes absolutely forever. A 15 minute video takes several hours to upload. I usually start one video a night and begin the uploading process before I go to bed.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in France, Sports, Tech, Video | 4 Comments »

    RIP Bob 2

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 22nd February 2014 (All posts by )

    Bob Casale, guitarist for DEVO – aka Bob2, died this week. My wife found this awesome version of “Gut Feeling” on Youtube that I will post here in remembrance. DEVO is a very underrated band and I encourage you to take a deep dive past the “Whip It” stuff if you haven’t already (although I like “Whip It” too).

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Obits, Video | 8 Comments »

    America 2.0 Looks To Be Worth Around Twenty Five Cents on the Dollar

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 19th February 2014 (All posts by )

    A while back I dissected the debt of Detroit, the classic America 2.0 case. By this, I mean a gigantic government presence, working with manufacturing and unions to push off obligations into the future with no clear plan of really what to do. In the end, of course, it all came crumbling down and yesterday we got a slight glimpse into just how bad it can get.

    To review, here is the diagram I had to make after reading several sources on the subject, to help wrap my head around the calamity that was the city of Detroit’s books:

    This looks crude, and it is, but it really helped me get my brain around the nightmare.

    From everything I have been reading, Kevyn Orr is getting ready to propose that the general obligation and pensions get settled out at .25 on the dollar. That sounds a bit expensive to me, and as Lex Green said to me in an email certainly isn’t “fire sale” prices yet, but that is what the consensus seems to be saying.

    In an odd bit of news, many private foundations have been trying to gather enough money to offset an auction of Detroit’s art collection, estimated by some to be worth up to a billion dollars. If I were Orr, that would have been the first thing I would have done is liquidate that stuff, but I am quite a bit less sensitive than I would need to be to ever consider a career being a politician.

    All of this is subject to the whims of the BK judge, but if I were a retired Detroit fireman, I would certainly begin tightening the belt stat, if that wasn’t done already.

    This may affect municipal investments, but honestly I imagine any fallout from it is already baked into the pie.

    Is Chicago next? We shall soon see.

    From a political standpoint, the Republilcans should make the Democrats own this just like they should own Zerocare ™ and the nightmare in Illinois/Chicago that is coming down the tracks. How easy can it get for a Republican? All they have to say is “look at that” and they should get easily elected in any of a number of districts in 2014.

    (Disclosure – I have many different municipal investment vehicles in my portfolio).

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Investment Journal | 6 Comments »

    Nagin Set To Go To Jail

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 13th February 2014 (All posts by )

    Much has been written both here and elsewhere about Hurricane Katrina, and one of the last chapters was written in court yesterday.

    Ray Nagin, the ex mayor of New Orleans, who we saw pointing fingers, yelling, cursing, and giving us the “woe is us” routine for days and weeks on end after Katrina, was convicted on seven million counts of bribery, wire fraud, filing false income tax returns, and setting fire to children. Well, not that last part.

    Many of the crimes were from his pre-Katrina days as the standard, run of the mill mayor scam in New Orleans. I imagine these crimes are the tip of the iceburg but I will take it. He will be spending the next 15 plus years in jail.

    Posted in Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, New Orleans Tragedy | 22 Comments »

    2016 Presidential Odds

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 8th February 2014 (All posts by )

    I really, really miss InTrade. Looks like they are going to start up again, but after the last debacle, I don’t see how they can ever establish a level of trust that will get them really going again. I think that eventually internet gambling and the sure flow of revenue will get the best of all of the states (except perhaps Utah and maybe one or two others) and we will be able to place wagers from the comfort of our offices and homes. But that is certainly grist for another post.

    For now, we only have the British bookies to lean on, and we don’t have futures markets; instead, we have straight up odds. Here is a look a the odds as of today for the next President:

    Hillary Clinton – 7-4
    Marco Rubio – 9-1
    Chris Christie – 10-1
    Jeb Bush – 14-1
    Paul Ryan – 16-1
    Andrew Cuomo – 20-1
    Elizabeth Warren – 20-1
    Rand Paul – 20-1
    Martin O’Malley – 25-1
    Rob Portman – 25-1
    Bob McDonnell – 33-1
    Condoleeza Rice – 33-1
    Deval Patrick – 33-1
    Joe Biden – 33-1
    Mark Warner – 33-1
    Rahm Emmanuel – 33-1
    Susana Martinez – 33-1
    Bobby Jindal – 40-1
    Michael Bloomberg – 40-1
    Scott Walker – 40-1
    Amy Klobuchar – 50-1
    Cory Booker – 50-1
    David Petraeus – 50-1
    Jon Huntsman – 50-1
    Mike Huckabee – 50-1
    Mitt Romney – 50-1
    Rick Santorum – 50-1
    Sam Graves – 50-1
    Sarah Palin – 50-1
    Tim Kaine – 50-1
    Eric Cantor – 66-1
    Evan Bayh – 66-1
    Mike Pence – 66-1
    Dennis Kucinich – 100-1
    Herman Cain – 100-1
    John Kasich – 100-1
    John Thune – 100-1
    Julian Castro – 100-1
    Kathleen Sebelius – 100-1
    Kay Hagan – 100-1
    Mia Love – 100-1
    Michelle Obama – 100-1
    Newt Gingrich – 100-1
    Rick Perry – 100-1

    So, a few thoughts. I don’t live in a cave, but I am not a political junkie either. I listen to probably 45 minutes or so of financial news on Bloomberg every day on my drive to and from work, and they sprinkle in a news cast twice an hour. I also quickly scan a news website or two per day. So I don’t know if I am above or below average as far as my media/news consumption goes. With that disclosure, I have never heard of:

    Martin O Malley
    Deval Patrick
    Susanna Martinez
    Amy Klobuchar
    Sam Graves
    Tim Kaine
    Mike Pence
    Julian Castro
    Kay Hagan
    Mia Love (sounds like a prON actress)

    Your mileage will vary depending on where you live, but I would guess that most folks in the US have never even heard of at least a third of these candidates.

    Rahm Emmanuel is on there? Michelle Obama? No way.

    The Hillary! odds are daunting. She is the obvious front runner, but it is a LONG time from November 2016 and she can for sure do very poorly in any debate. Looking forward to the Benghazi hazing when the time comes.

    I know who I would vote for in a heartbeat and most regular readers of this blog can probably make an educated guess as to who that would be, but I don’t want to taint the conversation with my pick. Let’s hear your thoughts on this list of odds.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Politics | 31 Comments »

    Sunlight

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 20th January 2014 (All posts by )

    Posted in Jameson, Photos | 6 Comments »

    Book Review – Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the US Navy by Ian W. Toll

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy by Ian W. Toll

    —-

    I had some time to kill a few months ago and was stumbling around a local bookstore when this book caught my eye. I went ahead and bought it and am very glad that I did.

    Six Frigates is a fairly long book that takes a deep dive into the origins of the US Navy. The book is very well written, easy to read, and tells some great stories for those interested in the subject matter.

    The book gives in detail how the original six frigates were paid for, why they were conceived, and the associated debates that went along with those appropriations. Toll blends perfectly in the book a balance of the politics of the day along with the realities of sailing vessels in this era. It is rare in my experience to find a book that balances these things so well. It is clear that Toll spent a LOT of time researching the presidential and congressional archives to pick the correspondences and events out that were appropriate for the subject matter of the book. Toll lets the statesmen of the past speak for themselves during the debates about the original appropriations and also enlightens the reader as to the politics of the day. Also mentioned are the debates about the continuing maintenance of the frigates.

    There is a detailed section about the construction and engineering of the frigates. Toll explains very well how the boats were made and how the raw materials had to be obtained – again, just enough information for a relative layman such as myself to understand the how’s and why’s.

    Now that the frigates were built, Toll explains how they were used, and again blends in the politics of the day so the reader can understand why the ships were where they were. Along with this, he recreates many of the battles that the frigates were involved in. This part was to me the most enlightening.

    I have read many times of the famous battles of some of these frigates, the most famous being the Constitution. However, I never understood how insanely bloody and violent these ship to ship battles were. Toll goes into full on gore mode, sparing no adjective to make the reader get a feel for how the sailors felt and what actually went on. This book is extremely bloody so if you can’t handle that sort of thing, I would perhaps not recommend it. But it was a very good dose of reality for me, as I had never fully understood the power of the cannon they used, and how they used it. Also enlightening were Toll’s descriptions of the marine actions during battle. It was very interesting to hear how each side would use sharpshooters to try to pick off officers on the decks of the ships during battle.

    Great detail is given to the first Tripolitan war. This is a subject that has always interested me, and it was amazing how Toll was able to even blend in the politics of the Tripolitans into his narrative.

    Finally, we move to the War of 1812. Most readers here probably know the basics, but again, Toll is masterful blending in the politics of not only the US, but of Great Britain into the narrative.

    The book uses a LOT of sailing terms which I, not being a sailor of any sort, didn’t understand. This was on purpose. In the beginning of the book, Toll puts out for the reader his reasons for this. Basically he says that he could explain each term and have the book be twice as long, or let the reader pick and choose what they wanted to research as far as terms went. I think he took the correct approach. I have no clue what this sentence from page 348 means:

    Constitution stood on to leeward before the freshening northeast breeze, wearing double-reefed topsails and courses, with her royal yards struck down on deck.

    However, it is easy to imagine a ball park idea of what Toll is saying in the context of the overall topic – that the Constitution was getting ready, somehow, to engage the HMS Guerrierre in battle. It was really no big deal after you got used to the flow of the text. I did look up a few terms along the way, but not many.

    It is very clear that Toll spent a long time researching and writing this marvelous book. It is easily one of the top ten books I have ever read on any subject and I highly recommend it if you have any sort of interest in sailing, or early 19th century politics or even just to get a flavor of those times. Toll also speaks about the early cities and how they worked to a certain degree although the focus is on the Frigates, their battles, and the politics surrounding them.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, History, USA, War and Peace | 18 Comments »

    Merry Christmas

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 24th December 2013 (All posts by )

    May your stocking be filled with bones and other tasty treats!

    Posted in Holidays, Jameson | 7 Comments »

    Less Than a Year

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 18th December 2013 (All posts by )

    I saw this today:

    It is a pretty good ad. Zerocare has been a debacle, as we all expected it to be. It isn’t just a “broken website”. It is a classical 20th century big government scheme, completely unprepared and unable to deal with a 21st century economy – this is one of the main thrusts of America 3.0.

    Every Republican (and the groups cheering for them) should just shut up about pretty much everything but this one issue. Make the Democrats own it. It is theirs. It passed by a straight party vote. Make them eat it in 2014.

    Posted in America 3.0, Politics, Video | 8 Comments »

    Anecdotal Chicago Observations

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 18th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Last weekend I took the family to Chicago for our annual Christmas weekend in the big city. We had a great time, as always. Some observations below the fold.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Photos | 10 Comments »

    The Art of the Remake – XIII

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 17th December 2013 (All posts by )

    The standard:

    If you are going to cover a song, rip it apart a bit and make it your own.

    The original version of “This is the Day” by The The:

    The remake, by Manic Street Preachers:

    A fantastic job.

    The original song is now thirty years old, which makes me feel old, but what is new.

    Posted in Music, Video | 2 Comments »

    The Art of the Remake XI

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 11th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Smashing Pumpkins, Space Oddity. A fantastic job. As always, remember the standard:

    If you are going to cover a song, rip it apart a bit and make it your own

    Posted in Music, Video | 1 Comment »

    Santa Bandana

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 30th November 2013 (All posts by )

    It even makes a little jingle-jangle when he walks around the house.

    Posted in Holidays, Jameson | 5 Comments »

    Book Review – “Unintimidated – A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge” by Governor Scott Walker

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 26th November 2013 (All posts by )

    Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge by Scott Walker

    —-

    I just received Scott Walker’s new book and went to it right away. It is an interesting look at the time in and around the Wisconsin “protests” (I use quotation marks around the word ‘protest’ intentionally).

    I expected more of an autobiography of Walker, and that is really the story that I wanted. It is always interesting to me to see how the formative years of people affect how they make decisions and treat others later in life. That is not what this book is about.

    What this book is about is still an interesting topic. Walker goes in depth to explain just how bad former Governor Jim Doyle had left the State of Wisconsin’s finances due to accounting tricks and other gimmicks.

    More importantly, Walker takes a deep dive to explain the scam that the unions were running with their automatic withdrawals of dues, monopolistic health insurance practices, overtime abuse, and other things – and how he was going to fix it.

    Walker then goes in depth to explain what it was like during the “protests” and what was going on behind the scenes. He used the term “theater of the absurd” and that really hit home. Most (all?) of the “protests” were absolutely absurd.

    As I was reading the book, I had to admit that I wasn’t really learning much of anything as far as the nuts and bolts of the legislation, “protests”, senators fleeing, and all the rest were concerned. I was actually at the capitol for much of the protests and have been following all of these things daily and I knew about all of the litigation and all the rest. But what was of interest to me were the personal stories of abuse that Walker and the Republican legislators were subjected to, including their families. Also of interest was Walker’s strength that he found in God and that he never wanted to go back or apologize to anyone for anything. He was doing what he thought was right, and decided to do his best and let the chips fall.

    Walker also explains in detail the campaign during his recall and that this ad turned the tide:

    Walker also takes a jab at Obama for not showing up to support Barrett in the recall election.

    Toward the end, Walker seems genuinely angry at the Romney campaign for bungling, well, everything and goes into detail about what he did wrong, and how these things can be corrected moving forward.

    I recommend the book so you can get an inside view of what the “protests” were like here in Wisconsin a few years ago, and to understand how Walker implemented his reforms to swing the state from an enormous deficit to a surplus today. His faith is featured throughout the book and he makes no apologies for what he has done.

    It is an easy to read book that won’t take you long to plow through, especially if you find the subject matter interesting as I do. I hope to see a full autobiography on him in the future. Hopefully when he is sitting in the White House.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Book Notes, Politics | 8 Comments »

    Book Review – My Grandfather’s Son by Clarence Thomas

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 25th November 2013 (All posts by )

    My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas

    —-

    A few days ago Ann Althouse linked this wonderful interview with Clarence Thomas. I encourage you to watch it if you have a few spare minutes:

    While watching it, I was reminded that I had his book sitting around somewhere. I got it years ago.

    Remembering that I had made myself a vow that I was not going to buy anymore books until I had gotten through my current stack (with the notable exception of the Scott Walker book) I decided to pick up “My Grandfather’s Son” and get to it.

    I am really glad I did.

    Clarence Thomas came from the most poverty stricken circumstances you can imagine, and fought a lot of demons along his path to Supreme Court Associate Justice.

    As a boy he grew up in rural Georgia but it seemed that he enjoyed his childhood. Until he had to move to Savannah. Here he was faced with grinding poverty and the hunger and cold that comes with being poor in the city. It was interesting for me to hear how Thomas was happier and better fed when he was living in rural Georgia. There, at least, he could fend for himself on the land and keep the hunger pangs away, while in Savannah he was basically stuck.

    His father was never really in the picture, so he was being raised by his mother. One day she told Thomas and his brother to pack their stuff (such as it was) and head down the street to his grandfather’s house. He would be living there.

    While this was heartbreaking for Thomas, the new place was a palace compared to what they were living in. The brothers were taken care of and were introduced to the Catholic church. The grandfather ran his house with an iron fist, but in a good way. The boys now had schooling, structure, and someone to answer to if they were fooling around. I would like to add here that it is my firm belief that many of the woes of black society in the inner cities, and many of the woes of society in general, can be squarely blamed on broken families, and children not having structure in their lives in their formative years. But this is certainly grist for another post.

    Thomas looked back upon these times in his formative years fondly. Sure, he would have wanted to played in the streets, but Thomas’ grandfather was determined to make Thomas and his brother see the value of studying and hard work.

    Eventually, Thomas graduated high school and found his way to Holy Cross, then to Yale. All along the way he experienced racism, both overt and covert. I found it interesting that he respected the whites in and around Savannah more for their openness about how they thought blacks inferior versus the covert racism deployed by urban liberals.

    Thomas held a succession of jobs, working for Monsanto, the EEOC, the DC Court of Appeals, and eventually the Supreme Court. He describes in detail the bruising confirmation hearings and how awful the politics were.

    More interesting to me was how he described his problems with his personal life, with alcohol (he no longer drinks) and the problems he eventually has with his family relationships. I will leave the details out because I want you to read the book, but it was refreshing to hear someone of a stature like Thomas to describe how he had to fight a lot of demons along his path.

    The book is very easy to read and I couldn’t put it down. Thomas is a great American and has a great American story to share. I recommend that you read it someday.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Book Notes | 11 Comments »