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  • Archive for November, 2006

    Chicagoboyz Offers Advice

    Posted by Ginny on 30th November 2006 (All posts by )

    Today’s wisdom from Kristofferson:

    “I think between us, Bill Clinton and I have settled any lingering myths about the brilliance of Rhodes scholars.”

    “Never go to bed with anyone crazier than yourself.”

    Discuss this post at the Chicago Boyz Forum.

    Posted in Humor | 5 Comments »

    New Citizenship Questions

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 30th November 2006 (All posts by )

    Riffing on U.S. to unveil new citizenship questions — and, just maybe, James McCormick’s phenomenal review immediately below — here’s some ideas:

    1. What portion of US GDP is taken by government, at all levels, each year?
    2. (Acceptable answer: at least 30% or $3.3 trillion.)

    3. What portion of law enforcement resources in the US is devoted to nonviolent narcotics offenders, versus violent offenders of all types?
    4. (Acceptable answer: they are approximately equal, as a percentage of arrests.)

    5. What is the proposed penalty in Federal law for scientists engaging in somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)?
    6. (Acceptable answer: ten years in prison and a $1 million fine [Human Cloning Prohibition Act].)

    7. Sen Ted Stevens (R-AK) described the internet as “a series of …”?
    8. (Acceptable answer: anything with the word “tubes.” Extra points for speculating how long the nation can survive with technologically illiterate leadership.)

    9. How much money has been spent on welfare since the inception of the Great Society programs?
    10. (Acceptable answer: at least $18 trillion in 2006 dollars. This figure includes all transfer payments carried out at the Federal level, but none by state and local governments.)

    11. Still sure you want to go through with this?
    12. Discuss this post at the Chicago Boyz Forum.

    Posted in Immigration | 2 Comments »

    Naim — Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats …

    Posted by James McCormick on 29th November 2006 (All posts by )

    Naim, Moises, Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy, Doubleday, 2005, 340pp.

    [cross-posted on Albion's Seedlings]

    Moises Naim, editor of Foreign Policy magazine, has written an outstanding summary of the flip side of the post-Cold War economic boom. Think of it as the antithesis of Jim Bennett’s book … a “The Global Criminal Affluenza Challenge: How an Army of Fagins Leverages High-Yield Crime while Civil Society Implodes in the 21st Century.”

    The author asks a provocative question. What if we looked at global crime from a purely economic perspective?

    What industries would form the MisFortune 500? What criteria would criminals use for market development? How would criminal enterprises adapt to the new technological realities (which are also challenging legitimate business)? In other words, setting morals and laws and national sovereignty to one side, how is crime coping with globalization?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 1 Comment »

    A collection of Jonathan Swift’s journalistic texts

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 29th November 2006 (All posts by )

    Attentive readers of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle will remember Daniel Waterhouse reading a a number of astonishingly vile newspapers. Some of the most acrimonious articles were from Jonathan Swift, writing for Tory papers. Stephenson didn’t make that part up, the articles can be found here.

    I didn’t have time to do more than a bit of browsing, but some of the historical characters from the Baroque Cycle are mentioned, like Marlborough, Bolingbroke, Harley and of course Queen Anne. There also are extensive footnotes explaining the concrete circumstances under which the articles appeared.

    Discuss this post at the Chicago Boyz Forum.

    Posted in Political Philosophy | Comments Off

    Disgusted About the War

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th November 2006 (All posts by )

    A beautiful post from Rachel:

    American prestige is no small thing. Loss of American prestige as a result of Vietnam, the Iran hostage crisis, Somalia and the bombing of the US Embassy in Lebanon emboldened Osama bin Laden to bomb the World Trade Center. Loss of American prestige gives Kim Jong Il the idea that he can test his nukes with impunity. Loss of American prestige tells the mullahs in Iran that no one and nothing can stop them from acquiring nukes and arming Hezbollah and Hamas.

    Read the whole thing.

    Discuss this post at the Chicago Boyz Forum.

    Posted in War and Peace | 12 Comments »

    A Question for Jonathan – or Anyone Knowledgeable

    Posted by Ginny on 27th November 2006 (All posts by )

    How honest is the 23rd District of Florida, Jonathan? Bribery & national security aside, I always find percentages like this suspicious:

    They first elected him by 59 percent of the vote in 1992 and subsequently have returned him to Congress by margins ranging from 73 percent to 100 percent. He was just re-elected to an eighth term without opposition.

    (Not that it is easy to put national security aside.)

    Discuss this post at the Chicago Boyz Forum.

    Posted in Politics | 10 Comments »

    Further Mutterings on the More Succinct & Sound Remarks by Jonathan & David

    Posted by Ginny on 26th November 2006 (All posts by )

    Knowing history is an important part of being educated, not only because it’s good to honor the people who came before us, and who built the world that we take for granted, but also because if we don’t know what people did in the past we will needlessly repeat many of their mistakes. This is as true on an individual level as it is in geopolitics. We forget it at our peril, and too many people have forgotten it. Jonathan

    Honoring is thanking, respecting, learning from. This is something that takes us a while to understand. Some find it hard to see Hamlet as a tragic hero hes too self-absorbed, too cynical, too indecisive, too well, too non-heroic. He doesnt do great deeds, he is more worried about his fathers ghost than he is about the kingdom his father ruled. That diminishes heroism. Hes the adolescent tragic hero. Well, weve got plenty of them.

    Some day, people may look back on our time as that of “The Adolescent.” (I hope it ended with a new period so harshly entered on 9/11 but I fear it may not.) David Fosters temporal bigotry comes from a lack of sympathy & imagination as well as history. Most of all, it comes from hubris. But it is not an Olympian hubris; rather it is that of a teen-ager in the throes of first love, unsure of his own dignity and self, angered by the demands of classes and work he finds demeaning. He complains the world is not sufficiently accommodating, voices the petty doubts of the village atheist and classroom cynic.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 8 Comments »

    “Temporal Bigotry”

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th November 2006 (All posts by )

    David Foster reposts a classic post that ties together the Thanksgiving holiday, some thoughts about what people knew in the past and what they know now, and reflections on the state of modern education.

    It’s tempting to assume that people know more now than they did in the past. In one sense this assumption is true, since the state of knowledge in many fields advances over time. However, it is not necessarily true for knowledge held by individuals. In the past, many activities, from farming to driving a car to trading shares to doing scientific experiments, required a great deal of specialized knowledge that is no longer necessary. Automobiles, for example, are more complex than they used to be but are also much easier to operate. The automobile designer knows more but the driver needs to know less. This is a good situation because the driver now has more time to spend on activities where he is more productive.

    However, “activities where he is more productive” is the crucial point. If many people are not well educated — educated in the sense of understanding and knowing how to do things, not in the sense of formal schooling — they will not be very productive despite the availability of efficient, easy to use, time-saving modern technologies. That is why effective education is so important, and why our intellectually decrepit system of primary and secondary education is a national scandal. It’s also why the hubris of people who think we moderns know better is destructive.

    We don’t know better. Human nature hasn’t changed. We know some things that our ancestors did not know. However, the converse is also true, and if we forget it we will keep reinventing the wheel. Knowing history is an important part of being educated, not only because it’s good to honor the people who came before us, and who built the world that we take for granted, but also because if we don’t know what people did in the past we will needlessly repeat many of their mistakes. This is as true on an individual level as it is in geopolitics. We forget it at our peril, and too many people have forgotten it.

    Discuss this post on the Chicago Boyz Forum.

    Posted in Society | 5 Comments »

    Midas Oracle – The New Prediction-Markets Blog

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th November 2006 (All posts by )

    Our friend Chris Masse has made himself into the world’s coordinator of news and information about prediction markets. Now he has set up an excellent group-blog, Midas Oracle, which looks very good so far and strongly displays Chris’s commitment to dispassionate, fact-based inquiry. It promises to be a major forum and resource for people who are interested in prediction markets.

    Check out and bookmark Midas Oracle.

    (Disclosure: I am a minor contributor to Midas Oracle.)

    Posted in Markets and Trading | Comments Off

    “. . .producing a tsunami at least 600 feet high. . .”

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th November 2006 (All posts by )

    There’s evidence that asteroid impacts may have occurred much more frequently, and recently, than anyone previously thought. Of course evidence isn’t proof — there may be a better explanation for the apparently-related “chevrons” (huge inland flow-molded sedimentary deposits) and undersea craters, from which proponents of the asteroid-impact hypothesis infer mega-tsunamis — but it might be a good idea to reconsider the odds of asteroid impacts in light of this new information.

    And speaking of odds, why is global warming more of a threat than asteroids? I’m not saying it isn’t. I am saying that our public-resource allocation decisions ought to be driven by realistic comparisons of the expected aggregate costs (i.e., the odds that an event will happen or its incidence in the population, multiplied by the cost of the event if it happens) of each class of events. What are the expected aggregate costs of

    -Global warming?

    -Asteroid impacts?

    -Breast cancer?

    -Prostate cancer?

    -Diabetes?

    -AIDS?

    -Automobile accidents?

    -Gun accidents?

    -Nuclear or other WMD attacks?

    Not all of the information necessary to make such comparisons is available, but in cases where it isn’t (asteroids, global warming, WMD attacks) we can stipulate wide ranges of odds and possible costs and use these ranges in our comparisons.

    Comparing risks in this way might lead to a different set of public priorities than does our current societal practice of responding to the most publicized and dramatic risks.

    OTOH, there is little if any incentive for public officials to evaluate relative risks on their merits. The political incentives are all for response to spectacular risks and risks that have organized constituencies.

    I suspect that better public education is the only effective remedy for this classic problem of public choice. Citizens are more likely to demand rational allocation of public resources if they better understand science, probability and statistics, and history — IOW, if they have the tools to make more-realistic risk assessments.

    (Cross-posted on the Chicago Boyz Forum.)

    Posted in Science | 7 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 24th November 2006 (All posts by )

    …[I]lluminating as though it is, the attempt to fit the United States into historical patterns of empires is ultimately misguided. The United States is not in transition from hegemony to empire. The world is in transition to new forms of political organization, whose outlines can be dimly perceived, but whose frontiers cannot yet be fixed.

    Robert Skidelsky

    Posted in History | 7 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th November 2006 (All posts by )

    Hot trend: portable turf.

    Posted in Humor | 7 Comments »

    New! – Chicagoboyz Discussion Forum

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd November 2006 (All posts by )

    Not only does this blog have thoughtful, articulate contributors, it also has many thoughtful, articulate readers. But it’s impossible to invite every one of you to be a regular contributor. And not everyone wants to be a regular contributor, just as not everyone wants his own blog.

    And while many readers enjoy commenting on our posts (which adds greatly to the quality of the blog, BTW), commenting on someone else’s work is not what everyone wants to do, at least not all of the time. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to start your own discussion, and it’s really nice to be able to do that in the company of people who share some of your interests and/or outlook.

    So I created a discussion forum to complement this blog. Check it out and feel free to participate. (You have to register to post, but that’s painless to do and once you’re set up you can post at any time.) I also created a bunch of subforums that cover most of our blog’s hot topic areas, but it’s easy to add new forums as necessary — your suggestions are welcome. And I have begun to import book reviews from the blog into the books forum. Those reviews, mostly written by James McCormick and Lex, are among the best content that we’ve got and they deserve to be kept alive for discussion rather than allowed to disappear into the blog archives.

    I hope that you will enjoy using the new forum. It is for everyone — current readers, commenters, lurkers and regular Chicago Boyz contributors alike. Because the forum runs on user-generated content it will succeed only to the extent that users like you want to participate. So please don’t hesitate to let me know (by email or post a message in the support forum) if you have any ideas for improvement. And if you want to discuss some topic from the blog or elsewhere, the best thing that you can do is open a new forum thread and have a go at it.

    Thanks!

    Posted in Announcements | 1 Comment »

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Posted by Helen on 23rd November 2006 (All posts by )

    Happy Thanksgiving to one and all from this side of the Pond.

    Posted in Diversions | Comments Off

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd November 2006 (All posts by )

    Worked late last night. Tired. Wanted to do sleepin’, but made four pies instead. Stuffing tomorrow. I’d rather do it the night before, but the wall has been hit. The computer was between me and the arms of Morpheus, so this is the last stop.

    Saying prayers with the kids, I asked them to thank God for various things. Before they went to bed we talked about the Pilgrims. I told them that we would not have liked everything about the Pilgrims. They would not have liked us, since we are Catholics, for one thing. But we had to respect their courage and their faith in God. They believed they were doing the right thing, worshipping God in their way, and they left everything civilization offered to go across a trackless desert of water, to a wilderness more remote than anything we can now imagine or experience. The Pilgrims were tough and serious people,and they knew how to say “no” — to themselves, to their own weakness, to the temptations of comfort over principle, to fear.

    If we are ever put the test like they were, how strong are our own principles? Would we get on that ship? Would we have the spirit to kneel on the ground and thank God upon arriving at the edge of that sea-facing forest, where there was not a chair to sit in or a roof or a wall or a fireplace to warm your hands?

    This country was founded by great people. Not perfect people, but people who had an ample supply of the most rock-solid virtues. Be grateful for them, and for what they started, and do your best to hand it on better than it was when you came along.

    God bless my fellow ChicagoBoyz and Girlz, our readers, our friends and our enemies. Enjoy the day. Hug your parents, and your children. Have two pieces of pie, just not enormous pieces.

    God bless America.

    Posted in Diversions | 9 Comments »

    Happy Thanksgiving (and a personal OTOH)

    Posted by Ginny on 22nd November 2006 (All posts by )

    May all Chicagoboyz writers & all Chicagoboyz readers have a pleasant Thanksgiving. Good turkey, good talk, good family times.

    My oldest & her husband are home & we feel very thankful for them, their choices in life, and their warmth. My mother-in-law is 88 and will be bringing the salad & dessert. We are quite lucky.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 2 Comments »

    Blog Hiccups

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st November 2006 (All posts by )

    I’m working on some software upgrades that I have been putting off for too long and that should improve the functioning of this blog. Thanks for your patience.

    Posted in Announcements | Comments Off

    Messages to Ahmadinejad

    Posted by David Foster on 20th November 2006 (All posts by )

    In 1933, the Oxford Union debating society considered a resolution: “This House will under no circumstances fight for King and Country.” It passed by 275 votes to 153. Apparently, Hitler was told of the passage of his resolution, and it encouraged him to believe that Britain would do nothing to interfere with his depradations. Many other events–in Britain, in France, and in the US–sent similar messages.

    Fast-forward to the present. Put yourself in the shoes of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and consider what conclusions you might draw from recent events in the U.S.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Iran, War and Peace | 30 Comments »

    Whose human rights?

    Posted by Steven Den Beste on 20th November 2006 (All posts by )

    Human Rights Watch

    says that
    Saddam’s trial was unfair. HRW wants his death sentence nullified.

    You know, I’d write about this, but if I did the result would be ten thousand
    4-letter words.

    Posted in International Affairs | Comments Off

    Fine Tuning the Rabbit Ears

    Posted by Ginny on 19th November 2006 (All posts by )

    We arent a research school & so the visiting speaker or two a semester are usually anticipated with some pleasure; we try to look up their work, read a book or two of theirs. The list has included Louis Menard & Dinesh DSouza. When I heard this one was going to be about education I was surprised; the social studies group usually does the inviting and their general attitude is that most education departments would be improved by a little carpet bombing.

    So, I dutifully ordered Paul A. Zochs Doomed to Fail: The Built-In Defects of American Education & started reading. At first it seemed like coffee room grousing: he describes an interview with a student who suggested helpfully that if Zoch would sing and dance, wed learn this stuff (xviii). Given the quality of students that take Latin at a public high school, I wondered if he was ironic – but, then, the student was already failing the class.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education | 1 Comment »

    Why I’m Not Good At This Political Stuff

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 19th November 2006 (All posts by )

    Is anybody else disturbed by mentions of Virginia Postrel and breast implants in the same sentence?
    Now, I don’t look at Virginia and see, oh, this; I’m hosting my share of anti-veneration memes. But in spite, or perhaps because, I have met Virginia (and helped put together a stop on her book tour for The Substance of Style [overwrought review warning]), there are certain political issues that really, really don’t overlap with the circle labeled “VP” in my internal political Venn diagram.
    I don’t care that Virginia herself has written on the topic; and in particular, I don’t care that I of course agree that these kinds of medical decisions, and the management of any attendant risk, ought to be decentralized, ideally all the way to the level of the individual adult, even if that means practically shutting down the FDA.
    I just don’t care. My inner Midwesterner wants to metaphorically leave the room, sputtering over how unseemly it all is. If this is the price of defending (or regaining) freedom, somebody’s going to have to substitute for me until we can move on to a more edifying topic. Like, I don’t know, nanotechnological bionic hornets or something. Call me when this is over.

    Posted in Humor | 3 Comments »

    “The Narcissism of Politicized Grief”

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th November 2006 (All posts by )

    Judith Weiss attends a discussion session with the parents of the unfortunate Rachel Corrie and a crowd of naive and not-so-naive Palestinian-terrorist sympathizers. Worth reading.

    Posted in Israel | 2 Comments »

    Mokyr – The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy

    Posted by James McCormick on 17th November 2006 (All posts by )

    Mokyr, Joel, The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy, Princeton University Press, 2002. 359 pp.

    [cross-posted on Albion's Seedlings]

    I first became aware of Professor Mokyr (Northwestern University) when I stumbled across his book The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress (1992) during a period of economic history reading late last year. The book was quite strong on the details of technology in the ancient world and Industrial Revolution but virtually skipped the period that Professor Alfred Crosby had considered crucial to the change in mentality in the West (1275-1325 AD in northern Italy) in his book The Measure of Reality. My reading program at the time was meant to fill in the details of the period after the peak of the Italian republics. Instead, it highlighted the fact that science and industry were a rather murky transnational undertaking that didn’t, by itself, lend much assistance to sorting out Anglosphere history. Was England unique, merely lucky, or simply the first? Lever of Riches was fascinating but steered clear of many of the social and political questions that might explain why the economics of the period were so unusual. Economic historians now believe that, before 1850, the contribution of “formal” science to technology remained modest. There was a long period of very modest economic growth in England before Industrial Revolution allowing a rising population between 1760 and 1815 without a decline in per capita income. Income per capita edged up very slowly before 1830. Real wages barely nudged up before mid-1840s. And the switch to mineral economy (as an industrial power source) had been proceeding for centuries before 1750. What was the source of the evident dramatic change that people quite naturally want to call a Revolution?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 11 Comments »

    Milton Friedman, 1912-2006

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 16th November 2006 (All posts by )

    Requiescat in pace.
    Lengthy FT obit here; U of C News Office release here.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Obits | 9 Comments »

    Worthwhile Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 15th November 2006 (All posts by )

    On CNN Headline News tonight, Glenn Beck has a program called Exposed: The Extremist Agenda. It’s particularly focused on the Iranian regime and the vast differences between the way it portrays itself to the outside world–and the messages that it sends to its own people. The 7PM (ET) show is on now; it will rerun at 9PM ET and at midnight.

    Posted in Terrorism | 5 Comments »