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  • Archive for January, 2011

    Egypt: tear gas and hotels

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 31st January 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Brainstormers on the Web ]

    Here are two data-points to drop into the mind-pool as we think about current events in Egypt, the Middle East in general, and the way the world turns.

    DoubleQuotes is my name for the format I’m using here, which I came up with a few years back on Brainstorms. The idea is simply to generate fresh insights by juxtaposing two thoughts – be they images, quotes, or even equations (I don’t have the technical chops for music or film clips yet) — in condensed, haiku-like form.

    Think of them as pebbles dropped in a pond, watch the ripples…

    [ note to ChicagoBoyz readers: I'll say more about Brainstorms and Brainstormers on the Web in a week or two, once the "on the Web" blog gets under way ]

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, International Affairs, Middle East, North America | Comments Off

    Update: NEXT CHICAGO TEA PARTY MEETING: Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Posted by Lexington Green on 31st January 2011 (All posts by )

    [Note: The date has been changed from February 2 to February 9, due to the predicted Biblical-scale blizzard.]

    The next Chicago Tea Party meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 9 at 7:00 PM at Blackie’s, 755 S. Clark, Chicago.

    “If you’re outraged over the 67% income tax increase and the 46% corporate income tax increase in Illinois, then please join us at our next meeting. Our featured speaker will be John Tillman, CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute. We will discuss our efforts to repeal the tax hike and reform out of control government spending. Find out what you can do to help make a difference.”

    Register here.

    Posted in Announcements, Chicagoania, Politics, Taxes | 1 Comment »

    Wisconsin Makes A Move On Illinois Business

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 31st January 2011 (All posts by )

    Our new Governor (Wisconsin) Scott Walker has signed legislation giving businesses that relocate to Wisconsin two years “free” – no corporate OR personal income taxes:

    MADISON (WKOW) — Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill that gives income tax breaks for companies that relocate to Wisconsin.

    The bill will forgive corporate and personal taxes for two years for companies that move to the state. The company could not have been located in Wisconsin for at least two years in order to qualify

    I think they mean personal income taxes such as if you were running the company as a pass through like an LLC. I assume that is what they are talking about. Any way you slice it, this is fantastic news.

    This got through the legislature with lightning speed, helped out by the fact that all three of our branches are Republican controlled now up here behind the cheddar curtain. I also read today that the public employee unions are getting ready for some very bad news for them in the near future.

    We have just begun with the Walker administration, but I am very hopeful and happy by this stroke. Walker also sent back the Obama buck$ that would have started out the sham “high speed” rail network that would have been a boondoggle for the ages.

    We may as well pick off what is left of the Illinois corpse before other states do.

    Hopefully Walker will end up being a star like some other up and comers such as Mitch Daniels of Indiana.

    Posted in Obama, Politics, Public Finance, Taxes, Transportation | 14 Comments »

    The End of the Tai-ping Rebellion

    Posted by Lexington Green on 31st January 2011 (All posts by )

    In an earlier post, I mentioned the excellent old book The “Ever Victorious Army”: A History of the Chinese Campaign under Lt.-Col. C.G. Gordon, C.B., R.E., and of the Suppression of the Tai-Ping Rebellion by Andrew Wilson (1868). The author, Wilson, at key points in the book, reaches an almost poetic intensity in his prose.

    The tragic story of the Tai-ping Rebellion is little known in the USA. Yet the wholesale devastation it inflicted on China, killing over 20 million people during 14 years of internal warfare and anarchy, makes it the largest military event of the 19th Century.

    The founder and ruler of the Tai-ping movement, Hung Sew-tsuen, was exposed to foreign missionaries who showed him a Chinese translation of the Bible. After failing to pass the examination to enter the Mandarinate, he went into a trance, had a vision, and believed himself to be the younger brother of Jesus. Conditions in China were disorderly, and he believed himself to be Heaven’s instrument to rectify the wrongs and bring peace and justice and prosperity back to China. He convinced others of his status and mission. He raised an army and overran many provinces and cities. But instead of restoring harmony in the Flowery Land, he and his rampaging subordinates (called wangs, or kings) brought only death, famine, destruction and chaos. In the closing years of the rebellion Hung Sew-tsuen was besieged in Nanjing by the Imperialist forces of the Manchu Emperor.

    As dangers gathered round him, Hung Sew-tsuen, the Heavenly Monarch, became more cruel in his edicts, and ordered any of his people who might be found communicating with the enemy to be flayed alive or pounded to death; but even he could no longer conceal from himself the fact that the days of his reign and of his life had drawn to a close. It would be interesting to know what were the last thoughts of this extraordinary man when he found himself in these circumstances. Did he still believe that he was a favourite of heaven, and authorised representative of Deity on earth, or had he in his last hours some glimpse of the true nature of the terrible and cruel destiny which he had had to fulfil? Surely as his thoughts reverted to the simple Hakka village of his youth, he must have known that his path over the once peaceful and happy Flowery Land could be traced by flames and rapine and bloodshed, involving a sum of human wretchedness such as had never before lain to the account of the most ferocious scourge of mankind. Where there had been busy cities, he had left ruinous heaps; where fruitful fields, a desolate wilderness; “wild beasts, descending from their fastnesses in the mountains, roamed at large over the land, and made their dens in the ruins of deserted towns; the cry of the pheasant usurped the place of the hum of busy populations; no hands were left to till the soil, and noxious weeds covered the ground once tilled with patient industry.” Even, as has been remarked, the very physical features of the country, owing to neglect of the embankment of great rivers, had been largely changed by his destructive career. And, after all this ruin and misery, what had the Tai-ping movement come to at last but the restoration of Imperial rule in China, while a cloud of fear and wrath hung over the doomed city in which the king and priest and prophet of the Great Peace anticipated death in the midst of his trembling women and the remnant of his ferocious soldiery.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Big Government, Book Notes, China, Christianity, Civil Society, History, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Taxes, USA | 16 Comments »

    Recommended Reading

    Posted by Zenpundit on 31st January 2011 (All posts by )

    I had intended to write an analytical post about the tumultuous events in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world and then I recalled that a) I do not speak or read Arabic b) am not versed in contemporary Egyptian politics c) am not an Arabist by academic training d) have never visited the Middle East and e) even those who are all of these things are often doing more news updating on twitter than deep analysis.

    Egypt is the demographic and geographic center of the Arab Sunni world – but without the economic resources to make Egypt the power that Nasser once aspired that it would be in the heady era of postcolonial, nationalist, Pan-Arabism. So Nasser became a client of the Soviets, who could fund his ambitions and Egypt was a quasi- Soviet satellite until Sadat kicked the Soviets out for trying to undermine him in favor of a more pliant stooge, and accepted American patronage. Sadat’s assassination gave us Mubarak and his hated familial-military-party oligarchy (Ok, the military and party were largely there, but Mubarak’s rule has discredited them).

    So, instead of my projecting what will happen next, I’ll devote this recommended reading to other bloggers and news sources who are freer with their conjecture:

    Top Billing! Thomas P.M. Barnett Preliminary scenario voting results at Wikistrat’s Egyptian war room (updated 1630 EST Sun) and First ever Virtual Strategic War-Room Launched following Egyptian Chaos and the Wikistrat Virtual Strategic War Room site.

    No Tom is not an Arabist either, but he does have experience with designing and participating in professional war games and futurism sessions inside the USG and out. The war room, to my casual observation, seems like an IT effort to synthesize expert analysis and crowdsourcing a primitive/structured prediction market. Interesting.

    Abu MuqawamaAn Open Letter to the Egyptian People, Egypt: A Humble Request.

    Arabist.net The who’s who of the has-beens

    Marc Lynch -Washington eyes a fateful day in Egypt and Obama’s handling Egypt pretty well

    Col. Pat Lang-The Outlook for Egypt and the Middle East Is Grim By – Robert K. Lifton , More sensible attitudes on Egypt today, Omar Suleiman sworn in as VP

    SWJ Blog - Days of Unrest (Update)

    STRATFOR - The Egypt Crisis in a Global Context: A Special Report | STRATFOR

    Fabius Maximus -Important information about the riots in Egypt and Why do we fear the rioters in Egypt?

    HNN (Haider Khan)Egypt, What Next?

    Global Guerrillas – EGYPT: How to Lead and Open Source Protest , EGYPT: Mubarak’s Survival Strategy and EGYPT: Looting as Counter-Insurgency

    Juan Cole -Egypt’s Class Conflict

    Outside the Beltway -Egyptians Upset With U.S. Response To Crisis and Egypt and the Limits of US Power

    That’s it.

    Posted in Academia, Blogging, International Affairs, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Politics | 3 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st January 2011 (All posts by )


    Chicagoboyz — Voted “America’s Most Carrot-Positive Blog” since 2001!

     

    Posted in Photos | 1 Comment »

    Does Egypt = Thailand?

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 30th January 2011 (All posts by )

    I have been practicing Muay Thai for almost four years now. I read a variety of information sources about Muay Thai, and sort of live that life – I guess you could say.

    Over the years of commenting on different blogs and boards I have become friends with more than one professional Muay Thai fighter actually in Thailand, along with many people who go there to train in Muay Thai for pleasure, and some people who go to Thailand to report on the Muay Thai scene.

    When the protests in Thailand erupted a few months ago, I was of course scared for the many acquaintances that I knew were over there, on the way there, or on the way back. The shots of the violence in the streets were a bit scary. I admit they weren’t anything like the tanks in the streets of Egypt, but the riot police was called in to Bangkok and the army was “on call”.

    Over and over my friends in Thailand reported that not only were they not concerned about the rioting, but that outside of a small, few square mile area of Bangkok that you were really in no danger at all. Outside of Bangkok life was proceeding as usual, and many people didn’t even know what was going on outside of their small towns.

    I wonder if it is this way in Egypt. I haven’t heard reports of any city blowing up besides Cairo, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, of course. I guess time will tell.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Media, Middle East, Sports | 5 Comments »

    Al Jazeera, Egypt, and Guns

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 30th January 2011 (All posts by )

    The situation in the middle east today with people rising up against autocratic regimes is moving quickly and I have been following this through a variety of sources. One that I have been watching is Al Jazerra English because their journalists seem to be in the middle of the action and I am looking for facts less than commentary or opinion (I can do that myself).

    In parallel I found interesting an article of how Egyptian civilians should protest riot police. This guide came from the Atlantic and it is a 26 page article with how to dress, use spray paint on the vision slits of armored vehicles, and use a pot lid to shield yourself from billy clubs.

    Throughout all of this it is obvious how dangerous it is to be an unarmed civilian that is trying to protest (peacefully or not) against armed riot police and government thugs that are armed with riot police tools (tear gas, shields & billy clubs) as well as deadly weapons (guns). Basically you are trading the lives of the protesters against the willingness of the government to kill you; if the government maintains its nerves, thousands can be beaten or die (see how the protests were extinguished in Iran, for example).

    In parallel, Al Jazeera ran an opinion piece (which, to their credit, they said was the opinion of the writer and not necessarily theirs) called “Shoot first, ask questions never” which blames the NRA for gun violence in the United States and ends with the following paragraph:

    The NRA’s 30+ years of extremism is probably best summed up by their current president Wayne LaPierre. Recently he remarked that “those with the guns make the rules”. Perhaps he mistakenly read a copy of the Robespierre’s Constitution, but in the one the Founding Fathers created for this country, their quaint view was that ballots and not bullets would accomplish that feat.

    Of all the journalistic outlets that could understand the concept that “those with guns make the rules” you’d think that Al Jazeera would at least concede that point. The reason that the Arab people have to stand up to riot police unarmed is because guns and weaponry are illegal for the general populace so that the state and their actors (the riot police and the secret police) can act with impunity. The only time that things change in the Arab world is when those with BIGGER guns (the army) come and don’t support the riot police and secret police thugs; and then there is a change of power.

    Posted in Middle East | 5 Comments »

    The End of Colonialism as an Excuse

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 30th January 2011 (All posts by )

    One item that has gone relatively un-mentioned with the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt is that the issue of “colonialism” has finally been thrown into the dustbin.

    As any viewer of this blog knows, the left and the third world have traditionally blamed virtually all of their woes on the colonialist powers or the United States which came in the vacuum after the colonialist powers left (less often mentioned is the actions of the USSR, since it does not fit their narrative). Either we supported the wrong side, gave them inappropriate borders, or authorized coups that took out the men that would have changed history, but it was always our collective fault.

    The Arab world today is predominantly younger, with a very high percentage of their population under 25 years old. The population that is under 40 is even larger; and you’d have to be 40 or over to even remember much of life under the Shah of Iran or even Sadat. The youth in these countries, the broadest segment of the population, knows nothing but the current fossilized dictators that have ruled uninterruptedly during the course of their entire life.

    Thus the leaders can blame Israel and the US and the colonialists but it buys them nothing because the streets know that these countries haven’t been significant actors during their lifetimes. All they know is 1) a small elite band of the rich and powerful control the state 2) secret police and thugs control their lives should they step out of line or demonstrate 3) nothing much is changing, except that it is getting worse with higher prices for basics and low prospects for formal employment.

    No one knows the future – the forces of the dictatorships could re-assert control, the radical Islamic factions could take power and then hold it violently, or some sort of freer society could emerge. But at last we aren’t hearing the same old noise that this is all the fault of events that occurred decades ago.

    Posted in Middle East | 3 Comments »

    Afghanistan, Egypt and Obama

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 30th January 2011 (All posts by )

    I have previously posted my opinion that Afghanistan is not worth the cost. I stated my reasons why we should leave here and here and here. Nothing has changed there but a lot is happening elsewhere in the Middle East.

    Egypt’s escalating tensions amount to the first real foreign crisis for the Obama administration that it did not inherit. The crisis serves as a test of Obama’s revamped White House operation. Daley, a former Commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, is now running a staff that is briefing Obama regularly on Egypt.

    They have handled it badly. This is a very dangerous time for us. The Egyptian Army seems to be siding with the protesters. That may or may not last.

    The left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that Egyptian army officers in Cairo’s central square have tossed aside their helmets and joined the crowd. “The Army and the people are one,” they chanted. MSNBC’s photoblog shows protesters jubilantly perched on M1A1 tanks. The real significance of these defections is that the army officers would not have done so had they not sensed which way the winds were blowing — in the Egyptian officer corps.

    And even as Mubarak tottered, the Saudi king threw his unequivocal backing behind the aging dictator — not hedging like Obama — but the Iranians continued to back the Egyptian protesters. The Saudi exchange tumbled 6.44% on news of unrest from Cairo. Meanwhile, the Voice of America reports that Israel is “extremely concerned” that events in Egypt could mean the end of the peace treaty between the two countries. If Mubarak isn’t finished already, a lot of regional actors are calculating like he might be.

    But Washington will not be hurried. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that President Obama will review his Middle Eastern policy after the unrest in Egypt subsides. The future, in whose spaces the administration believed its glories to lie, plans to review its past failures in the same expansive place. Yet time and oil wait for no one. Crude oil prices surged as the markets took the rapid developments in. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu observed that any disruption to Middle East oil supplies “could actually bring real harm.”

    Of course, Mr Chu should not worry as we have wind and solar to take up the slack. Actually, we get our oil from Canada and Mexico but the price of oil shifts with the world’s supply.

    The present Obama commitment to Afghanistan is ironic since he promised to bring troops home but he has declared that Iraq was NOT necessary and Afghanistan is. This is slightly crazy. The Iraq invasion was an example of US power being applied in a critical location; right in the middle of the Middle East. Afghanistan is a remote tribal society reachable only through unreliable Pakistan. It has minimal effect on world events. We went there to punish the Taliban for harboring the people who attacked our country. Thousands of them have been killed. We have little of interest there now. We should have left last year.

    With a Shi’ite dominated government in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a Muslim Brotherhood that may keep Egypt in neutral or tacitly accept Teheran’s leadership, how could things possibly get worse?

    They can if Saudi Arabia starts to go. And what response can the U.S. offer? With U.S. combat power in landlocked Afghanistan and with the last U.S. combat forces having left Iraq in August 2010, the U.S. will have little on the ground but the State Department. “By October 2011, the US State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police and this task will largely be carried out by private contractors.” The bulk of American hard power will be locked up in secondary Southwest Asian theater, dependent on Pakistan to even reach the sea with their heavy equipment.

    This is not where we want to be. The problem is that Obama and Hillary and the rest of this administration have no concept of strategy.

    The Obama administration made fundamental strategic mistakes, whose consequences are now unfolding. As I wrote in the Ten Ships, a post which referenced the Japanese Carrier fleet which made up the strategic center of gravity of the enemy during the Pacific War, the center of gravity in the present crisis was always the Middle East. President Obama, by going after the criminals who “attacked America on 9/11″ from their staging base was doing the equivalent of bombing the nameless patch of ocean 200 miles North of Oahu from which Nagumo launched his raid. But he was not going after the enemy center of gravity itself.

    For all of its defects the campaign in Iraq was at least in the right place: at the locus of oil, ideology and brutal regimes that are the Middle East. Ideally the campaign in Iraq would have a sent a wave of democratization through the area, undermined the attraction of radical Islam, provided a base from which to physically control oil if necessary. That the campaign failed to attain many of its objectives should not obscure the fact that its objectives were valid. It made far more strategic sense than fighting tribesmen in Afghanistan. Ideology, rogue regimes, energy are the three entities which have replaced the “ten ships” of 70 years ago. The means through which these three entities should be engaged ought to be the subject of reasoned debate, whether by military, economic or technological means. But the vital nature of these objectives ought not to be. Neutralize the intellectual appeal of radical Islam, topple the rogue regimes, and ease Western dependence on oil and you win the war. Yet their centrality, and even their existence is what the politicians constantly deny.

    Events are unfolding, but they have not yet run their course; things are still continuing to cascade. If the unrest spreads to the point where the Suez and regional oil fall into anti-Western hands, the consequences would be incalculable. The scale of the left’s folly: their insistence on drilling moratoriums, opposition to nuclear power, support of negotiations with dictators at all costs, calls for unilateral disarmament, addiction to debt and their barely disguised virulent anti-Semitism should be too manifest to deny.

    Leftism is making common cause with Islamic terrorism. Why ? I don’t really know. Some of it may be the caricature of Jews making money and being good at business. Some may simply be the extension of animosity to Israel extending to all Jews. The people behind Obama are not free of these sentiments. His Justice Department is filled with lawyers who defended terrorists at Guantanamo. Holder seems uninterested in voting rights cases if a black is the offender. He was even unwilling to say that Islamic terrorism was behind 9/11.

    Because it will hit them where it hurts, in the lifestyle they somehow thought came from some permanent Western prosperity that was beyond the power of their fecklessness to destroy. It will be interesting to see if anyone can fill up their cars with carbon credits when the oil tankers stop coming or when black gold is marked at $500 a barrel. It is even possible that within a relatively short time the only government left friendly to Washington in the Middle East may be Iraq. There is some irony in that, but it is unlikely to be appreciated.

    I would add a bit to this from one of my favorite essays on the topic. It compares Gorbachev to Obama.

    Nor are the two men, themselves, remotely comparable in their backgrounds, or political outlook. Gorbachev, for instance, had come up from tractor driver, not through elite schools including Harvard Law; he lacked the narcissism that constantly seeks self-reflection through microphones and cameras, or the sense that everything is about him.

    On the other hand, some interesting comparisons could be made between the thuggish party machine of Chicago, which raised Obama as its golden boy; and the thuggish party machine of Moscow, which presented Gorbachev as its most attractive face.

    Both men have been praised for their wonderful temperaments, and their ability to remain unperturbed by approaching catastrophe. But again, the substance is different, for Gorbachev’s temperament was that of a survivor of many previous catastrophes.

    Yet they do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.

    In another passage:

    There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.

    A variant of this is the frequently expressed denial of the law of unintended consequences: the belief that, if the effect you intend is good, the actual effect must be similarly happy.

    Very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes, have shared in this belief system, but only the fully college-educated liberal has the vocabulary to make it sound plausible.

    With an incredible rapidity, America’s status as the world’s pre-eminent superpower is now passing away. This is a function both of the nearly systematic abandonment of U.S. interests and allies overseas, with metastasizing debt and bureaucracy on the home front.

    The turmoil in Egypt is a test that, I fear, Obama and his Secretary of State, will not pass.

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anti-Americanism, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, History, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics, Terrorism | 1 Comment »

    Maps and History

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 30th January 2011 (All posts by )

    I used to audit a community college. Some of the students on work study used to assist me with financial tasks and they were fun to work with. One day a girl seemed downcast and I asked her why. She said that she had a geography quiz and didn’t feel that she performed well. I asked her which questions she had difficulty with and one of them was “Which continent is Brazil located in?” I pulled out a piece of paper and drew a crude map of South America with Brazil along the coast and gave it to her.

    Later she came back with an atlas and exclaimed “You were right!” The most interesting part of the story to me is that, in her mind, a lay-person like me (not a teacher) knowing which continent Brazil was in seemed like such odd and obscure knowledge that she assumed I was “guessing”.

    I was recently in Room and Board, an excellent store, when I saw this interesting French map on the wall. What caught my eye was a small tag in the corner of the frame that said “c 1900″ meaning “circa 1900″.

    I knew instantly that this wasn’t true, since you can see from the map that the Austro-Hungarian empire had been split into its constituent parts and the post-WW1 land re-divisions had already occurred, such as the expansion of Italy. This is obviously a map dated post-1918 and pre-1945; this I could tell from the second I looked at it.

    But the real issue is that this sort of knowledge of history applied to the lands of Europe is probably viewed as an obscurity by most people, including the hundreds or thousands of people that pass by this map every day at the store and look at it as an “art object” (it is a quite beautiful map, and if I had a place to display it and the price was right and I could yank off the “c 1900″ tag I might think about buying it). I did not inquire but I am sure that if I asked the manager about this tag he would look at me like a crank and I can guarantee that my shopping partner would not have appreciated the likely subsequent argument.

    The other part that is interesting to me is that many of the employees of Room and Board are highly educated and literate people, at least in my interactions with them. I am certain that many of them have liberal arts and design backgrounds. But this sort of arcane knowledge, the impact of military and political affairs on the boundaries of European states from 1900 – 1945 (and now into the 1990′s with the fall of the Soviet Union) would not be the type of work that would fit into their curriculum anyways. You could take an elective on virtually any historical topic to fulfill your meager requirement for history (if you had one at all) and I’d bet my last dollar that this sort of military / political history would be far less popular than myriad other potential classes.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Europe, History | 39 Comments »

    Tulips

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 30th January 2011 (All posts by )

    Posted in Photos | 7 Comments »

    Hmmm, Leftists or Fire Ants?

    Posted by Shannon Love on 29th January 2011 (All posts by )

    Comments from a post on NJ Governor Christie buying air time to lure Illinois businesses to NJ.

    Margaret Price: Governor Perry has been doing this to California businesses, which are pouring into Texas faster than the illegals from Mexico. And we’ve got better weather than New Jersey.
     
    mochalite: I agree that Texas has a better business climate, but overall climate? It’s HOT there most of the time and you have fire ants!
     
    sclemens: I’d choose fire ants over blood-sucking liberals any day of the week. Fire ants show their true colors all the time and don’t try to convince you they are stinging you for your own good.
     
    Will the last one out of California please turn out the compact fluorescent light.

    Yep, you always know where you stand with fire ants. It might be their one virtue.

    Posted in Humor, Leftism | 7 Comments »

    666.6 recurring?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 29th January 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    I’m hoping to give an extended treatment to Glenn Beck’s new documentary on Mahdism and Iranian nuclear ambitions shortly, not because I think Mahdism is unimportant – I don’t – but because I don’t think Beck is listening to some of the people with the most in-depth knowledge of the situation.

    In the meantime, I couldn’t resist the screen-grab from the docu in Quote #2, which accompanied Joel Rosenberg saying:

    This end times theology is not only what he believes, but it is why Ahmadinejad is putting his foot to the gas of accelerating Iran’s nuclear weapons development program, and the ballistic missile development as well – because once Ahmadinejad is able to acquire nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them, Ahmadinejad could do in about six minutes what it took Adolf Hitler about six years to do, and that is to kill 6 million Jews.

    You can have Nero for 666, or Aleister Crowley, or Ronald Wilson Reagan, or this Pope or any previous holder of that title, or Muhammad, or bar codes, or Ahmadinejad – but surely not all of them at once.

    *

    I’m shifting from talk about 666, the number of the Beast, to talk about the Antichrist now — which may or may not be a different topic, see for instance these notes from Scofield on Revelation

    *

    Joel Richardson, an email friend of mine who is the author of The Islamic AntiChrist and is featured in the documentary, believes the Antichrist and the Mahdi are one and the same: he calls the expectation of the Mahdi’s coming an “anti-parallel” of Christian expectation of the Second Coming of Christ, and says “Islam has literally taken the whole story and flipped it on its head”. Joel Rosenberg, whose latest thriller is titled The Twelfth Imam, and who is also featured, says that in his view the Mahdi may be “an” – but not “The” – Antichrist.

    *

    Back to the Beast:

    Rev. Ian Paisley, Baron Bannside, still says 666 is the Pope — but then he’s both a minister of religion and a Unionist politician from Northern Ireland.

    Posted in Britain, Christianity, Film, Iran, Islam, National Security, Religion, Rhetoric | 1 Comment »

    CPSIA, Yet Again

    Posted by David Foster on 29th January 2011 (All posts by )

    I’ve posted several times about the horrible piece of legislation known as the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act, which has been devastating to many small manufacturers–especially makers of children’s clothing, toys, science kits, etc–and homecrafters. (It has also had a malign impact on the children’s book industry and on libraries.) In today’s WSJ, Virginia Postrel has a good article on this legislation and its effects.

    Postrel observes that the recently-enacted Food Safety Modernization Act does a better job than did the CPSIA of exempting small operators from burdensome and unnecessary record-keeping requirements, and attributes this to the fact that the agricultural industry is far better organized from a lobbying standpoint than are the small manufacturers who are impacted by the CPSIA. (Also, the kind of well-connected people for whom grocery shopping is a religious experience are more likely to have concerns about protecting small farmers than about protecting small manufacturers and homecrafters.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Politics | 3 Comments »

    “The Man is Hiding the Stash” Fallacy

    Posted by Shannon Love on 28th January 2011 (All posts by )

    At Belmont Club, Richard Fernandez says of the Marxist Piven’s philosophy:

    The problem with Piven’s theory is that events in Europe have shown those “major economic reforms” to be unsustainable, if not actually ruinous. However, she appears to believe that the European crisis is only apparent, being the result of the Man hiding the Stash. Find that stash and things become sustainable again.

    I think this fallacy deserves its own name because I think this is the central economic fallacy of leftists in general. Whether we are talking about unions, public workers, redistributionists, etc., there is always the implicit idea that somewhere there is this big pile of money that the rich business people are hoarding away like a squirrel with its winter store of nuts. Leftists tell everyone that all problems can be solved if we just use the force of the state to threaten the squirrels to give up their nuts.

    The problem is that rich people don’t own a lot of nuts, they own nut producing trees, i.e., rich people don’t have a stash of cash, they own assets that can, if managed properly, produce a stream of income. Worse, for the leftists, those assets usually provide jobs for the majority of the population, so you really can’t alter their use too much. If you cut the tree down to get the nuts, what are going to eat next year?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Public Finance | 18 Comments »

    Profit!

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 28th January 2011 (All posts by )

    Ford earned greater profits in 2010 than it had in a decade. But weren’t they the only major US automaker who refused to take government bailout money?

    Of course, Ford’s sales situation could have been much rosier than the others when the bailout was proposed. Their refusal then and profits now are hardly surprising if that is so.

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Markets and Trading | 3 Comments »

    DoubleQuotes and Questions

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 27th January 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    You know, I really enjoy building my DoubleQuotes. They can be entirely frivolous, as is this one, for instance:

    with its touch of gothic — a taste I share with my friend Bryan Alexander.

    Or they can work like a Necker cube, offering opposite framings with which to view a single topic — in this case, video games.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Arts & Letters, Aviation, Christianity, Diversions, Environment, Human Behavior, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Philosophy, Poetry, Quotations, Religion, Rhetoric, Russia, Science, Terrorism | 5 Comments »

    Credentialists Gone Wild

    Posted by David Foster on 27th January 2011 (All posts by )

    (updated 1/28)

    Elizabeth Scalia (aka The Anchoress) cites the case of Pete Hamill–author of over a dozen books, writer of a syndicated newspaper column and of countless essays and articles covering a broad range of subjects–who finally got around to getting a degree from the high school he dropped out of 59 years ago. “It was the last period when you could do that and still have a life,” Hamill told the New York Times.

    Scalia:

    We live in an era where a well-educated journalist can declare the Constitution to be “over a hundred years old” and therefore difficult to understand, and remain credibly employed; it does seem that credentials matter more than ability. Demonstrating that one is able to conform to curricula currently trumps boldness; seat hours in the auditorium count more than audacity.

    I wonder if that’s really good for America, though. To become educated is a marvelous thing; to have the opportunity to study is a privilege too many take for granted. But have we become a society that places too much weight on the attainment of a diploma, which sometimes indicates nothing more than an ability to keep to a schedule and follow a syllabus, and underappreciates the ability to wonder, to strike out on an individual path, and to learn on one’s own?…to paraphrase Gregory of Nyssa, it’s the wondering that begets the knowing.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Civil Society, Education, USA | 12 Comments »

    There is no excuse for (purportedly) being surprised by this.

    Posted by Lexington Green on 27th January 2011 (All posts by )

    Progressives laudably seek to oppose injustice by deploying government power as a countervailing force against the imagined oppressive and exploitative tendencies of market institutions. Yet it seems that time and again market institutions find ways to use the government’s regulatory and insurer-of-last-resort functions as countervailing forces against their competitors and, in the end, against the very public these functions were meant to protect.
     
    We are constantly exploited by the tools meant to foil our exploitation. For a progressive to acknowledge as much is tantamount to abandoning progressivism.

    The Economist, Democracy in America blog Via Mickey Kaus, via Instapundit.

    Kaus’s proposed reforms can’t hurt. But the mindset has to change. Conservatives will have to figure out that being “pro business” and being “pro market” and “pro freedom” will often be in opposition. Big Business wants a regulatory state to insulate it from competition. That is rational self-interest. And it is anti-market.

    Corporate capture of state power is the inevitable and (should be) well-known consequence of creating state power in the first place. Edmund Burke and Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson warned about this in the late 1700s, and the liberal thinkers throughout the 19th Century were acutely aware of this problem. (See, e.g., this book) The Founders knew this, and built a central government of limited powers for exactly this reason, with the mercantilist, politically-connected monopolies of Britain very much in mind. In the mid-20th Century, Mancur Olson, James Buchanan and George Stigler, among many others, documented and demonstrated that the regulatory state will be in the hands of the supposedly regulated parties based solely on the incentives and knowledge of all the parties.

    Regulatory capture is folk wisdom, not arcane knowledge. It is inevitable.

    No one can honestly smack their forehead and say “d’oh!”

    There is no excuse for being surprised by this.

    UPDATE: Our Nomenklatura, Via Instapundit.

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Management, Politics, USA | 8 Comments »

    The Ordeals of Proposition 8

    Posted by David McFadden on 27th January 2011 (All posts by )

    Rights talk pervades the litigation over California’s Proposition 8. The defenders of Proposition 8 point out that the Supreme Court has never recognized a right to same-sex marriage. Indeed, in 1972 the Court said that such a claim doesn’t even raise a substantial federal question. On the other hand, the opponents of Proposition 8, using the old trick of formulating a right at higher level of abstraction, claim that they are vindicating the right to marry, which the Supreme Court has recognized as a fundamental right.

    A right that’s overlooked in the whole discussion is the right to self-government, a right recognized in the Declaration of Independence and in the California Constitution, which says, “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their protection, security, and benefit, and they have the right to alter or reform it when the public good may require.” Cal. Const. art. II, §1. This right is contracted to extent the courts command governments to expand the right to get a marriage license beyond that authorized by the people.

    The voters of California began exercising their right to alter or reform the government as it relates to marriage in 2000, when they adopted a proposition to ensure that the state legislature couldn’t repeal the California Family Code’s restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples. The proposition added this provision to the Family Code: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Only marriage and nothing else?  A lease between a man and a woman, a contract for sale between a man and a woman aren’t valid or recognized in California? I assume they are. Misplacement of the word “only” is such a common draftsman’s error that nobody notices it anymore, and everybody knew what the proposition was supposed to mean, including the California Supreme Court, which held it violated the California Constitution. In re Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d 384 (Cal. 2008).  

    The people responded by passing Proposition 8, putting the same unfortunate language in the California Constitution. Ironically they put it in article I, the article entitled “Declaration of Rights.” To be precise, they put it in article I, section 7.5. But the provision is never referred to as article I, section 7.5 or as section 7.5—just Proposition 8—as if it weren’t really part of the constitution.

    Attorney General Jerry Brown adopted that attitude in challenging the validity of Proposition 8. He argued that Proposition 8 violated the California Constitution, forgetting that Proposition 8 was the California Constitution. His argument, as well as a more serious argument based on election law, was rejected by the California Supreme Court.

    The stakes were raised when Ted Olson, the brilliant solicitor general in the second Bush administration, and David Boies, his former opponent in Bush v. Gore, brought on behalf of disappointed gay couples (“Plaintiffs”) a challenge to Proposition 8 based on the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In their well-funded lawsuit, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, they sued in federal court Gov. Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Brown, two public health directors, and the clerks of two counties.

    All of the defendants except the attorney general took no position on the merits of the case and refused to defend Proposition 8. The attorney general did them one better and conceded the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8. I’m not sure how that fulfilled the attorney general’s duty to prosecute or defend all actions in which a state officer is a party.

    The case would virtually have been a collusive lawsuit had the people who proposed Proposition 8 (“the Proponents”) not intervened. At trial, the government defendants put on no case; the Proponents, a weak one. Most of the Proponents’ witnesses decided not to testify because the case was going to be televised. (Intimidation of opponents has been a hallmark of the gay marriage movement.) “Proponents’ evidentiary presentation was dwarfed by that of the plaintiffs,” sniffed Vaughn Walker, the presiding judge.

    After a long trial, Judge Walker issued a long opinion. There he quarrels with the Proponents’ experts and gives their opinions little or no weight but enthusiastically embraces the opinions of the Plaintiffs’ experts.

    That selectivity led to Judge Walker’s notorious findings of fact. Eighty of them. Some are just sloganeering (“Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas . . . (#58); “Proposition 8 perpetuates the stereotype . . .” (#67)). Some are awfully subjective “facts,” while others aren’t facts at all. Number 61 says, “Proposition 8 amends the California Constitution to codify distinct and unique roles for men and women in marriages.” That’s a matter of law not fact, and it’s patently false on the face of the provision. In number 77, he lurches into theology: “Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.” Whatever truth there may be to this “fact,” the federal judge’s disparagement of the religious beliefs of his countrymen provides an ominous glimpse of the religious persecution to come when the new marital regime is combined with human rights ordinances.  

    With his findings of fact in hand, Judge Walker careened through some conclusions of law and then, looking into the mirror that is the Fourteenth Amendment, found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. 

    Of course, the government defendants did not appeal. That was to be expected, but it created a problem for the Proponents. The Proponents appealed, claiming that they had standing to appeal just as state legislators do if a law they passed is struck down. After hearing an hour’s worth of argument on standing and another hour’s worth on the merits, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued earlier this month a certified question to the California Supreme Court asking it whether California law gives the official proponents of an initiative an interest or authority “to appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative, when the public officials charged with that duty refuse to do so.”

    The Ninth Circuit wondered whether the governor “may, consistent with the California Constitution, achieve through a refusal to litigate what he may not do directly: effectively veto the initiative by refusing to defend it or appeal a judgment invalidating it, if no one else—including the initiative’s sponsors—is qualified to do so.”

    Judge Reinhardt wrote separately to scold the parties for creating a problem they could have avoided. The governor and the attorney general could have eliminated the problem if either “had defended the initiative, as is ordinarily their obligation.” The Plaintiffs sued the clerks of only two of California’s fifty-eight counties and didn’t serve the rest with Judge Walker’s ruling. And the Proponents, for their part, could have gotten another clerk to intervene on their side. The judge declined to speculate on motives.

    But one doesn’t have to speculate long to suspect that Plaintiffs’ counsel carefully restricted the defendants they sued in order to win an unopposed judgment and to shelter that judgment from appellate review. It would be truly extraordinary if a highly controversial case of great public significance could be rigged so that there was standing to conduct a trial but not an appeal.

    If the Proponents survive the objections to their standing, they face two big problems on the merits. First, Proposition 8 leaves untouched California’s domestic partnership laws, which give same-sex couples the rights and duties of marriage but withhold the name of marriage, the “honorific designation,” as Judge Reinhardt called it. What that shows, according to the Plaintiffs, is that the only purpose of Proposition 8 is to insult gays and to label their relationships as inferior. They argued that since California allows domestic partnerships, it cannot claim that any substantial harm could come from allowing same-sex marriages because nothing of substance would change. If that’s true, then the benefits the state is supposed to derive from same-sex marriages, like an increase in adoptions, are also insubstantial, and the benefits that same-sex couples would derive are entirely sentimental.

    Clearly, states considering domestic partnerships as a compromise should beware that they proceed at their peril.

    Second, none of the advantages the Proponents put forward for heterosexual marriage seem to be threatened by homosexual marriage. Those advantages can be summarized like this. Because heterosexual couples have a natural ability to procreate, stabilizing their relationships in the institution of marriage benefits the couple, their children, and society. Maybe so, but, Judge Walker and the Plaintiffs triumphantly ask, how does excluding gays from that institution preserve heterosexual marriages or encourage heterosexuals to become monogamous and get married?

    A philosophical answer to that question has been proposed recently, but not by the Proponents, who struggled with it. Finally, in the last few minutes of his rebuttal Charles Cooper, Proponents’ counsel, may have come up with a legal answer when he quoted from Johnson v. Robison, where Justice Brennan wrote, “When, as in this case, the inclusion of one group promotes a legitimate governmental purpose, and the addition of other groups would not, we cannot say that the statute’s classification of beneficiaries and nonbeneficiaries is invidiously discriminatory.” 415 U.S. 361, 383 (1974).

    This turns the tables on the advocates of same-sex marriage, who always insist that their opponents prove a rational basis for subtracting same-sex couples from the institution. Robison suggests that isn’t the question: the question is whether adding same-sex couples to the institution promotes the legitimate governmental purpose that heterosexual marriage promotes. The Proponents could safely say that it doesn’t. The state has a legitimate interest in stabilizing relationships that have a biological tendency to produce offspring. Thus, the state has a rational basis for formalizing those relationships that it does not have for formalizing same-sex relationships.

    Since the Proponents failed to demonstrate how allowing gays to marry damages heterosexual marriage, the argument I’ve suggested here should be given more prominence as the case proceeds, if anyone is left standing to raise it.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Law, Society | 3 Comments »

    Chicagoboyz @ the DMV

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th January 2011 (All posts by )

    Posted in Photos | 4 Comments »

    Tyranny of the Naive

    Posted by Shannon Love on 27th January 2011 (All posts by )

    Well, yipee. Obama supports revoking the infamous 1099 requirement of ObamaCare. I think the question we should ask now is: What the hell were they thinking when they inserted it in the bill in the first place?

    The requirement imposed such a huge burden on both businesses and the IRS that many wondered if either the private or public sector even had the information technology to process all the paperwork. Why wasn’t the incredible overhead imposed by the requirement immediately obvious to those who created it? Why didn’t the originators stop and ask, “Hey, is requiring every business to file a form for every purchase or sale over $600 even feasible?” Even if they didn’t care about the overhead and economic consequences, the political consequences should have given them pause.

    I think they simply didn’t understand the consequences because they were too naive about the realities of business, government administration and large-scale information management. I’m not saying the originators are stupid, no doubt they’re all Ivy League overachievers, but I’m willing to bet that none of them has any real-world experience outside of academics, activism or politics. They can’t start with an abstract idea like the 1099 requirement and intuitively extrapolate to the real-world consequences.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 21 Comments »

    “The Wormhole: A time traveler’s coffee house”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 27th January 2011 (All posts by )

    “A viewer posted a message on my wall – “Have you been to the coffee shop with the DeLorean yet?”

    No. And why hadn’t I? I’m a huge fan of the “Back to the Future” franchise, and to hear that a new coffee shop had opened inspired by the movie? I was so there.

    I found that the Wormhole isn’t just a “Back to the Future” coffee bar – it’s a 1980′s pop culture explosion. Artifacts are everywhere – a “Top Gun” poster, “Star Wars” action figures, an Atari 100. But most important – the coffee is top notch. The owners recruited baristas from other local spots, and they’re brewing Metropolitan coffee among other local blends.”Marcus Leshock, ChicagoNow

    From this article on the 15 best coffee shops in Chicago.

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Diversions | 3 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th January 2011 (All posts by )

    Richard Fernandez:

    Liberation under the Piven doctrine effectively becomes a choice by the serfs of which aristocracy they believe will do best by them, since worth is determined by the political process anyway. Which side do we back by our “mass actions”? Liberation becomes the process of putting the “right” people in charge of the masses. It is not — it is never — putting the masses in charge of themselves.
     
    Why not put the masses in charge of their own lives? Because that would require facilitating innumerable transactions and contracts between individuals. That would require self-interest and economic calculation to propel the system. That would mean a market, whose job it would be for the state to keep fair, and that were too little a role for such as Piven thinks should rule the roost. Besides, we all know that markets don’t anything but swindle the poor. Markets are the reign of greed and society does so much better under the rule of enlightenment.
     
    So put on your marching shoes and head for Washington, to put the right people in charge, and if Piven is correct, enough banging on the doors of the Capital will inevitably produce the keys to the hidden gold, which will be spent of course, in the manner Piven knows everybody would want it to be spent.

    The first paragraph is an accurate restatement of one of the left’s main arguments for putting itself in charge of things. The moral and practical cases for redistribution, like other left-wing arguments, shrivel as one forces into the open their underlying assumptions and peels away layers of diversionary rhetoric. Somehow “A oppresses B” always gets interpreted to imply that a self-selected elite should tell A, B, C, D…Z how to live.

    Check out the rest of Richard’s post for some classic video clips from Milton Friedman’s great series, Free to Choose.

    Posted in Civil Society, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Quotations, Rhetoric | 1 Comment »