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  • Archive for April, 2017

    Another Round of Chicken…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th April 2017 (All posts by )

    Or as another Open Saloner called it, some years ago, “The semi-annual national unity game of chicken”; that is the ostentatious round of saber-rattling which has been played by North Korea every six months or so since … since the armistice which divided the Norks from the Sorks about the time that I was born. I wrote in 2013;

    “The Norks do this every six months, usually when they want to squeeze some concessions out of the outside world. It’s like an overgrown toddler throwing an international temper tantrum. Likely, all of his generals (or uncles, even the generals who are not his uncles) have to go along and make the usual noises and poses for the cameras, in spite of the fact that for all their resplendent ribbon-salad displays – they have not fought an all-out, balls-to-the wall war since 1954. Which war was nearly sixty years and three wars ago, as Americans are counting it, which means that their equipment must be getting pretty worn-out as well as their tactical schemes and field practice for using them – outside the boundaries of a pretty tightly-controlled war game which will allow no margin for making the Kim dynasty’s pet soldiers look bad in any way, shape or form … while they might have been able to buy some new stuff on the international black market – which hints that those drug sales by their diplomatic staff must really be paying off, big-time, and they might actually be able to hit what they might be aiming at, on a good day, depending on what they have purchased, and if their vendors didn’t rob them blind, and if the Chinese actually gave them some of the good stuff … I do believe they can hit Seoul on a good day with their artillery, and kidnap lonely strangers off the beachfront towns in Japan in the wee hours, and possibly come close to hitting Japan with something high-explosive … whacking the continental United States with a ballistic missile is a bit of a chancy prospect.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Korea, Military Affairs | 14 Comments »

    Book Review – Shattered

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 29th April 2017 (All posts by )

    This really isn’t a traditional book review. “Shattered” is a book about the last presidential campaign from Hillary’s advisors’ perspective. I bought it on Amazon and read it and it was just an amazing view into the mechanics of that doomed campaign. Highly recommended.

    First of all, I want to commend her camp for getting the basics so right. They reviewed the 2008 campaign which failed for her and took all the tactics of the winning side. They consisted of:
    1. Focusing solely on the super delegates. Apparently this is much more technical than you’d expect and if you don’t carefully understand each state and district and how everything works you may win a lot of votes but receive few delegates
    2. Play the long game and ignore distractions. When Bernie blew her out of a lot of states they just waited to get back to states with large minority populations so she could cover over those losses. This generally ignores the fact that Bernie was competitive in states which were critical to the electoral college and “in play” which made a difference in the general election but not in the primary election
    3. No one was going to change their mind about her. Their campaign strategist, a guy named Robby Mooks, didn’t spend any money on “persuasion” because those that hated her weren’t changing their mind and the more she was in the news tied to the email scandal or her health or the DNC leaks the worse it got. At one point they said they were considering not putting more money into a state (Michigan) right up before the election because they believed that they were just inflaming the other sides’ base
    4. No matter what happened, she soldiered on. She was unflappable.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Politics | 14 Comments »

    Oxytocin and Conformity – Public and Private

    Posted by David Foster on 29th April 2017 (All posts by )

    An interesting article by Robert Sapolsky distinguishes between public conformity, in which subjects change their opinions to be more agreeable to the crowd, and private conformity, where the individual actually adopts the crowd’s opinion as his own.

    Sapolsky describes a classic experiment for studying conformity, in which solitary subjects are first asked something with an obvious answer such as, “Here’s a line.  Which of these three other lines is it closest to in length?”  Then a subject is asked the question which amid a group of other “participants,” actually confederates of the researcher who have been instructed to give a unanimously wrong answer. When these false answers were given first, the real study subjects would agree with that answer up to three-quarters of the time.

    Neuroscience research suggests that “the discovery that everyone disagrees with you turns out to typically activate the amygdala and the insular cortex, brain regions associated with anxiety, disgust, and unease.”

    In another experiment, which involved watching a documentary and then being quizzed about it, subjects were divided into two groups.  One group was administered oxytocin, the so-called ‘cuddling hormone,’ which is said to promote bonding and affiliation in couples and also among social groups.  The other experimental group got a placebo.  Among the placebo group, about 2/3 conformed to the crowd opinion…but of these, about half reverted to the correct answer when they were on their own again.  Among those who got oxytocin, there was a 15% increase in the rate of public conforming, but no increase in the rate of private conforming.

    I’m not sure how definitive a 15% increase really is given the sample size of only 92 subjects, but it is consistent with what has been frequently claimed about the effects of oxytocin.  It is slightly comforting (again, to the extent that these results are validate-able)  that the increase in public conformity does not drive a corresponding increase in private conformity.  Only slightly comforting, though–the mob can still burn you at the stake for witchcraft even though most of its members privately believe that there is no such thing.)

    This is obviously connected to the idea of the preference cascade.  Failure to understand this concept is surely one reason why Hillary Clinton and her minions were so taken aback by Donald Trump’s presidential victory.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism | 8 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Have I Got A Sweet Deal For You …

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th April 2017 (All posts by )

    Are you a law student in desperate search of an interesting topic for a note? … Or, are you a fundamentally burned out and deeply disappointed legal academic tired of writing papers lacking relevance and resonance—papers which no one reads—papers which are never cited and are soon forgotten? … Because if so, have I got a sweet deal for you. You can have this idea—with no money down, and at no cost to you. But you will want to post your work-product on SSRN or otherwise publish prior to May 26, 2017.

    Read Seth’s full post.

    Will Seth get any takers on his generous offer? He should. However, since the emoluments issue is mainly a political bat that partisans use against Trump, that would lose its value if Seth’s argument against its applicability to the President became widely accepted, it seems not unlikely that the answer (at least in the short term) is no.

    Posted in Law, Politics, Trump | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman: Have I Got A Sweet Deal For You …

    The Memoirs of Field Marshall Montgomery

    Posted by Lexington Green on 27th April 2017 (All posts by )

    I read the memoirs of Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery a year or two ago, and I recently discussed the book elsewhere, so I pass these thoughts along here.

    It was very good. Anyone with an interest in the Second World War and early Cold War should read it. Monty’s involvement in setting up the postwar military alliance with the United States was a surprisingly interesting part of the book which I knew little about. His personal connection with senior US military personnel proved to be very important.

    Montgomery, like Slim, was an unglamorous commander, and he is probably underrated. They both focused on the basics, particularly adequate supply, and they both also recognized the limitations of what their own men and equipment could do.

    Monty is castigated, often by American writers, for not being more dashing. He preferred meticulous planning, and sticking to the script, and he was willing to forgo targets of opportunity. He recognized that to try to operate in a more extemporaneous way would be to play to the strength of the Germans. They were good at that sort of thing, but he recognized that his own army was not. Recognizing that armies have national character seems to be a feature of the thinking of senior British commanders.

    Wolseley in his memoirs thinks in a remarkably similar way, offering his unsentimental comments about the relative strengths and weaknesses of his own English, Scottish, and Irish troops versus those of their opponents. Montgomery similarly understood that the Germans were good at certain things, the English were good at other things: Do what you are good at.

    Montgomery also has a reputation for being egotistical and self-serving, which certainly has some basis in fact. Nonetheless, his book comes off as reasonably fair, and seems to be honest, with the single major exception of his discussion of the way the Normandy campaign played out. He claims in the book that it was always his intention to wage an attrition battle against the Germans on the left flank of the lodgment with his own troops, so that the Americans could break out on the right. I don’t believe a word of this. His repeated, major ground offensives, such as Goodwood, failed because the Germans outfought him. Monty was not intentionally waging an attrition battle. He wanted the American to wear down the Germans, and to break out with his own army on the left. That was, so I speculate, always his actual plan. But of course the enemy always gets a vote.

    Monty had good reason for wanting it to play out this way, with the main breakout on the left. Montgomery always paid attention to the larger political aspects of the war. My guess is that his goal was always to clear the channel and North Sea coasts, and capture the exits from the Baltic to secure Britain’s position, including capturing Antwerp, and lock up the Russians. This would be consistent with centuries of proven British strategic thinking and practice. It was almost an axiom of British strategy and international politics that it is essential to neutralize or secure control of the Low Countries, the most likely and most threatening locale for a foreign invasion base to attack Britain. This was a perpetual British imperative, particularly in wartime. This would explain why Monty was willing to roll the dice on Market Garden, to regain the initiative for the left-wing of the Allied advance.

    Montgomery is improperly understood, largely by American readers, as a foil to the American commanders in the Second World War. We view him as a jarring note in an otherwise predominantly American story. But this is not an enlightening way to look at Montgomery. He is better understood in the context of British history, British strategic thinking, and long-standing British military practice.

    Posted in Biography, Book Notes, Britain, History, Military Affairs | 33 Comments »

    Macron’s advance team needs to do a better job

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th April 2017 (All posts by )

    Macron showed up at a factory, to be greeted by workers chanting “Marine présidente!”

    Not that it matters. This thing is in the bag.

    After all, both major parties, the media and all the decent people despise his opponent.

    The election is little better than a formality … .

    Oh, wait …

    But …

    But, no.

    France is not the USA, or Britain.

    Le Pen is not Trump or Brexit.

    This time the establishment candidate absolutely will win.

    For sure. Count on it.

    Posted in France, Miscellaneous | 12 Comments »

    Bad Stewards

    Posted by David Foster on 26th April 2017 (All posts by )

    Yesterday’s WSJ – Parents are Drowning in College-Loan Debt:

    Millions of U.S. parents have taken out loans from the government to help their children pay for college. Now a crushing bill is coming due. Hundreds of thousands have tumbled into delinquency and default. In the process, many have delayed retirement, put off health expenses and lost portions of Social Security checks and tax refunds to their lender, the federal government…“This credit is being extended on terms that specifically, willfully ignore their ability to repay,” says Toby Merrill of Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center. “You can’t avoid that we’re targeting high-cost, high-dollar-amount loans to people who we know can’t afford to repay them.”

    We already knew, of course, that many former students are suffering under the burden of their student loans for years and decades, and that the problem is so common and so severe that it is impacting major purchases of things like houses and cars, and probably also marriages and business formations. The article indicates that in many cases the exploding costs of higher education are devastating their parents as well.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Education | 13 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th April 2017 (All posts by )


    Chicagoboyz focus on the essentials.

     

    Posted in Photos | 6 Comments »

    German Infantry Anti-Tank Tactics 1941/1942

    Posted by Lexington Green on 25th April 2017 (All posts by )

    This is hair-raising.

    Sucks to be the guys who suddenly find out the untermenschen have T-34s and KV-1s and none of the wonderful German guns will penetrate the enemy tanks’ armor.

    The Aryan Supermen were obliged to climb onto the back of the Soviet tank, chop through the ventilation grill over the engine with an axe, and then place a hand grenade through this improvised opening to try to disable the engine. Meanwhile, the Red Army infantry were, in theory, being kept too busy by the other Wehrmacht guys on the team to shoot Hans off the back of the tank before he was finished with the axe-and-grenade improvisation.

    The Germans also had a gimmick of mines affixed to a plank and then maneuvered in front of the tank with a rope by a guy hiding in a nearby hole in the ground, as another low tech solution to the problem.

    Relying on kludges is bad enough under peacetime conditions. This stuff could get you killed.

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Russia | 13 Comments »

    FORT SUMTER,CALIFORNIA

    Posted by Subotai Bahadur on 23rd April 2017 (All posts by )

    Despite appearances, there is no natural law that says history repeats itself. As inventive as we are, there are only a limited number of ways that humans can screw things up. We keep trying to come up with new ways, but until we evolve a new brain with more folds on the surface we will keep repeating ourselves.

    No matter what our race, culture, or creed; whenever you get a lot of people together in a restricted space, some sort of political order and structure arises. Anarchy as a human ideal is about as fact based as the Land of Oz. And even Oz had a Wizard, sundry Witches, Munchkin Mayors, and probably Alpha and Beta Flying Monkeys.

    People have different temperaments; some are more active, some more passive, some are dominant, some less dominant. Then there is the matter of talents, and lacks thereof. People end up being sorted out in various power relationships inside and outside of their family groupings.

    It does not matter what the basis of the structure is, be it feudal, democratic, aristocratic, results oriented merit-based, or who has the biggest club and is more willing to use it on everybody else. They share two things. First, whatever the rules of the game, the social contract if you will, with the exception of a criminal fringe pretty much everybody in the society accepts and supports the rules actively or tacitly. Second, if a sufficient percentage refuses to accept those rules, the whole thing falls apart until a new order arises. The new order may or may not be better than the old, but it will be different than the old.

    Our country and fairly unique society came into existence through that process. This is in part because we diverged demographically from the parent society. Our population was made up of exiles [including self-exiles], ne’er do wells, criminals, religious fringe elements from the British point of view, and a sufficiency of foreign elements to render the population no longer homogeneous with the old country. Couple that with the detail that in Britain there was much higher percentage of the population that had a vested interest in the existing system, and that a relatively small percentage of the minor nobility and none of the higher nobility and royal family bothered to cross the pond.

    What we ended up with is a majority of the population who had no memory of serfdom, were not slaves [Leftist fantasies notwithstanding, slaves were always a minority of the population], and who were used to both being politically and economically free compared to the old country. And the aristocracy here really did not have the pull to make generations of sycophancy attractive and profitable as a lifestyle.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior | 18 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd April 2017 (All posts by )

    chicken bike

    Posted in Photos | 7 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd April 2017 (All posts by )

    Sarah Hoyt:  Hereditary monarchy, feudalism, and a vicious cycle of crazy….coming soon to a country near you?

    Why Danusha Goska left the Left.  Years of observing, and being subjected to, unpleasant and just-plain-nuts behavior.

    There has been much discussion lately about the increased suicide rate and addictive behavior among white working-class men.  Here’s a collection of comments to a Huffington Post article on that topic.  (via The Arts Mechanical.)

    In her ‘why I left the Left’ post, Danusha described the prevalence of hate, rather than a true desire to make things better, among today’s ‘progressives.’  That hate is very much on display in the Huffington Post comments.

    The past of the future apocalypse:  Stuart Schneiderman reviews some predictions of doom from back in 1970.

    Posted in Environment, Europe, History, Human Behavior, Leftism, USA | 10 Comments »

    Are you a White man? Is it funny when you die?

    Posted by Lexington Green on 17th April 2017 (All posts by )

    Democrats in a public, political meeting cheer and laugh at the mention of the increased number of white men committing suicide.

    The speaker says, maybe I should not say this in public, but when I heard more White men are committing suicide, I almost said “yeah, great!”.

    But he does say it, and the crowd likes it, as he knew they would.

    The speaker knows that he is talking about a group that has no organized capacity to oppose his despicable, dehumanizing, eliminationist hate speech. Attacking those who are not (yet) organized to resist is easy and fun.

    About which other ethno-cultural community is it permitted to laugh and clap when they die by their own hands in larger numbers?

    The despair that leads to this horrible increase in suicides is a gauge of the success of the policies the people in this video espouse. They are jeering over a defeated enemy. So for this crowd laughter and clapping is appropriate.

    Every other group in American life is now self-consciously tribal, and mobilized to respond to any grievance, real or imaginary.

    As noted elsewhere, liberal whites who believe themselves to be post-tribal cosmopolitans are merely a very wealthy and very powerful tribe, with their own rituals of recruitment and exclusion, who smugly believes themselves entitled to rule others.

    The last group to self-consciously form a tribe will be non-liberal, lesser-educated, lower status white males. This will happen, and is happening, out of self-defense. This is a very large group. They do not think it is funny when they and their friends, neighbors, classmates, military buddies, coworkers, sons, brothers, fathers, people like them, are reduced to hopelessness and commit suicide in increasing numbers.

    The younger members of this group, young white men, the generation aged 30 or so and under, are not easily shamed by accusations of political correctness. They see where this is going. This younger cohort is taking, and will take, the initiative.

    The balkanization of America is moving along at an accelerating rate. There is only one domino left. The groups which have been directing their animosity against an inert and un-reacting mass will probably be shocked when they have finally awakened something that can and will push back.

    Democrats who disagree with this kind of thinking and this kind of speech should insist that it stop. It is destructive, and it is even bad for their electoral prospects. But they won’t stop it. It is apparently intensely satisfying to enjoy the warmth of in-group solidarity, including expressing contempt for the disdained “other”, including laughing when they die in increasing numbers.

    Identity politics is the core of what the Democrats stand for now. It feels so good, to so many people, it is apparently even better than winning elections. It is sick that our politics is reduced to this level. FDR, HST, JFK and the patriotic, civic nationalist Democrats of bygone days are scowling down from that great smoke-filled room in the sky.

    Sad!

    Posted in Society, USA | 39 Comments »

    Have American Workers Been Chronically Exploited?

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 17th April 2017 (All posts by )

    For centuries leading up to the Bicentennial in 1976 the American Dream of perpetually rising living standards has been paid for with wages that rose faster than prices. During the post WW II era worker productivity – as measured by output per hour – has continued to rise at a constant rate. Wages rose in lockstep with increasing productivity until the mid 1970s, but have since stagnated, rising only 15% as much (11% as compared to 75%) through 2016, as reported by the think tank EPI. The view from the left is that the wealthy owners and managers of capital have expropriated 85% of the fruits of labor, implicitly reflecting the decline of unionization of the private labor force from about one in three workers in the 1950s to one in twenty today. Their policy proposals reflect this perception of exploitation.

    Politicians promote “Social Justice” through protection and redistribution
    Even Karl Marx never expected capitalists to be this successful at exploiting workers, exceeding even that of 19th century robber barons and pre-Civil War southern plantation owners who at least provided their slaves basic sustenance. Politicians have responded with labor protections and income subsidies.

    For example, the Obama Administration strongly supported (and was generously supported by) public sector unions. It also supported the expansion of private sector unionization through such policies as card check and Davis Bacon “prevailing,” i.e., union, wages for construction. It also supported “living wage” laws and raised the federal minimum wage, with states following and in some cases leading. In addition, restrictive state certification rules have increased five-fold since the 1950s.

    Politicians also responded by supporting a rising standard of living with welfare state income redistribution policies. Obama-Care made health insurance universal and the percentage of the population receiving food stamps rose by 32%. In addition, those receiving disability payments rose about 50% during the last decade, despite the decline in risky manufacturing jobs.

    These labor and subsidy policies all have roots in the response to the Depression of 1929/30, before it became “Great.” FDR – following Hoover – supported private – but strongly opposed public – sector unionization and a high wage policy, successfully keeping wages 40% above their market clearing rate according to a 2009 article. Social Security was introduced by FDR’s Labor Department and food stamps by his Agriculture Department (food perishables were purchased by the government to keep farm prices inflated and taken off the market, then distributed to the poor to save storage costs).
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 5 Comments »

    Worthwhile Visiting

    Posted by David Foster on 15th April 2017 (All posts by )

    The National Museum of Industrial History is located on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel complex.  Most of the original buildings are derelict or partly torn-down, but the above array of blast furnaces and supporting equipment has been preserved.

    Suggested musical accompaniment for a visit to the place that was Bethlehem Steel…features a different company and a slightly different geography, but basically the same sad story.

    Posted in Business, Capitalism, History, Management, Tech, Unions, USA | 16 Comments »

    Should we renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th April 2017 (All posts by )

    There has been quite a bit of concern about an opposition to the Trump presidency set up in Washington by Obama and his allies.

    Obama used the US intelligence apparatus to spy on Trump’s presidential campaign.

    June 2016: FISA request. The Obama administration files a request with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to monitor communications involving Donald Trump and several advisers. The request, uncharacteristically, is denied.

    October 2016: FISA request. The Obama administration submits a new, narrow request to the FISA court, now focused on a computer server in Trump Tower suspected of links to Russian banks. No evidence is found — but the wiretaps continue, ostensibly for national security reasons, Andrew McCarthy at National Review later notes. The Obama administration is now monitoring an opposing presidential campaign using the high-tech surveillance powers of the federal intelligence services.

    Why would the FISA court approve such a thing ? Why would the Obama people continue when no evidence was found ?

    The controversy has continued and Susan Rice, the Obama NSC head, seems to be at the center of it.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Elections, Politics, Privacy, Trump | 6 Comments »

    Disruption – Liquor

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 14th April 2017 (All posts by )

    “Disruption” is a word usually reserved for hyped sectors of the economy like technology and “Uber” is the ubiquitous example that even a child would recognize. However, there are other components of the economy ripe for disruption, especially those that are heavily regulated, which generally causes significant distortions, monopolistic behavior, regulatory capture, high prices, and a lack of innovation.

    The liquor industry is a heavily regulated industry, with layers of distributors and obscure rules which enforce local monopolies, entrench incumbents (often with inferior products), and provide many opportunities for the government to extract tax income and solicit donations from favored groups. Typically liquor uses a “three tier” system, where there is a producer, a distributor, and a retail outlet (a store or a bar). This is a system ripe for disruption.

    Alongside this archaic regulated system (which works for the benefits of the government and the local monopolies), there was a multi-decade process of concentration within the liquor industry, as local beer manufacturers were bought up by massive multinationals, culminating in the InBev company which controls a huge chunk (28%) of world-wide beer sales. If it wasn’t for the craft beer counter-revolution (see below), the epic consolidation of the liquor industry would have gone on indefinitely, bringing out “innovations” like Bud Light Lime.

    Some of the components of the disruption of liquor in Oregon include:
    1) Craft breweries or brewpubs which brew their own beer (and cider) and can sell it onsite
    2) Distilleries able to make their own spirits and sell themselves out of their facility
    3) New technologies such as Growlers or Crowlers which enable customers to fill directly from a keg into a re-usable container and take the beer home to drink
    4) This is all in addition to the vast wineries (seemingly everywhere) that can sell directly and even ship to many states

    Craft Breweries:

    Portland and Oregon have been leaders in the craft beer movement, enabled by laws (passed against the political power of the beer distributors) which allowed for the brewpubs to sell their own alcohol.
    This article describes how the modern brewery was instituted in Oregon.The “beer culture” is everywhere, with 116 breweries within an hour of Portland, as evidenced by the cover of this recent magazine I picked up. Here is a link to the magazine online.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Oregonia | 11 Comments »

    “George Washington was the first president to stay in the real estate business”

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th April 2017 (All posts by )

    Eugene Kontorovich:

    In today’s Wall Street Journal, I have an op-ed, “Did George Washington Take ‘Emoluments’ “? It examines the first president’s extensive and hands-on business affairs to get a better handle on the nature of constitutionally prohibited “foreign emoluments.
     
    Here’s an excerpt (article requires a subscription):
     

    Mr. Trump is not the first president to have business dealings with foreigners. That was actually George Washington, whose conduct in office has been a model for every president.
     
    By the 1790s, Washington was wealthy primarily because of real estate — renting and selling his vast holdings. As with Mr. Trump’s hotels, Washington’s renters or purchasers could include foreigners.
     
    The president received constant reports from his nephew and subsequent managers and wrote to them at least monthly… This belies the notion that the Constitution limits a president’s management of, or benefit from, his existing business ventures.
    ***
    One letter written by Washington deserves great attention in the current debate. On Dec. 12, 1793, Washington wrote to Arthur Young, an officer of the U.K. Board of Agriculture, an entity newly created and funded by Parliament at the initiative of William Pitt. The president asked for Young’s help in renting out his Mount Vernon lands to secure an income for his retirement. Not finding customers in America, he wondered if Young, with his agricultural connections, could find and organize some would-be farmers in his home country and send them over.

     
    The op-ed is drawn from a larger research project on Washington’s business interests and the prohibition on emoluments. Here, I’ll take the space to address possible limitations to this evidence. In particular, Washington insisted that his December 1793 letter to Young be kept private. (Prof. Seth Barrett Tillman has presented strong evidence of the allowance of business dealings from Washington’s public conduct in relation to the domestic emoluments clause.) He suggested that “in the opinion of others, there [may] be impropriety” in his solicitation but makes clear that he himself disagreed with that position.
     
    [. . .]

    (Via Seth.)

    Posted in History, Law, Trump | 1 Comment »

    Still Crazy After All These Years

    Posted by David Foster on 13th April 2017 (All posts by )

    German Political Thought

    …although, in fairness, the trend toward suppression of political speech that challenges the Official Viewpoint is by no means limited to Germany, it appears to be a Europe-wide phenomenon.  One might have hoped, though, that Germany, given its history, would be particularly aware of the dangers of this sort of thing.

    If this law really goes into force, you can bet that it will be employed largely against those who dare to criticize Islam in any of its manifestations.  (Even without the proposed law, a German satirist has been prosecuted for insulting President Ergodan of Turkey.)

    Prosecutions for blasphemy and lèse-majesté…not just for the Middle Ages!

    (In his memoirs, Kaiser Wilhelm II expressed admiration for the stringent British libel laws and also expressed his regret that a similar level of constraint on newspapers in German had not been possible.  If present trends continue, maybe the German democracy in 2017 will manage to actually become a less-free society than the German Empire in 1914.)

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Germany, History, Islam | 13 Comments »

    How to Sell NCR Cash Registers in 1917

    Posted by David Foster on 9th April 2017 (All posts by )

    An interesting and well-done video

    Posted in Business, Marketing, Tech, USA, Video | 7 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 7th April 2017 (All posts by )

    Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan is, IMO, one of the more thoughtful of the financial industry CEO’s.  In his annual letter to shareholders, he devotes considerable space to the current situation of the United States–our assets, our problems, and potential paths for improvement.  The public policy section of the letter starts on page 32.

    My view of several issues is different from Mr Dimon’s, but I think the letter is well worth reading and thinking about.

    (Disclosure:  I’m a JPM investor)

    Posted in Business, Capitalism, Economics & Finance, Education, Entrepreneurship, Immigration, USA | 13 Comments »

    Pres. Trump’s Policy Choice on Syria

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 7th April 2017 (All posts by )

    In the aftermath of Pres. Trump’s cruise missile strike on a Syrian air field used to deliver chemical weapons of mass destruction on Islamist Syrian rebels, it is both a useful and needful thing to revisit my Sept 9, 2013 post on the policy choices Pres. Obama faced then.

    Choices that Pres. Trump must now address in convincing a cynical and war weary American people that Syria is indeed a massive threat to American security — and especially individual freedom — at home.

    See link:

    Obama, US Military Victory, and the Real “Red Line” in Syria

    This blog post made the argument that America had the military means to overthrow the Assad regime with an air-sea military campaign using air-laid sea and land mines, but that “Bush Derangement syndrome” on weapons of mass destruction made it impossible for American political elites in 2013 to take action.

    The following is the close from that blog post that outlined the choices Pres. Obama flinched from in 2013 and Pres. Trump now faces with the American public:

    The choice that the Obama Administration faces is that nothing America does or doesn’t do will change Syria from being a terrorist supporting, failed, 3rd World state. The choice at hand is what kind of terrorist supporting state our inaction or intervention will create, and the wider consequences of that choice, especially for American freedom at home.
     
    Doing nothing means we will have a Iranian/Russian/Chinese supported WMD using Syrian terror state that harbors Iranian Nuclear, Chemical and Bioweapons production facilities.
     
    Acting to depose Assad means we will have an ethnic cleansing, al-Qaeda supporting, economically & politically irrational terrorist state that hates Iran and the Syrian Alawites who staffed Iran’s WMD facilities.
     
    The first is an existential threat to American freedom, the second is a manageable local problem for Israel and the Turks.
     
    A wide ranging break-out of WMD across the world means they will be much more readily available to terrorist organizations. The tighter surveillance and security steps the American state will need to implement in order to address that threat at home will reduce the economic vitality of the American people as the national security state crowds out more and more freedom as the cost of “security.” Leaving us all very much where Benjamin Franklin predicted…neither having or deserving either.
     
    It will take principled and competent American political leadership to persuade the American people to face these facts.
     
    I don’t expect it to happen.
     
    Our current American political elites won’t cross the “BDS Red Line” that American public elected Pres. Obama for anytime soon. Obama’s election and actions since were in accordance with the expressed will of the American people. Only horrible events, like British Prime Minister Nevile Chamberlain’s “Peace in our time” conference selling out Czechoslovakia swiftly followed by Hitler’s repudiation of it, will let the American people hear and see reality on the other side of the “Red Line.”
     
    However, the first step down the road of invoking competent & principled American leadership is laying down a rhetorical marker against the day that WMD proliferation forces the American public to listen
     
    This is the marker:
     
    “It’s American Freedom at Home, STUPID!”
     
    ‘Nuff said.

    The best place to fight WMD using terrorists is overseas with the military, not at home with emergency first responders in chemical warfare slime suits cleaning up the bodies after a WMD strike.

    The Bush administration refused for numerous reasons to defend its policy choices or provide known intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, allowing Senate Democratic leaders Reid, Pelosi and eventually Pres. Obama to destroy all federal government credibility on the subject.

    Pres. Obama when faced with the same issue flinched from crossing his self-made WMD “RED LINE.

    We will now see if President Trump is better at communicating with the American people past the “Bush Derangement Syndrome” based WMD RED LINE than Pres. Obama was.

    Posted in Current Events, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Trump | 45 Comments »

    Our Quasi-Soviet Fiscal Policy

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 5th April 2017 (All posts by )

    “It’s like deja vu all over again.”

    Do Yogi Berra‘s words of wisdom apply to the “new” trillion dollar “public infrastructure” program? The last program, still unpaid, focused on “shovel-ready” projects but somehow missed most potholes. Meanwhile, private companies are prepared to spend $100’s of billions on a new fiber optic internet super highway.

    Is the current proposed public spending program more likely to pay off for taxpayers than the last one?

    Historical Precedent

    When the hammer and sickle flag was lowered for the last time in Moscow on December 25, 1991, the international finance agencies created in Bretton Woods in 1944, led by British economist John Maynard Keynes and the Undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury Harry Dexter White, found a new mission.

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is a “bank” according to Keynes, provided the financial infrastructure for international trade. The World Bank (WB), or a “fund” according to Keynes, was promoted by, known communist and accused Russian spy, Undersecretary White to help reconstruct European infrastructure, but primarily Russia’s infrastructure, in the wake of WW II destruction.

    The IMF lost its raison d’être in 1971 after President Nixon eliminated dollar convertibility into gold, ending the Bretton Woods function. Russia turned down World Bank membership, so the Bank turned to lending for infrastructure projects in the “underdeveloped” nations, which by 1991 faced overwhelming political obstacles.

    Assisting in the conversion of formerly centrally planned economies into capitalist market economies became the finance agencies’ new post-Soviet mission. However, few people had much of an idea of how to accomplish this. It had never been done before, and the IMF and WB were particularly ill-equipped as their charter limited them to lending only to governments. They were essentially statist organizations with little experience with (or sympathy for) competitive private markets (which helps explain why they remain chronically underdeveloped).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Organizational Analysis, Politics, Public Finance, Russia, Trump | 3 Comments »

    Let’s talk about the future

    Posted by TM Lutas on 5th April 2017 (All posts by )

    “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
    William Gibson

    The microcomputer revolution put computing into people’s hands in the 1970s and 1980s. The Internet revolution started connecting all those computers in the 1990s. Neither of these revolutions have reached and been fully integrated into the task of popular oversight of our governments.

    If they had, the world would be a very different, much better run place. Our politics would be very different.
    In 2100, both these revolutions will likely have completed and integrated into the way we elect and manage our governments.

    Today, we legislate the creation of governments to do things by certain criteria, then judge their performance and retain or replace elected leadership based on that performance. Every part of the last sentence has an element of guesswork in it. We do not have a comprehensive list of all our governments. We do not routinely get a list of what each of them does. While a government probably has performance metrics to judge success or failure. The standard is not routinely shared with the public, and the current values of performance known inside the government is also not routinely shared.

    In the future, not only a comprehensive list of governments will exist but they will be mapped so that you will know which governments claim jurisdiction where you are or at any particular place in the country. What each of them do will be routinely made available (with reasonable exceptions for legitimate state secrets), the standard for successful performance, and the current performance data will be routinely shared, computer to computer. A simple to understand but dense data presentation will be available so that the metrics an individual voter cares about will be presented along with whether performance is adequate for each metric monitored by the standard of the individual voter. A routine daily review might take a minute over breakfast.

    All of this is possible with today’s technology. Some of it is even a reality today. Citizen Intelligence is committed to making it reality for all governments so citizens can monitor them easily and affordably.

    If this idea of easily, quickly, and cheaply keeping tabs on all governments interests you, please comment below or send us a message.

    [[Repost from the Citizen Intelligence Facebook page – February 6]]

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

    To Kipple or Not?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th April 2017 (All posts by )

    Some time ago and in another blog-post I wondered if it were possible for those with conservative and libertarian leanings to develop some kind of secret password, or handshake with which to identify themselves to new-met acquaintances who might possibly share those inclinations. We tend to be polite, do not relish open confrontation – and really, why pick unnecessary fights with neighbors, casually-met strangers, distant kin, or fellow workers? Most times, it just is not worth the hassle, or the chance of turning a casual social interaction or relationship turning toxic. Most of us do not eat, sleep, dream, live politics twenty-four-seven, anyway. But it certainly is pleasant to discover someone of like sympathies, usually after a few rounds of warily sounding them out, and assuring them that no, we will not come unglued if they confess to having voted for or liked (insert political figure or philosophy here).

    But I think that I have hit upon a handy shorthand method for discerning the political sympathies of another without coming outright and asking. This insight came about through following a couple of libertarian-leaning or conservative blogs – Sarah Hoyt and Wretchard at Belmont Club being two of the more notable – and noting that the principals and many of their commenters all seemed au courant with Kipling. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Conservatism, Miscellaneous, Politics | 33 Comments »