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  • Archive for December, 2013

    Happy New Year

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    Sunrise, New Year’s Eve, 2011.

    Red twilight immediately before sunrise, looking over Miami's Rickenbacker Causeway and Key Biscayne toward the Atlantic Ocean on New Year's Eve 2011. (© Jonathan Gewirtz)

    Posted in Holidays, Photos | 2 Comments »

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

    Posted by Lexington Green on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    [image]

    Posted in Holidays | 3 Comments »

    The Next World War

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    Bumper-Stickers-MA-Deport-620x343

    This next summer will be 100 years since the fatal August of 1914. We live in a similar era of “history is over and everybody is happy.” See above. In August 1914, Germany’s major trading partners were Britain and France, as well as the US. There were people who believed that democracies that did business with each other never went to war. Sound familiar ?

    UPDATE: I am not the only one thinking about this, of course. Here is another version. I worry less about China as a geopolitical rival to the US but a China Japan conflict would not be impossible.

    The Telegraph has an excellent piece on the present world situation.

    As we look forward to the First World War commemorations, three stark conclusions are hard to refute. First, that in the course of this century we will need a great deal of luck to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. Second, that the Enlightenment has failed. Third, that this can all be traced back to the Great War.

    As a result of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, it seemed that mankind might make a decisive break with the scarcity and oppression that had characterised previous eras. There was, admittedly, one early warning. The French Revolution proved that a radical reconstruction of society on abstract principles was likely to end in tyranny and bloodshed. But after 1815, the 19th century developed into one of the most successful epochs in history. Living standards, life expectancy, productivity, medicine, the rule of law, constitutional government, versions of democracy – there was dramatic progress on all fronts, and in the spread of civilisation across the globe.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, International Affairs, Iran, Leftism, Military Affairs, National Security | 27 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 »

    A Couple of Worthwhile Posts

    Posted by David Foster on 28th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Why grade inflation hurts social mobility

    It is important to distinguish between meritocracy and credentialism.

     

    The redistribution of dreams

    Actually, I would not have used the term “redistribution” in this context. The policies of the Democratic Party are not so much a redistributor of dreams as a broad-spectrum killer of same.

     

     

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, USA | 5 Comments »

    “A GOP Civil War: Who Benefits?”

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th December 2013 (All posts by )

    A long and thoughtful article in Commentary by Michael Medved & John Podhoretz.

    The conclusion:

    Republicans will win meaningful victories only when they lose their appetite for martyrdom and fratricide and concentrate on forcing the other side to pay a political price for its own incompetent performance and dysfunctional ideology. Most Republicans, as the history of the last 40 years demonstrates, want precisely that. The question now is whether this real majority will be overrun. If that happens, the truest beneficiary of the intra-Republican civil war will be the Democratic Party, and those who divided the right will deserve some share of the blame for the advancement of the very policies and principles they claim to abhor.

    The authors make what may be the best case possible for the politicians Tea Partiers think of as the GOP leadership. The gist of the argument is that 1) primary challenges have substantial long-term costs in Republican political effectiveness, and 2) the national political environment has changed in ways that make political quarrelling personally rewarding for unscrupulous operators who do not have the good of the Party at heart. Also, the authors assume that continued Republican forbearance on important issues such as Obamacare would have yielded better results than the confrontational tactics used by Senator Ted Cruz and other Tea Party favorites.

    The main problem with the article is that it ignores significant reasons for conservatives’ dissatisfaction with the Republican leadership: it loses winnable elections, concedes important principles by refusing to engage Democrats on ideas, pulls punches in publicly criticising President Obama and his subordinates and has treated conservative constituents with contempt. The point about needing to “concentrate on forcing the other side to pay a political price for its own incompetent performance and dysfunctional ideology” applies at least as strongly to Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative John Boehner as to Ted Cruz.

    The authors are correct about the rise of mercenary political consultants and solo-operator pols whose interests do not always align with those of the voters, but so what? These trends, driven by mass-media and now the Internet, have existed for at least forty years and affect both political parties. The Democrats appear to be coping well on the whole, and President Obama owes much of his political success to his ability to exploit this new environment.*

    The bottom line is that if the Republicans were winning more elections no one would care about the other issues. To argue as the authors do that Republicans used to win elections by appealing to the moderate middle of the electorate misses the point. The political environment has changed and Democrats have so far been more skilled than Republicans in adapting. The Tea Party’s favorite politicians may be using suboptimal tactics but at least they understand that new approaches are needed. Sometimes an organization needs driven, self-centered people who will try new things when more conventionally responsible leaders won’t. If your leaders keep failing you eventually replace them even if they argue plausibly that they will soon turn things around. Accountability for failure is a prerequisite for success.

    The Republican “civil war” isn’t really a war. It’s more like a struggle for control of the board of directors of a public company that has been losing money for years and has a large group of unhappy shareholders. Such a struggle can be healthy if it gets the company to replace management and implement reforms, even though insiders who benefit from the status quo may lose out in the process.

    —-

    * It may be that the Democrats will crash and burn electorally because of Obamacare or their various scandals and foreign-policy debacles, but these are own-goals that Republicans had little to do with. Similarly, the Republicans would have done better if several Tea Party favored Congressional candidates in 2010 and 2012 had not turned out to be seriously flawed. But if those candidates had won President Obama most likely would still have been reelected and would still have done great harm to the country. even if he didn’t get Obamacare passed.

    Posted in Politics, Tea Party | 27 Comments »

    Favorite Photos of 2013

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th December 2013 (All posts by )

    This is a cross-post from my photoblog of a selection of my better, or at least more preferred, photographic results from 2013. I’ve posted some of them here previously. You may order prints or greeting cards by clicking on the image you’re interested in.

    Click the “read the rest” link to see all of the images.

    —-

    Misty Miami Skyline
    Misty Miami Skyline

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Photos | 13 Comments »

    Random Thoughts

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th December 2013 (All posts by )

    -The requirements for an online “captcha” image are that 1) bots can’t read it and 2) people can. Many web designers seem to pay attention only to the first requirement.

    -Where possible, product designers and firmware programmers should live with their products for a while before releasing them commercially. This would reduce the incidence of design errors such as in my cell phone, which beeps when the battery is being charged and has reached full capacity with the phone turned on. Because what kind of idiot leaves his phone on in his bedroom while charging the battery overnight?

    -If you put me on hold you really don’t value my business, no matter what your recorded message says.

    -Why do many drivers stay at the white line instead of moving into the intersection while waiting to turn left across traffic?

    -Speaking of which, if women really are just as good drivers, on average, as men are, why are so many of them so touchy about any suggestion that they aren’t?

    Posted in Deep Thoughts | 9 Comments »

    Book Review: Herman the German, by Gerhard Neumann

    Posted by David Foster on 27th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Herman the German by Gerhard Neumann

    —-

    This is the autobiography of a man who was born to a Jewish family in Germany, apprenticed as an auto mechanic, attended engineering school, moved to China in 1938, was interned by the British as an enemy alien in 1939, transferred to the American forces, joined Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers, repaired the first Japanese Zero fighter to be captured in potentially-flyable condition, became a U.S. citizen by special act of Congress, and went on to run GE’s entire jet engine business, which he played a major role in creating. (The preceding may be the longest single sentence I’ve ever written in a blog post.) The book should be of interest to those interested in aviation, technology, management, social history, the WWII era, and/or China.

    Gerhard Neumann was born in Frankfurt/Oder in 1917, where his father was owner of a factory that processed feathers and down. Gerhard’s parents were Jewish but nonpracticing–a Christmas tree was traditional in the Neumann home–and their approach to child-raising was closer to stereotypically Prussian than to stereotypically Jewish:  “You did exactly as you were told by your parents. There was no such thing as saying no to them!…You were not to have a hand in your pocket while talking to grown-ups…Showing any emotion in Prussia was considered sissyish. There was no kissing between parents and children–only a peck on the cheek before going upstairs punctually at nine o’clock; and there was absolutely no crying.”

    On the other hand, Neumann could do pretty much what he wanted with his spare time. In 1927, at the age of 10, he rode his bike out to a grass strip where someone was giving airplane rides for 5 marks, which he paid with money from his piggy bank. His parents weren’t angry at him for taking this flight without permission; indeed, they were so entranced with his description of the way the town looked from the air that they soon took an airplane ride themselves! At the age of 13, Neumann bought a folding kayak and, with some camping gear and a 12-year-old friend, took long journeys on the Oder River, all the way to the Baltic Sea. Few parents in America today–or in Germany either, I’d bet–would now allow this level of independence to a 12- or 13-year old.

    Neumann had no interest in the family feather business; he wanted to be an engineer. A 2- or 3-year machinist or mechanic apprenticeship was mandatory for admission to any German engineering academy: Neumann’s father asked the 10 cab drivers of Frankfurt/Oder to recommend the garage where they thought the boy would learn the most, and the answers were unanimous: Albert Schroth’s. So began Gerhard Neumann’s apprenticeship, which, other than the technologies involved, could have been something out of the Middle Ages. “In winter my hands were frozen purple. Wear work gloves? ‘What’s the matter, boy, are you a girl?’ When my hands were bleeding, Herr Schroth pointed to the large bottle of iodine in the backroom and mumbled something about faules Fleisch (lazy flesh.) No Band-Aids, no pitying, no time out.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Business, China, Germany, History, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    History Friday – Spoiled for the Movie

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th December 2013 (All posts by )

    I’ve written now and again of how I’ve been spoiled when it comes to watching movies set in the 19th century American west – also known as Westerns – by my own knowledge of the setting and time. Yes, if a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a lot of it is like the Tunguska Explosion, with pretty much the same results – even if the movie in question is one of those high-cost, well-acted, beautifully filmed award-winning extravaganzas.

    The latest movie which has been destroyed for me is Dances With Wolves– which we decided to watch the other night. Beautiful-looking movie, scenic panoramic sweeps of the Northern Plains, attractive and interesting actors – especially those portraying Sioux – and as for the look and conduct of the tribe as portrayed? I’ve always thought there was nothing better for getting an idea of what a Sioux village and its inhabitants looked like in the mid-19th century. No, really – it was marvelous, almost a living history exhibit; everyone was always doing something; working, recreating, celebrating. Alas – everything else about Dances just falls apart on closer examination.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Diversions, History, Media | 11 Comments »

    Divvy Bikes and Logistics

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Divvy bikes came to Chicago this year towards the end of the summer and they seem to be a big hit. We see people riding Divvy bikes all the time and they have a distinctive “flash” light on the front (like a strobe) that is visible from far away, even from our condominium high up over River North.

    I often walk near the train station and I noticed the Divvy van loading up bikes when the obvious hit me; Divvy bikes came from all over the city and ended up near the train station. These vans were redistributing the bikes back to other stations so that the next days’ rush hour could repeat the process.

    The stations seem to have a solar powered panel; they should connect each of the bikes to a sensor and then broadcast to a central station so that they can map out bike usage in regular intervals and use this information to improve their bike distribution algorithm. I assume that they can also make some stations larger than others; this way you could collect many bikes downtown and then redistribute them to stations that they came from (presumably on the north side) during the day. Here is an article I found about the Divvy “Rebalancers“.

    Perhaps some day they could alter pricing in some sort of “congestion” model to charge people more who drop bikes off at popular stations and charge people less to ride those same bikes in the opposite direction to less popular stations. This could supplement the “rebalancers” with market forces. Grist for an MBA case study perhaps?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 4 Comments »

    Happy Holidays

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Happy Holidays from Chicago! And I want to give a special thanks for the writers of America 3.0, who are taking time out from their busy lives and mercantilistic duties in order to try to bring a positive set of recommendations for the future.

    Posted in America 3.0, Chicagoania | 2 Comments »

    Christmas Day

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Merry Christmas to all. My youngest daughter drove 8 hours from Tucson and my oldest son 9 hours from San Francisco yesterday to be with the family Christmas Eve. We were all at my younger son’s house for their annual party but he had to work at the fire house. Today we will assemble at various houses and one restaurant for dinner. All are healthy and happy.

    My best to all.

    I have research subjects for this morning. My daughter-in-law wanted to know the value of the tetra drachma I had given my middle daughter as a birthday gift this year. I bought it from a workman at Ephesus a few years ago. It is the most perfect Attic Owl I’ve ever seen. I had it mounted in a necklace. This morning I’ve been researching the subject. What would a tetra drachma buy in 500 BC ?

    My son-in-law and I discussed the question of extra-terrestrial life last evening. I’m doing some research on Archea and extremophiles today. Lots to do on Christmas Day before dinner time.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Holidays, Personal Narrative | 6 Comments »

    … natus ex Maria virgine …

    Posted by Lexington Green on 25th December 2013 (All posts by )

    And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

    Luke, 2:8-12.

    Merry Christmas to all of our Chicago Boyz contributors, readers, friends and families.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

    Father Christmas and the Provost

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th December 2013 (All posts by )

    (This is actually an episode from one of my books, redone as a free-standing short story for an anthology of Christmas stories by other indy authors, which never went anywhere, so is posted here as my own Christmas contribution.)

    It was Vati’s idea to have a splendid Christmas Eve and he broached it to his family in November. Christian Friedrich Steinmetz to everyone else but always Vati to his family; once the clockmaker of Ulm in Bavaria, Vati had come to Texas with the Verein nearly twenty years before with his sons and his three daughters.
    “For the children, of course,” he said, polishing his glasses and looking most particularly like an earnest and kindly gnome, “This year past has been so dreadful, such tragedies all around – but it is within our capabilities to give them a single good memory of 1862! I shall arrange for Father Christmas to make a visit, and we shall have as fine a feast as we ever did, back in Germany. Can we not do this, my dears?”
    “How splendid, Vati! Oh, we shall, we shall!” his youngest daughter Rosalie kissed her father’s cheek with her usual degree of happy exuberance, “With the house full of children – even the babies will have a wonderful memory, I am sure!” Her older sisters, Magda and Liesel exchanged fond but exasperated glances; dear, vague well-meaning Vati! All of Gillespie County was under martial law and Duff’s Partisan Rangers had despoiled so many farmsteads, claiming they were owned by Union sympathizers. Men of the town had been arrested for refusing to take the loyalty oath, refusing service in the Confederate Army, for even speaking against secession or refusing to accept Confederate money. How could a happy Christmas make up for all that?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Holidays | Comments Off on Father Christmas and the Provost

    Christmas 2013

    Posted by David Foster on 24th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Newgrange is an ancient structure in Ireland so constructed that the sun, at the exact time of the winter solstice, shines directly down a long corridor and illuminates the inner chamber. More about Newgrange here and here.

    Grim has an Arthurian passage about the Solstice.

    Don Sensing has thoughts astronomical, historical, and theological about the Star of Bethlehem.

    A wonderful 3-D representation of the Iglesia San Luis De Los Franceses. Just click on the link–then you can look around inside the cathedral. Use arrow keys or mouse to move left/right, up/down, and shift to zoom in, ctrl to zoom out.

    Vienna Boys Choir, from Maggie’s Farm

    Lappland in pictures, from Neptunus Lex

    Snowflakes and snow crystals, from Cal Tech. Lots of great photos

    A Romanian Christmas carol, from The Assistant Village Idiot

    In the bleak midwinter, from The Anchoress

    Rick Darby has some thoughts on the season. More here.

    A Christmas reading from Thomas Pynchon.

    The first radio broadcast of voice and music took place on Christmas Eve, 1906. Or maybe not. But on the other hand

    An air traffic control version of The Night Before Christmas.

    Ice sculptures from the St Paul winter carnival

    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, sung by Enya

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    Jeff Sypeck on a winter garden

    Posted in History, Holidays, Music, Religion | 6 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 »

    Bah humbug!

    Posted by Helen on 24th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Time to spread my usual Christmas gloom and misery with a few side-swipes at a couple of iconic works of art. Read it on Your Freedom and Ours.

    Merry Christmas to one and all.

    Posted in Holidays | Comments Off on Bah humbug!

    Kipling on Income Inequality, Continued

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd December 2013 (All posts by )

    A couple of weeks ago, Chicago Girl Margaret excerpted a little-known poem by Kipling…the poem’s context being a proposal (circa 1890) by the new German Kaiser for an expanded social-welfare system, ideally to encompass other European countries in addition to Germany and to limit “destructive competition” in industry. The poem seemed relevant to Stuart Schneiderman’s post this morning, so I posted the whole thing in comments there.

    Posted in Europe, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Leftism | 2 Comments »

    Thanks to John B. Wells and Coast to Coast AM

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd December 2013 (All posts by )

    Jim Bennett and I had a good conversation with radio host John B. Wells during the deep, dark early morning hours of Sunday December 22, 2013.

    It is a privilege to speak to John’s listeners, many hard-working Americans on the third shift, keeping things going while the rest of the country is sleeping.

    John was kind enough to have us on for three whole hours, so we were able to talk at some length about America 3.0.

    The Amazon sales ranking for the book went through the roof during and following the show, which is welcome indeed.

    John mentioned that he would like to have us on again at some point, and we would be very happy to do that.

    BTW, here is a bleg: If you have not yet ordered America 3.0, but plan to do so, it would be helpful if you did so before the turn of the year.

    A big, huge thank you to John and to Coast to Coast AM.

    Posted in America 3.0 | 2 Comments »

    The Procurement / Bureaucracy Excuse, and the Drive for Expanded Presidential Power

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd December 2013 (All posts by )

    President Obama has been unwilling to admit that the problems with the Obamacare roll-out might suggest that he needs to work on improving his management skills. Instead, he has chosen to blame the complexities of government bureaucracy, and in particular the complexities of the government procurement process–all matters that have seemed to be rather surprising to him–and this view has predictably been echoed by some in the pundit class.

    I have several thoughts on this matter:

    1) It is not yet clear to what extent the Obamacare systems problems are a function of too much bureaucracy in the procurement process versus too little bureaucracy in that process as employed in this specific case. In particular, were Serco and CGI and other key contractors selected based on the robot-like processes of the Federal procurement system…or was heavy political influence involved? I don’t think we know yet.

    2) A good workman understands the limitations of his tools and materials. We wouldn’t think much of a civil engineer who designed a high-traffic-carrying bridge without paying close attention to the load-bearing characteristics of the steel girders and cables used; nor would we think much of an architect who designed a house in which a family was investing much of their financial net worth without considering the weather resistance of the wood and other materials he was specifying. Shouldn’t Obama, before embarking on a plan to greatly increase the Federal Government’s role in healthcare, have seriously considered the characteristics and limitations of the tools and materials that he was using–the Federal agencies and their policies and procedures–for this purpose? He stands convicted out of his own mouth for not performing this basic level of due diligence.

    3) Whatever the encumbrances of the Federal bureaucracy–and yes, we all know they are significant–nothing prevented Obama from taking a more serious and responsible executive role in supervising the roll-out, and/or putting effective people in key leadership positions. Can there be any doubt that if a person of the quality of General Bernard Schriever, for example, had been put in control of the technology and paperwork process implementation, the odds of success would have been considerably better?

    4) Most important: Obama and his media/academic sycophants refuse to understand the inevitable limitation of government micromanagement.  I’ve previously quoted Peter Drucker:

    Whether government is “a government of laws” or a “government of men” is debatable. But every government is, by definition, a “government of paper forms.” This means, inevitably, high cost. For “control” of the last 10 per cent of any phenomenon always costs more than control of the first 90 per cent. If control tries to account for everything, it becomes prohibitively expensive. Yet this is what government is always expected to do.

    The reason is not just “bureaucracy” and red tape; it is a much sounder one. A “little dishonesty” in government is a corrosive disease. It rapidly spreads to infect the whole body politic. Yet the temptation to dishonesty is always great. People of modest means and dependent on a salary handle very large public sums. People of  modest position dispose of power and award contracts and privileges of tremendous importance to other people–construction jobs, radio channels, air routes, zoning laws, building codes, and so on. To fear corruption in government is not irrational.

    This means, however, that government “bureaucracy”— and its consequent high costs—cannot be eliminated.  Any government that is not a “government of forms” degenerates rapidly into a mutual looting society.

    (I’m confident Professor Drucker would agree that whether the forms are paper or electronic makes no difference at all in this context.)

    As I also noted earlier: the expansion of government into all aspects of human life leads to increasing inefficiency–while the increasing frustration with bureaucracy results in a widespread demand to “make government more responsive” by giving more discretionary authority to administrators and to their political superiors. This is exactly what we are seeing with Obamacare, with the emphasis at present being on an increase of discretionary authority for the political superiors of the administrators. This, in turn, must result in a government which is not only a looting society (Obamacare waivers or special privileges for politically-well-connected groups, for example)  but increasingly a tyranny. Yet at the same time, there will still be enough baroque proceduralization (selectively enforced) to ensure high levels of inefficiency and very high government administrative costs. And the discretionary authority–the movement away from a Government of Laws and toward a Government of Men–must create widespread uncertainty and, consequently, equally widespread economic damage.

     

    Posted in Health Care, Management, Obama, Tech | 13 Comments »

    History Friday: Claire Lee Chennault — SECRET AGENT MAN!

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 20th December 2013 (All posts by )

    One of the strangest experiences doing historical research is following a trail of research on something you think you know, and then suddenly you go down Alice’s rabbit hole and find a “detailed reality” that was something completely different. So it was researching General Claire Chennault’s ground observer network in World War II (WW2). I went looking for the nuts and bolts organizational creation of an air power genius…and what I found instead was “Claire Lee Chennault — SECRET AGENT MAN!!!”

    Chennault's 1933 Ft. Knox air Defense Observer Network

    Then Captain Claire Chennault’s 1933 Ft. Knox air Defense Observer Network. It was so successful in catching bombardment formations that Chennault was black balled by the “Bomber Mafia” of two Air Chiefs of Staff. This network was the basis of a human intelligence network Chennault formed in China despite orders forbidding such a service by China-Burma-India senior US commander General Stilwell. Photo Source: Coast Artillery Journal Mar-Apr 1934, pg. 39

    It turns out that Chennault’s anti-aircraft ground observer network evolved in China from 1937 through 1945 from an air-warning network into a full scale human intelligence service. A human intelligence service that was operationally annexed by General William “Wild Bill” Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in the Spring of 1945.

    When I started this thread of research, I was looking for a copy of then Captain Chennault’s “THE ROLE OF DEFENSIVE PURSUIT.” The institutional histories of the US Air Force on World War II (WW2) mention the existence of the anti-aircraft ground observer network called for by “THE ROLE OF DEFENSIVE PURSUIT” in China, but not much more. “THE ROLE OF DEFENSIVE PURSUIT” was also mentioned prominently in the first chapter of Paul A. Ludwig’s book “P-51 Mustang: Development of the the Long Range Escort Fighter” which I received as a gift recently, and the author makes the point General Arnold’s Army Air Corps threw out this ground observer network along with the only man in its service that knew the heavy bomber wasn’t invincible. They did so for the heresy of speaking that truth.

    The lack of historical coverage of a past military institution in military institutional histories, and the lack of a modern equivalent to tell their stories, are always good cues to go researching. My internet searches to that end yielded both “THE ROLE OF DEFENSIVE PURSUIT” and an article by Bob Bergin titled “Claire Lee Chennault and the Problem of Intelligence in China,” in the June 2010 issue of Studies in Intelligence. What I didn’t expect to happen by reading the article was to fall down Alice’s “rabbit hole” into an espionage wonderland.

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    Posted in History, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Here We Go Again …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th December 2013 (All posts by )

    … or, haven’t I been to this rodeo before? Why, yes I have, and not all that long ago, either. First I called to mind was poor artless Paula Deen, celebrity cook-book author, metaphorically burned at stake in the marketplace of public opinion. But the Great Duck Dynasty Imbroglio of 2013 reminds me very much more of the Great Chick-Fil-A Ruckus of 2012, wherein some fairly mild published remarks by the CEO of the company sent the usual right-thinking suspects into a frenzy of shrieking like demented howler monkeys. Boycott, shun, divest and/or fire was the general ukase – for they are hateful hating bigots who shouldn’t be tolerated by truly tolerant people … and then the funniest thing happened. People went out and deliberately bought lunch, dinner and breakfast at their local Chick-fil-A outlet, to the utter chagrin of the usual right-thinking suspects. Chick-Fil-A nationwide had the best darned week they ever had, as far as sales went, and lines of hungry customers stretching for blocks.
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    Posted in Americas, Business, Conservatism, Current Events, Human Behavior, Media, Uncategorized | 28 Comments »

    Wee Hours Radio Interview About America 3.0 [UPDATED]

    Posted by Lexington Green on 20th December 2013 (All posts by )

    For our friends who are insomniacs or working third shift: Sunday, December 22st 1 AM to 4 AM CST — in other words, the wee hours TONIGHT — Mike Lotus and Jim Bennett will be interviewed on Coast to Coast Radio by John B. Wells, discussing America 3.0.

    We look forward to our conversation with John (pictured here on his motorcycle) and his listeners, and we thank Coast to Coast radio for having us on.

    Find a station in your area.

    I will circulate a link to any podcast when it becomes available.

    UPDATE:

    There is a strong admonition on the excellent blog Cold War Warrior to read America 3.0 and to listen to the radio show during the wee hours tonight. The Cold War Warrior cites the great Frédéric Bastiat, about the perversion of our public life since the end of the Cold War:

    The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense.

    Converting “plunder into a right” sounds very much like the cronyism which is ransacking our country under color of law. Cold War Warrior goes on to write:

    There is a restlessness, an uneasiness among the population that is palpable. The federal government’s response has been one of fear. The government gets more abusive as it becomes increasingly fearful. The tide will change. The people will rebel at the ballot box and in the picket line but then what? What is the plan? Voices decry the current situation but few offer solutions. America 3.0 is the right idea presented at the right time. The John Wells interview is a long format so the ideas can be explored.

    Jim Bennett and I are looking forward to this conversation.

    Posted in America 3.0, Announcements | 2 Comments »

    The Cluelessness Was Not Just About “Tech”

    Posted by David Foster on 20th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Michael Wolff, writing in USA Today, says that Obama’s strange comments about the Obamacare technology debacle are symptomatic of a broader problem: CEO’s being “clueless” about technology.

    Uh, no. The problems with the Obamacare systems do not particularly reflect Obama’s cluelessness about technology, they reflect his complete lack of competence and experience in the field of executive management. Basic executive functions such as organizing work carefully and appropriately, putting the right people in charge, checking up to see how things are going, and making adjustments as necessary rather than just “hoping that something will turn up” are not specific to software and telecommunication systems. I have no doubt that Obama’s approach to management would be equally disastrous if he were running a railroad or a factory or a retail store…even a railroad or a factory or a retail store in pre-computer days.

    The very strong support for Obama among people who write and talk and create images for a living reflected, in many if not most cases, an arrogant belief that their own skill sets were applicable to just about any important task, and a failure to understand that in order to run things effectively, a person has to have some experience in running things, and, even more important, an interest in the process of running things. An individual who has been “bored to death his whole life,” as Obama’s close friend Valerie Jarrett said of him, is most unlikely to either possess such an interest or to develop it.

    Posted in Management, Tech, USA | 6 Comments »