Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
 

Recommended Photo Store
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading? Click here to find out.
 
Make your Amazon purchases though this banner to support our blog:
(Click here if you don't see the Amazon banner.)
 
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Contributors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Lex's Tweets
  • Jonathan's Tweets
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Why the Grand Inquisitor Sentenced Jesus Christ to be Burned at the Stake (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on April 6th, 2015 (All posts by )

    (Inasmuch as the spirit of the Grand Inquisitor is stirring in the land,  I thought it would be appropriate to rerun this post from last year)

    It seems that Jesus Christ returned to earth, sometime during the sixteenth century…at least, this is the premise of the parable that Ivan relates to Alyosha, in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov.  The city to which Christ came was  Seville,  where on the previous day before almost a hundred heretics had been burnt by the cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor, “in a magnificent auto da fe, in the presence of the king, the court, the knights, the cardinals, the most charming ladies of the court, and the whole population of Seville. He came softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, everyone recognised Him.”

    But the Grand Inquisitor observes the way in which people are being irresistibly drawn to Jesus, and causes him to be arrested and taken away.

    The crowd instantly bows down to the earth, like one man, before the old Inquisitor. He blesses the people in silence and passes on. The guards lead their prisoner to the close, gloomy vaulted prison- in the ancient palace of the Holy  Inquisition and shut him in it. The day passes and is followed by the dark, burning, ‘breathless’ night of Seville. The air is ‘fragrant with laurel and lemon.’ In the pitch darkness the iron door of the prison is suddenly opened and the Grand Inquisitor himself comes in with a light in his hand. He is alone; the door is closed at once behind him. He stands in the doorway and for a minute or two gazes into His face. At last he goes up slowly, sets the light on the table and speaks.

    “‘Is it Thou? Thou?’ but receiving no answer, he adds at once. ‘Don’t answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us?

    The Grand Inquisitor explains to Jesus why his presence is not desired and why he must burn. Excerpts below:

    So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship. But man seeks to worship what is established beyond dispute, so that all men would agree at once to worship it. For these pitiful creatures are concerned not only to find what one or the other can worship, but to find community of worship is the chief misery of every man individually and of all humanity from the beginning of time. For the sake of common worship they’ve slain each other with the sword. They have set up gods and challenged one another, “Put away your gods and come and worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods!” And so it will be to the end of the world, even when gods disappear from the earth; they will fall down before idols just the same. Thou didst know, Thou couldst not but have known, this fundamental secret of human nature, but Thou didst reject the one infallible banner which was offered Thee to make all men bow down to Thee alone- the banner of earthly bread; and Thou hast rejected it for the sake of freedom and the bread of Heaven. Behold what Thou didst further. And all again in the name of freedom! I tell Thee that man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born. But only one who can appease their conscience can take over their freedom. In bread there was offered Thee an invincible banner; give bread, and man will worship thee, for nothing is more certain than bread. But if someone else gains possession of his conscience- Oh! then he will cast away Thy bread and follow after him who has ensnared his conscience. In that Thou wast right. For the secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living, and would rather destroy himself than remain on earth, though he had bread in abundance. That is true. But what happened? Instead of taking men’s freedom from them, Thou didst make it greater than ever! Didst Thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil? Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering. And behold, instead of giving a firm foundation for setting the conscience of man at rest for ever, Thou didst choose all that is exceptional, vague and enigmatic; Thou didst choose what was utterly beyond the strength of men, acting as though Thou didst not love them at all- Thou who didst come to give Thy life for them! Instead of taking possession of men’s freedom, Thou didst increase it, and burdened the spiritual kingdom of mankind with its sufferings for ever.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, Russia | 2 Comments »

    Why I read City Journal.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on April 6th, 2015 (All posts by )

    This book review of three books, is why I read City Journal. I don’t know where else you get these insights as well done.

    Today, 50 years after its issuance, some liberals “bravely” acknowledge that 1965’s so-called Moynihan Report, in which the future senator warned about the dire future consequences of the collapse of the black family, was a fire bell in the night. But at the time, and for decades to come, Moynihan was branded as a racist by civil rights leaders, black activists, and run-of-the-mill liberals. “One began to sense,” Moynihan wrote, that “a price was to be paid even for such a mild dissent from conventional liberalism.”

    And…

    As an aide to Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey in the 1990s, Greg Weiner knew Moynihan, and he picks up on the crosscurrents that made the senator such a fascinating figure in American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Weiner describes how Moynihan distinguished between two types of liberalism. Pluralist liberalism, with which Moynihan identified, emphasized situation and circumstance in making policy. This was the position, Moynihan wrote, “held by those, who with Edmund Burke . . . believe that in . . . the strength of . . . voluntary associations—church, family, club, trade union, commercial association—lies much of the strength of democratic society.” But Moynihan saw another kind of liberalism developing, one caught up in an “overreliance upon the state.” This statist liberalism produced the bureaucratic “chill” that “pervades many of our government agencies” and has helped produce “the awesome decline of citizen participation in our elections.” That decline has continued to the present day, producing record-low turnouts in the recent New York and Los Angeles elections.

    And…

    Steele’s new book, Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized our Country, explains why Moynihan’s fears of statist liberalism have been realized and why Moynihan has had no political or intellectual heirs. While generations of immigrants have passed African-Americans on their way up the social ladder, black leaders continue to excel at trying to leverage grievances into more entitlements. African-Americans, explains Steele, courageously won their freedom only to sell themselves into a new sort of bondage—to perpetual victimization and federal subsidies. The doors to modernity, which demand that individuals make something of themselves so as to advance in the marketplace, opened for blacks in the wake of the civil rights movement—only, explains Steele, to have blacks retreat into a group identity based on cultivating grievances.

    They all sound like great books and I will read at least one of them.

     

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Leftism, Politics, Society, Urban Issues | 3 Comments »

    flation, de or in?

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on April 5th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Conversable Economist Timothy Taylor discusses the effects of various types of deflation on economic growth. Deflations were frequent until the Great Depression. Since then we have fought deflation through continual monetary expansion thinking that would ensure growth at the acceptable cost of inflation. Evidence is mounting that this assumption is not grounded in fact and that there can be real economic growth during a period of price deflation as was true during the end of the 19th century.

    There is a moral dimension in addition to the economic. Policy choices invariably create winners and losers. Choosing an inflationary monetary policy rewards debtors and penalizes savers. By pursuing a constantly inflationary monetary policy we have become a nation of debtors and a debtor nation. Is this really the appropriate choice for the richest nation in the world? What are the implications of pushing individuals toward borrowing instead of saving? Does a debtor look forward to the future with the same confidence as a saver? Or is the debtor’s attention focused on current consumption, with the future being another day?

    We need a return to hard money not more easy money.

     

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 16 Comments »

    Spotted at the Starving Artists Art Show …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on April 4th, 2015 (All posts by )

    in San Antonio’s La Villita this afternoon. What beverage ought to be drunk in celebration from these goblets, and by whom?
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Americas, Conservatism, Humor, Latin America, Photos | 6 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – When It All Goes Wrong

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on April 4th, 2015 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    The USA, early 1990s to early 2000s

    During the course of my career I have been involved in many cases of companies dying, bankruptcy, and other negative corporate events. At times I was there until the bitter end; often I left before the final events occurred but could see evidence of encroaching doom. When you are first starting off as an employee with little experience these signs are harder to understand; as a veteran I can now unfortunately pick them up right away.

    One of my first memories as a public accountant was the day that they fired all the administrative assistants. Not the ones for the executives – the ones that helped the new staff get orientated. These women (they were all women it was the early 1990s) ran each of the floors and it was the first time I’d seen anyone get fired en masse. This was before email I think they left us all some sort of strange voice mail or something (voice mail was big back then). It seemed very sad at the time.

    In the early 1990s there was a lot of tension in the public accounting firms between audit / tax vs. the consulting side. I was a staff person and was invited to one of the partner meetings (because I played bass guitar but that is a different story) and I could see the vitriol between the two groups. When the audit partners’ asked “how could they help” the consultants the answer was to “get out of our way”. This was not the happy story that I was being fed as a staff person, for certain.

    Later that accounting firm went belly up but I was long gone by then. We started up a small consulting firm and it was fantastic for a while. However, it all started to fall apart as key founding members left after a dispute with the main owners over compensation and eventually I was one of those that departed. The departure was even more difficult since many of my friends and family members were also involved with that firm. Unlike most of the other companies in this piece, however, that firm thrives until this day. So we can conclude that I was not indispensable…

    At various points during my career I had a “choice” between two firms. Often I chose the wrong one. At the time I didn’t realize that right before you go public, you shave out all of your costs for a quarter or two and you accelerate all the revenue into the current period (to the extent that this is possible and legal, of course) in order to make your company look great for the IPO process. Living in a company that is doing this is very painful and I left but that was before the company became one of the first successful IPOs of the era (a completely unexpected and unprecedented outcome) and I missed out on an opportunity for those founder stock options.

    As the dot.com era came to a close there was a giant shake-out in the Internet and Consulting sector. I worked with three companies in succession that eventually went bankrupt. The first of them had an IPO (in the era of voice mail plus a bit of email) and I noted that it was odd that most of the IPO funds raised went to pay out one of the primary investors (they took the cash, we retained the stock). In hindsight of course this was another ominous sign.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Business, Chicagoania | 2 Comments »

    NBA Bulls at Bucks Courtside

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on April 4th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Recently Dan and I went to Milwaukee to attend a Milwaukee Bucks game against the Chicago Bulls. I decided to splurge for court side seats (the Jack Nicholson type seats) because watching the game is totally different down there. We were right behind the Bulls bench as you can see (there is coach Thibs). I also love this picture because I just happened to snap it as they had entertainment right behind the coach and you can see the guy overhead who jumped off a trampoline and dunks a basketball. Also note the security guy on the right giving me the stink eye.

    Watching the game from that low is a completely different experience. No matter what the score is, the game is interesting. The players move very quickly and it is hard to understand the plays as they develop (unlike when you look from overhead or up in the cheap seats where I would normally reside). While sometimes the fouls seem fake other times they take bona-fide hard fouls; when you are six and a half feet tall and jumping way over the rim and you end up getting thrown down on the court on your back, that’s a long way to fall. The way the players shoot is also very interesting – when they do jump shots they are almost eye level with the rim and as they do layups and dunks in warmups it often seems like they are barely jumping at all.

    Half the fans at the game were from Chicago. They ought to fold that franchise in Milwaukee or find something else to bring in fans; the upper deck was mostly empty vs. Chicago and you’d have to think this is one of their bigger draw games of the year. But there is no way that I am smart enough to explain sports economics…

    Cross posted at LITGM

     

    Posted in Chicagoania, Sports | 1 Comment »

    Gift Card Drainer Tip

    Posted by Dan from Madison on April 4th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Over the holidays my daughter went to London on a trip with her band and marched in the New Years Day parade. As Christmas presents, her grandparents wanted to send her over with some spending money. I didn’t trust her with cash and didn’t want her to incur the expense and hassle of currency exchange, so we bought her prepaid VISA gift cards. When they got spent down, there was a couple bucks left on each. What do to.

    It is difficult to transfer the funds to a bank account without incurring expenses. I found out that Amazon will allow you to purchase a “gift card” for yourself in any amount. We just did that for all of the gift cards and it worked very quickly and to perfection so we were able to drain the cards and can now cut them up and use the funds.

     

    Posted in Internet, Personal Finance | 1 Comment »

    Posted by Jonathan on April 3rd, 2015 (All posts by )

    Kenya

     

    Posted in Current Events | 2 Comments »

    חג שמח

    Posted by Jonathan on April 3rd, 2015 (All posts by )

    Happy Passover to all Chicagoboyz contributors and readers.

    Seder Plate

     

    Posted in Holidays, Photos | 6 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on April 3rd, 2015 (All posts by )

    Rand Simberg:

    Art is an expression of one’s beliefs, and artists are always free to turn down a commission (if they can afford it). Were they not, were they to have to create art in someone else’s service with which they disagreed, it would be a violation of their free expression and conscience. Forcing artists to produce art to another’s tastes by force of the state is something that happens in totalitarian dictatorships. It’s not supposed to happen in America.
     
    Want to see a real slippery slope? Let’s try a couple thought experiments, to see where this could go, under the logic of the LGBT absolutists.
     
    Imagine a neo-Nazi buying swatches of red and black material, taking it to a Jewish tailor, and demanding the production of a uniform. Better yet, and more to the point, imagine the Westboro Baptist Church demanding that a gay interior decorator take a commission to spruce up the facility. And if they didn’t do it, they would be sued.
     
    Gay-marriage advocates may think that their new-found right is a thing of beauty, to be celebrated, but that doesn’t give them the right to force others to agree and to celebrate with them. Rather than demanding that others bend to their will, they should be asking themselves why would they would even want people who find their ceremony repugnant to be involved with it.

     

    Posted in Current Events, Human Behavior, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society | 18 Comments »

    “The unbundling of commercial banks”

    Posted by Jonathan on April 3rd, 2015 (All posts by )

    Via Lex, an interesting post about financial disintermediation:

    In a post on the state of consumer fintech, I took a look at how retail banks are beginning to “unbundle” as tech tries to reinvent finance. I now look at how the same is beginning to happen for commercial banks.
     
    Like it did for retail banking, I think technology is impacting commercial banking in three main ways:
     
    1. Increasing access to information thereby allowing businesses (businesses here refers broadly to small, medium and large businesses which would be the clients of commercial banks) to make better decisions
     
    2. Reducing the friction/offering better experiences for businesses in conducting common activities
     
    3. Lowering the fees on transactions for businesses by serving as a cheaper middle man

    None of this is a surprise. Banks tend to be inefficient and generally mediocre. The incentive structure for bank employees encourages the most productive people to look elsewhere (for example, the best traders and programmers tend not to work for banks). Incessant Obama-era financial regulation makes the situation worse by killing off smaller banks that would have increased competition. There is thus a lot of low-hanging fruit for creative non-bank providers of services that banks have typically provided.

     

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance | 3 Comments »

    When H8trs H8

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on April 2nd, 2015 (All posts by )

    Crysta-OConnor-Memories-Pizza

    The new war on religious people (of whom I not one) takes on a new urgency as Huffington Post detects a new threat to the republic.

    Pence and his state have faced significant national backlash since he signed RFRA last week. The governors of Connecticut and Washington have imposed bans on state-funded travel to Indiana, and several events scheduled to be held in the state have been canceled. Organizers of Gen Con, which has been called the largest gaming convention in the country, are considering moving the gathering from Indiana as well.

    Nearby cities like Chicago are capitalizing on the controversy, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) trying to lure Indiana-based businesses into his city.

    UPDATE: 1:52 p.m. — White House press secretary Josh Earnest responded to Pence’s comments Tuesday, saying the Indiana law has backfired because it goes against most people’s values.

    No, it is against the left’s values. The institutional left. The hysteria extends beyond the usual left and may involve a few weak willed Republicans like those who pressured Arizona governor Jan Brewer to veto a similar bill a year or so ago. Fortunately, Arizona has a new and presumably more firm governor.

    Narrowly speaking, that is, the left’s hatred of RFRA is about preserving the authority of the cake police—government agencies determined to coerce bakeries, photo studios, florists and other small businesses to participate in same-sex weddings even if the owners have eccentric conscientious objections.

    Whether Indiana’s RFRA would protect such objectors is an open question: The law only sets forth the standard by which state judges would adjudicate their claims. Further, as the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group, notes, the Hoosier State has no state laws prohibiting private entities from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. (It does have same-sex marriage, pursuant to a federal court ruling.) There are also no such antidiscrimination laws at the federal level. Thus under current law, only certain cities and counties in Indiana even have a cake police.

    The “cake police” are, of course a term of art from James Taranto to describe the opportunistic left who enforce the gay rights agenda on unsuspecting Christians.

    “As Michael Paulson noted in a recent story in The Times, judges have been hearing complaints about a florist or baker or photographer refusing to serve customers having same-sex weddings. They’ve been siding so far with the gay couples.” That is, the judges have been rejecting small-business men’s conscientious objections and compelling them to do business with gay-wedding planners. Bruni approves.

    Without harboring animus toward gays or sharing the eccentric baker’s social and religious views, one may reasonably ask: If a baker is uncomfortable baking a cake for you, why call the cake police? Why not just find another baker who’s happy to have your business?

    This, of course, is far too simple.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Blegs, Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Elections, Internet, Leftism, Media, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, Religion | 23 Comments »

    When It Goes Too Far …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on April 2nd, 2015 (All posts by )

    You know, it’s a bit of a toss-up for me over which is the worst element of the Memories Pizza/RFRA/Gay Marriage debacle. Yes, this is what TV reporters do, when they start putting together a story, especially when fishing for comments from real people to punch up a story that doubtless was already written even before the reporter hit the road. Yes, you pretty much already have the story written in your head; the quotes from the person-in-the-street are the pretty and eye-catching frosting on top of the already baked cake, and usually a small portion of what was actually shot. That’s how it works, people, and don’t anyone try to tell me there’s a difference between a teeny military TV station in some overseas locale and the national save scale, the number of staff members, and the cost of the gear.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Blogging, Business, Civil Society, Conservatism, Human Behavior, Leftism, Media, The Press, USA | 8 Comments »

    Mainstreaming Anti-Israel Prejudice…and Anti-Semitic Stereotypes?..among the “Casual Left”

    Posted by David Foster on April 2nd, 2015 (All posts by )

    The replacement for Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” is named Trevor Noah. His Twitter stream has revealed some…interesting…”jokes,” like this one:

    South Africans know how to recycle like Israel knows how to be peaceful.

    Apparently, the Israel-is-an-aggressor meme has oozed its way into the popular consciousness to the degree that Israel is stereotypically non-peaceful in the way that dogs stereotypically dislike cats.  I expect this sort of thing will go over quite well with the audience (generally left-leaning, I feel sure) of The Daily Show.  They will also probably like this one:

    When flying over the middle of America the turbulence is so bad. It’s like all the ignorance is rising through the air.

    …although perhaps this won’t go over as well coming from a non-American (Noah is South African) as it would coming from a suitably hipsterish American.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Europe, Germany, Humor, Israel, Judaism, USA | 10 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – Days Gone By

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on March 31st, 2015 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    The USA, early 1990s to early 2000s

    For over ten years I traveled mostly five days a week.  Back then we flew out on Sunday night so that we could be on site Monday morning at 8am, and we left the job site on Friday after 5pm which meant that typically I’d get home in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, since often we had to drive for hours to get to the airport before we could even fly home.

    Those years are a blur.  I joined the work force during a recession in 1990 and everyone was happy to have a job; no one was complaining.  Right as the dot-com boom ended in about 2001 we had changed our ways and most of the team was flying out Monday morning and leaving on Thursday and “worked from home” on Fridays.  This was viewed as “the good life”.

    However, for most of those years, life was a blur of travel, packing, unpacking, and working.  It would likely be impossible to motivate staff to work and travel like that nowadays; back then no one thought anything of it and we really didn’t even complain as people got divorced and their personal lives crumbled into dust.

    Going into the workplace in 1990 there were three things that you could count on:

    1. You were going to work all the time, very hard
    2. You were likely going to work for a bad boss who would drive you with a whip
    3. Often times everyone would go out and have some drinks and a good time
    With these expectations, it was hard to be disappointed.  We worked all the time and then we went out for dinner and drinks and then got up the next day and did it over and over again.  From our perspective, this was the way it always had been and the way that it always would be.  These sorts of expectations are built into the name of our blog “Life in the Great Midwest” and it sums up the world view and baseline of our careers.

    Certainly people washed out from this insane grind.  It was mostly a male-dominated profession, although there were a few women consultants and auditors who mostly found roles where they were able to minimize their travel.  This was a zero sum game, however – since they took the roles that didn’t involve much traveling, often you had to travel that much more.  Someone had to service all of the clients and many of them were located in cities with few local staff, and those local staff often didn’t have the skills that the client needed.  Thus the same road warriors showed up and did the work, and every year a few more of them fell off the team due to family reasons (or they just “wised up”) but were always replaced by new fresh faced kids eager to earn what seemed to be top dollar or a wizened ex-corporate type needing to make more money.  The kids often worked out but the older ones didn’t; it was difficult to adjust to a life of heavy travel midway through your career.

    The consulting firms went public – the biggest one was Accenture, but all the big names (with a few exceptions like McKinsey and BCG) eventually monetized and to some extent it was like the Silicon Valley of that era.  Many got rich and I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of the smaller ones but ended up taking the choice that didn’t lead to my own riches; but that’s my own (bad) luck.

    Consulting and auditing pale in comparison to investment banking; I never have seen people that put in more hours than investment bankers.  I have no idea how they do it; a couple of years ago I went out for dinner and a couple drinks with a good friend of mine who is an investment banker in his 40s, and afterwards he went back to his hotel room and worked for a few more hours on a “pitch deck” for a client meeting the next day.  Whether it is practical work or not isn’t for me to judge; but as a long term “road warrior” I can tip my hat to them as being completely off their rocker in terms of how much time they are willing to invest in a client.

    Perhaps the new “road warriors” are the Silicon Valley start up people.  I have been at a few of their companies and I can see the drive and stamina oozing from their pores as they stare at their computer screens, working to make their riches.  They are a bunch of young men as I was once right out of college as an auditor and they are hurling themselves into their careers and trying to make the immense riches of stock options and to be part of something great.  I’m sure that there are many women in there but the vast majority of the staff are men and they are attacking these opportunities like we used to as consultants.

    Cross posted at LITGM

     

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Business | 12 Comments »

    Powering Down: “Earth Hour”

    Posted by David Foster on March 30th, 2015 (All posts by )

    American Digest:

    Once upon a time we knew enough to curse the darkness. In the aeons long climb from the muck, we have only had the ability to hold back the dark for a bit over a century. Now millions yearn to embrace it and, should they yearn long enough and hard enough, the darkness will embrace them and hold them for much longer than a brief hour of preening and self-regard.

    The Big Picture at the Boston Globe site routinely publishes stunning photographs of what is taking place in the world. But at editor Alan Taylor’s whim after last year’s “Earth Hour”, it went a step further in “celebrating” the rise of mass insanity in our age. “Earth Hour 2009″presents a round-the-world tour of cities with each picture designed to fade from light into darkness at the click of a mouse. Proud of his clever variation on a theme, the editor’s instructions were — without a hint of irony:

    “[click image to see it fade]”

    Of course with a second mouse click the lights came back on. It never seems to occur to the people with the Green Disease, that is perfectly possible to

    [click civilization to see it fade]

    and get no second click.

    ****

    I’ve done four posts with the “Powering Down” heading, all relating to the stream of political and social attacks which are being conducted against the West’s energy sources and industrial base. These attacks are usually justified by “environmentalism” raised to the status of a religion; often, they are also motivated by individual and/or group desires to align themselves with technologies and trends that are considered “cool” and to avoid any connection with technologies and trends that are considered “uncool.”

    Powering Down #1: Here’s the great French scientist Sadi Carnot, writing in 1824:

    To take away England’s steam engines to-day would amount to robbing her of her iron and coal, to drying up her sources of wealth, to ruining her means of prosperity and destroying her great power. The destruction of her shipping, commonly regarded as her source of strength, would perhaps be less disastrous for her.

    For England in 1824, substitute the United States in 2009. And for “steam engines,” substitute those power sources which use carbon-based fuels: whether generating stations burning natural gas, blast furnaces burning coke, or trucks/trains/planes/automobiles using oil derivatives. With these substitutions, Carnot’s paragraph describes the prospective impact of this administration’s energy policies: conducting a war on fossil fuels, without leveling with people about the true limitations of “alternative” energy technologies and without seriously pursuing civilian nuclear power.

    continued

    Powering Down #2: Patrick Richardson: Kansas is ranked second in the nation behind Montana for wind energy potential, a fact which should have environmentalists jumping for joy. Instead, they’re trying to block the construction of transmission lines to wind farms in south central Kansas and north central Oklahoma.

    Why? Well it all has to do with the lesser prairie chicken. According to a story by the Hutchinson News in February of this year, ranchers and wildlife officials in the area are teaming up with groups like the Sierra Club to block the construction of the lines, which would apparently run through prime breeding territory for the bird.

    continued

    Powering Down #3: The California Water Resources Board has ruled that 19 natural gas power plants, located in coastal areas, are in violation of the Clean Water Act for using a technique called “once-through cooling.” According to this article, it appears that this ruling will result in the shutdown of most of these plants. continued

    Powering Down #4:  George Will writes about the the attack that Obama’s EPA is conducting against the Navajo Generating Station, which together with the coal mine that feeds it represents an important factor in Arizona’s economy and an important source of employment for members of the Navajo tribe.

    Will notes that the NGS provides 95 percent of the power for the pumps of the Central Arizona Project, which routes water from the Colorado River and which made Phoenix and most of modern Arizona possible. A study sponsored by the Interior Department estimates that the EPA’s mandate might increase the cost of water by as much as 32 percent, hitting agriculture users especially hard.

    original post and comments

     

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Environment, USA | 18 Comments »

    History Weekend: The Curious Case of Ma and Pa

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on March 29th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Exactly a hundred years ago, an enterprising gentleman named James Edward Ferguson took office as the Governor of Texas. He was of a generation born long enough after the conclusion of the Civil War that hardships associated with that war had faded somewhat. The half-century long conflict with raiding Comanche and Kiowa war-bands was brought to a conclusion around the time of his birth, but he was still young enough to have racketed around the Wild West as it existed for the remainder of the century, variously employed in a mine, a factory making barbed wire, a wheat farm and a vineyard. Having gotten all that out of his system, he returned to Bell County, Texas, studied law, was admitted to the bar, and married the daughter of a neighbor, Miriam Amanda Wallace. Miriam Amanda was then almost 25, and had been to college. James Ferguson and his wife settled down to a life of quiet prosperity in Belton, Texas. There he founded a bank and dabbled in politics as a campaign manager, before running for and winning the office of governor in 1914 – as a Democrat, which was expected at the time and in that place – and as an anti-prohibitionist, which perhaps was not. Two years later, having not done anything in office which could be held against him, James Ferguson was re-elected … and almost immediately walked into a buzz-saw. A quarrel over appropriations for the University of Texas system and a political rival for the office of governor – ensconced among the facility as the newly-anointed head of a newly-established school of journalism – eventually blew up into such a huge ruckus that James Ferguson was impeached, with the result that he could not hold public office in Texas again – at least not under his own name.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Feminism, History | 11 Comments »

    Technology and Mass Transit

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on March 29th, 2015 (All posts by )

    I have not seen a formal study of the impact of technology on mass transit but I believe that it has made it profoundly more valuable and useful. And I accidentally participated in an experiment that partially proved this statement in the inverse.

    In Chicago they have a CTA “bus tracker” that tells you when a particular bus will arrive at your stop. Or you can program it so that you can see all the buses from various routes that are coming past your stop (this is useful because in Chicago you can often take many different routes that go to the same place over shorter distances). It works on your phone and many of the newer stops have the bus tracker programmed into the canopy so you don’t even need to look it up on your phone.

    Sadly enough most days rather than looking up the street for buses I check the bus tracker. I can usually get from my condo down the elevator and past the lobby in 2-3 minutes so 4 minutes is the cut off time. One morning I looked and I thought I had missed the bus entirely because the next one was ten minutes away on my phone. However, instead of just trudging off, I looked up, and a bus was right there!

    I got on the bus and it was completely empty! Not a soul was on the bus. While it was a nice day, usually this bus line was crowded during rush hour, often so crowded that I don’t even bother getting on because I have to stand right in the front past the yellow line where you aren’t supposed to stand and then get on and off with every stop (to let people on and off) until the crowd thins out.

    The driver was totally bewildered too. I sat with her up front and I guess they had changed the bus she was driving to this route (from another route) and they hadn’t updated bus tracker. I said that because she didn’t show up on my bus tracker. Thus no one was on the bus – because if it wasn’t on bus tracker, it didn’t exist.

    I am sure that the River North area is one of the most technologically sophisticated areas of the city and probably in other parts of town people just wait at the bus stop for the bus to show up. But in River North – everyone has been trained to use bus tracker and rely on it and they wouldn’t contemplate a bus existing that wasn’t on bus tracker.

    For me, the bus tracker has made the Chicago bus go from something marginally useful to a highly useful way to get around town. When I lived in Bucktown we used to wait for the #50 Damen bus and 3 of 4 times we’d give up and grab a cab after waiting 15-20 minutes and the 4th time 2-3 buses would show up in a big bunch full of angry riders. If you took the bus you weren’t happy about it; it was an unreliable and slow way to get around.

    However, bus tracker is very reliable and now you have visibility of what is coming and you can plan ahead so that you are whiling away your day standing outside in the rain or snow waiting in vain for a bus that seems like it will never come. I don’t have statistics but I would bet that bus tracker increases utilization of assets for the CTA and has become a known and reliable method of transportation for those that give it a chance.

    Cross posted at LITGM

     

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Customer Service, Tech, Transportation | 24 Comments »

    A Brave Author

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on March 29th, 2015 (All posts by )

    I remember reading an article a long time ago about advice that an experienced journalist gave a new writer in the newsroom. He said to “never write anything bad about cats” because the paper would be bombarded with letters from irate cat owners in response.

    I thought of this as I read a NYT article titled “Pregnant, Obese and in Danger” by Claire Putnam (a doctor at a Kaiser Permanente hospital). From the article:

    One recent night on my delivery shift, 8 out of 10 of my laboring patients were too heavy, with 2 weighing over 300 pounds… obese pregnant patients are more likely to have elevated blood pressure, gestational diabetes and babies with birth complications. The are more likely to need cesareans. And the are more likely to have serious complications from the surgery, such as infections, hernias, or life-threatening bleeding.

    An extended family member of mine was a medical EMT and he mentioned how many of his co-workers were hurt while moving and assisting the obese and morbidly obese. This doctor agrees.

    In the last year alone, three of the doctors I work with have been significantly injured while treating severely obese women. One even dislocated his shoulder while performing a cesarean on a 400-pound patient.

    This author is incredibly brave because I can only imagine the vitriol that this sort of analysis will generate in the comments and on social media. They will say that you are making fun of women for whom their weight is out of their control! You are contributing to negative body image in the media!

    The story of the negative impact on health care workers of the obese and the extra costs on society should be factually driven and discussed openly. In the same way that the addicts in Drugs, Inc pose huge challenges on the system through their lifestyle choices (which are universally panned, unlike the obese), these sorts of behaviors should be questioned as well.

    Cross posted at LITGM

     

    Posted in Medicine | 12 Comments »

    Book Review: God is an Englishman

    Posted by David Foster on March 27th, 2015 (All posts by )

    The Swann family saga, by R F Delderfield:

    God Is an Englishman

    Theirs Was the Kingdom

    Give Us This Day

    In 1850, Adam Swann returned from India to his native England, having decided that a career in military service (especially in what he now viewed as basically a mercenary force, the East India Company’s army) was not for him.  He had in his possession a valuable cache of jewelry which he had acquired on a battlefield and (probably illegally) kept for himself.  While in India he had kept abreast of events in England by reading several-month-old newspapers, and was intrigued with the possibilities unleashed by industrial expansion. His original intention was to sell the jewelry and invest the proceeds in railway stock or in actually building a railroad branch line somewhere–but was dissuaded by a chance meeting with a railroad official, who advised him that railway building was in a bubble and that most of the lines now being constructed would prove uneconomic.  The official had, however, an alternative suggestion: put the money on the horses.  But not in the usual way.

    There’s more future in horse-transport than the Cleverdicks would have you believe.  The railroads can solve all the big problems but none of the small ones…If I were you, Mr Swann–and I wish to God I were and starting all over again–I would spend the next week studying the blank areas of that map there.  Then travel about and take a look at the goods yards of the most successful companies, and see merchandise piled in the rain on all their loading bays for want of a good dispersal system.

    Swann takes the man’s advice and sets off on a cross-country ride to evaluate the prospects for a new horse-drawn freight transportation business.  On the way, he meets Henrietta, who is fleeing a prospective marriage arranged by her father, a coarse and greedy mill owner.  It is Henrietta who proposes for the projected transport company the name Swann-on-Wheels and the wheeled-swan logo that will soon adorn the sides of hundreds of wagons rolling throughout Britain.

    The series is the story of Swann-on-Wheels, of Adam and Henrietta’s marriage and family, and of British society in the time period 1850-1914.  Unlike most historical novels covering this period, the aristocracy plays a very minor part, to the point of being almost completely irrelevant to the story, other than as a source of status markers:

    In the England into which he had been born, blood and breeding were still paramount and continued to call the national tune. Ancient wealth was still the legislator and determiner of the national destiny.  But all this had changed when he was still a lad.  By then the man of brass and the man of iron had come into their own, elbowing their way forward and demanding, at the top of their voices to be heard and heeded…Adam, who sometimes conjured with these abstracts, saw the process as a second Reformation, a phase of history repeating itself, with inventors, engineers, and their sponsors matching the hard-faced adventurers of Tudor times…For his part, he welcomed the transformation.  To him it was a cleansing tide, notwithstanding the mountains of muck and rubble it left behind…(but) it seemed to him that the wives and daughters of the men of brass took no pride in their menfolk’s astounding victory.  All they wanted, it appeared, was to replace their former masters without deviation by so much as a single inch from their ways of life, or discarding a single one of their prejudices.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Business, History, Management, Tech | 6 Comments »

    Drill, Baby, Drill

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on March 25th, 2015 (All posts by )

    yemen-anti-houthi_3242589b

    It looks like the battle for Saudi Arabia has begun and, if it follows the pattern of other Obama wars, it will be soon lost, or so Richard Fernandez believes.

    Even the New York Times sees it.

    President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled Yemen by sea Wednesday as Shiite rebels and their allies moved on his last refuge in the south, captured its airport and put a bounty on his head, officials said.

    The departure of the close U.S. ally and the imminent fall of the southern port of Aden pushed Yemen further toward a violent collapse. It also threatened to turn the impoverished but strategic country into another proxy battle between the Middle East’s Sunni powers and Shiite-led Iran.

    Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies believe the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, are tools for Iran to seize control of Yemen and say they intend to stop the takeover. The Houthis deny they are backed by Iran.

    The stakes are very high for Europe, especially.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Current Events, Energy & Power Generation, Europe, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Russia, War and Peace | 38 Comments »

    “Iran’s Diplomatic Brilliance”

    Posted by Jonathan on March 25th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Michael Rubin:

    Never before has a country repeatedly declared its goal was “death to America,” taken clear actions to achieve that aim, and suffered no serious consequences for its actions. The reason for this is Iran’s diplomatic brilliance. They have conditioned successive administrations as easily as Pavlov: They hint at diplomacy, and get a free pass for abusing and murdering Americans.

    Rubin is spot-on, and his critique applies to US administrations of both parties, from Carter’s to Obama’s. The Iranian regime has never paid a significant price for its numerous attacks against Americans and American interests. We may pay a high price for this failure.

     

    Posted in Current Events, Iran, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Terrorism, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    El Caminito del Rey Update

    Posted by Dan from Madison on March 25th, 2015 (All posts by )

    One of the best vacations I ever took was with Jonathan as we tackled the famous El Caminito del Rey. You can see footage of that glorious day here:

    For those who may be a little less adventurous, parts of the route have been re-built and are now officially re-opening. You can see a website on the Caminito and the restorations here.

     

    Posted in Diversions, Europe | 8 Comments »

    A Tribute to Lee Kwan Yew.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on March 24th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Thomas Sowell has a fine tribute to the leader of Singapore who died yesterday.

    It is not often that the leader of a small city-state — in this case, Singapore — gets an international reputation. But no one deserved it more than Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of Singapore as an independent country in 1959, and its prime minister from 1959 to 1990. With his death, he leaves behind a legacy valuable not only to Singapore but to the world.

    Born in Singapore in 1923, when it was a British colony, Lee Kuan Yew studied at Cambridge University after World War II, and was much impressed by the orderly, law-abiding England of that day. It was a great contrast with the poverty-stricken and crime-ridden Singapore of that era.

    Today Singapore has a per capita Gross Domestic Product more than 50 percent higher than that of the United Kingdom and a crime rate a small fraction of that in England. A 2010 study showed more patents and patent applications from the small city-state of Singapore than from Russia. Few places in the world can match Singapore for cleanliness and orderliness.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Law, Politics, Society | 3 Comments »

    So: how does it feel at World’s End?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on March 24th, 2015 (All posts by )

    [ Reposted from Zenpundit ICYMI there — on conveying the experience of the eschatological — on the way to better understanding the allure of IS ]
    .

    Beatus de Facunda. And the fifth Angel sounded the trumpet: and I saw a star fall from heaven upon the earth, and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit" -- Revelation 9.1-11

    And the fifth Angel sounded the trumpet: and I saw a star fall from heaven upon the earth, and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit

    **

    WE ARE ENTERING PHASE TWO:

    I think we’re entering Phase Two of our conversations about Islamist eschatology.

    In Phase One, the task was to point out that apocalyptic scriptures and scriptural interpretations were a feature of Al-Qaida discourse, and specifically used in recruitment, and this phase was necessary because apocalyptic movements, in general, are all too easily dismissed by the secular mind until “too late” — think Aum Shinrikyo in Tokyo, the Branch Davidians in Waco, Heaven’s Gate in Rancho Santa Fe.

    With GEN Dempsey declaring that IS holds an “apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision”, with Graeme Wood describing that vision in a breakthrough article in The Atlantic, with Jessica Stern and JM Berger making the same point forcefully in their ISIS: The State of Terror, and with Will McCants promising us a book specifically about the eschatological dimension of IS, that need may now have passed.

    In my view, the salient points to be made in Phase Two are:

  • that the apocalyptic ideology of IS has strategic implications
  • that there’s a largely and unwisely ignored area of religious studies dealing specifically with eschatological violence, and
  • that the sense of living in eschatological time is viscerally different — I’ve termed it a “force multiplier”
  • In particular, IS strategy is likely to draw in part on the specifically eschatological last hundred pages in Abu Musab al-Suri‘s 1600-page Call to Global Islamic Resistance. As I noted in my review of Jean-Pierre Filiu’s Apocalypse in Islam, Filiu himself states there is “nothing in the least rhetorical about this exercise in apocalyptic exegesis. It is meant instead as a guide for action”. While Filiu devotes several pages to it, Jim Lacey ignores it completely in his A Terrorist’s Call to Global Jihad: Deciphering Abu Musab al-Suri’s Islamic Jihad Manifesto, commenting only, “Where appropriate, we have also removed most of the repetitive theological justifications undergirding these beliefs” — see my review of Lacey for the Air force Research Institute.

    I’ll deal with the religious studies literature on violent apocalyptic movements in a future post.

    This post is my first attempt at addressing the feeling engendered by being swept up in an “end times’ movement. I foresee this as my major upcoming area of interest and future contributions.

    **

    SUGGESTED CONTEXTS:

    There’s an extraordinary paragraph in Seduction of the Spirit by Harvey Cox, the prominent Harvard theologian, in which he tells us what the world’s next great encyclopedic work on religion might be like — using the analogy of Thomas AquinasSumma Theologica in a decidedly post-psychedelic age:

    Thus the next Summa might consist not of a thousand chapters but of a thousand alternative states of being, held together not by a glued binding but by the fact that all thousand are equally real.
     
    Imagine what kind of world it would be if instead of merely tolerating or studying them, one could actually be, temporarily at least, a Sioux brave seeing an ordeal vision, a neolithic hunter prostrate before the sacred fire, a Krishna lovingly ravishing a woodsful of goat girls, a sixteenth-century Carmelite nun caught up in ecstatic prayer, a prophet touched by flame to go release a captive people…

    Religious experience is as wide, and in fact as wild as that, and the lives and world views of a Black Elk, a Teresa of Avila, an incarnation of Vishnu and an Isaiah are as different as cultures can be, united only in the degree of their focus. Cox can list them, he can invite us to consider their experiences in turn, but he cannot entirely bring us into each of their lives. Between them and his readers is a distance not only of cultural imagination, but of conviction, of tremendous passion.

    **

    In Fiction as the Essence of War, George Vlachonikolis wrote on War on the Rocks recently:

    Coker reveals the struggle of many a veteran by asking: “how can someone who was there tell others what it was like? Especially if they can’t find a moral?” This is a thought that will resonate with anybody with a wartime experience. As for me, my 6 years in the Army has now all but been reduced to a handful of dinnerpartyfriendly anecdotes as a consequence of this plight.

    Stern & Berger, on page 2 of their book, ISIS: The State of Terrorism, write:

    It is difficult to properly convey the magnitude of the sadistic violence shown in these videos. Some featured multiple beheadings, men and women toether, with the later victims force to watch the irst die. In one video, the insurgents drove out into the streets of Iraq cities, pile out of the vehicle, and beheaded a prisoner in full view of pedestrians, capturing the whole thing on video and then driving ogg scot-free.

    Some things are just hard to explain in a way that viscerally grips the reader, engendering rich and deep understanding.

    The power of religion is one of them, and that’s true a fortiori of the power of its extreme form, that of those who are “semiotically aroused” — in Richard Landes‘ very useful term — by the power of an “end times” vision.

    **

    I have quoted the first paragraph of Tim Furnish‘s book, Holiest Wars, often enough already, and I’ll quote it again for shock value — I don’t think it’s the sort of analogy that can be “proven” or “refuted”, but it gives a visceral sense of the importance of identifying an Islamist jihadist apocalyptic movement as such, and understanding what that implies:

    Muslim messianic movements are to fundamentalist uprisings what nuclear weapons are to conventional ones: triggered by the same detonating agents, but far more powerful in scope and effect.

    And Richard Landes in Fatal Attraction: The Shared Antichrist of the Global Progressive Left and Jihad gives us a sense of how an apocalyptic undercurrent works:

    It is a great mistake to suppose that the only writers who matter are those whom the educated in their saner moments can take seriously. There exists a subterranean world where pathological fantasies disguised as ideas are churned out by crooks and halfeducated fanatics for the benefit of the ignorant and superstitious. There are times when this underworld emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures, and dominates multitudes of usually sane and responsible people, who thereupon take leave of sanity and responsibility. And it occasionally happens that this underworld becomes a political power and changes the course of history.

    **

    A FIRST APPROXIMATION:

    Let me take a first stab at indicating — by analogy — the level of passion involved:

    Cox writes of prophecy, Sylvia Plath of electroshock treatment. In her poem, The Hanging Man:

    By the roots of my hair some god got hold of me.
    I sizzled in his blue volts like a desert prophet.

    And her description of the same experience in her novel The Bell Jar is no less, perhaps even more powerful — note also the “end times” reference:

    I shut my eyes.
     
    There was a brief silence, like an indrawn breath.
     
    Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant.

    Let me suggest to you:

    Many IS members feel they have been shaken “like the end of the world” and live and breathe in “an air crackling with blue light”.

    __________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    The illustration at the head of this post is one of many from The Beatus of Facundus, itself one of many brilliantly illustrated versions of Beatus of Liebana‘s commentary on Revelation. I was first exposed to Beatus by an article Umberto Eco wrote for FMR magazine. Eco also mentions the Beatus in Name of the Rose, and indeed wrote a most desirable book on the topic.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Religion, Uncategorized | 11 Comments »