It even makes a little jingle-jangle when he walks around the house.
Today, right this minute, we have a massive natural experiment in deflation going on. The demand for Bitcoin (BTC) is far outstripping any increase in supply. If this were a national currency, the central bankers would have been institutionalized for their nervous breakdowns quite some time ago. It would be front page news every day and panic would rule the airwaves.
None of this is happening with Bitcoin. BTC insiders, movers and shakers seem pleased with the increase in value for their currency and the worry is the appreciation of the currency will go away, not that it will continue. Bitcoin pessimists like Paul Krugman, not surprisingly, believe that deflation will lead to transaction collapse and hoarding. Reality, so far, disagrees with them.
I think that the problem is that nobody among the pessimists understands what BTC is for. It’s never going to be the legally mandated monopoly currency in any significant economic zone. The ethic of the BTC community works against that. This means that BTC is not competing against the US dollar, the euro, or even the renminbi.
What bitcoin does very well is create a space for moving currency without the ability for it to be stopped. That challenges national currencies in crisis that want to impose currency controls to stop money leaving their borders. You can’t stop BTC transactions without draconian controls on communications.
As a practical matter, you can’t stop a coin key from crossing borders. It also creates an incredibly small unit of currency. The smallest unit in the BTC world is the satoshi, or 0.00000001BTC. Is there any currency in the world that equals one satoshi? Until bitcoin reaches the point where its smallest transactions (looking at ads and other microtransactions) can no longer be done with single satoshis, BTC will not suffer transaction reduction to to value increase.
Current pricing would seem to imply something of a damper on BTC transaction flow when BTC rises above $100,000 USD per coin. In other words, the cheapest, cheapskate ads are offering a hundred satoshis for a second of your attention in a world where 1BTC is approximately 1,000USD. We have a long way to go before those transactions cease to be denominated in BTC. And even then, there will be prestige associated with working in BTC which will keep interest in the currency relatively high and larger transactions flowing around the $100k level. Any reduction will bring back a number of the bottom feeders from other currencies.
There are several wannabe BTC competitors waiting in the wings for the day that people want to conduct microtransactions smaller than 1 satoshi. They have established exchanges with national currencies and with BTC itself. when BTC grows in value sufficiently to give up the low end of its microtransaction market, the marketers will move on to alternatives until one of them gains enough advantage to be the next BTC.
Ultimately, BTC is about mad money for a lot of people. As an experiment, I’ve mined BTC overnight and done micro-tasks using the thing in my spare time. Since April of this year, without any impact on my productivity, I’ve gotten the price of a fairly nice night out with my wife in BTC right now. It’s a piece, but only a piece, of an emerging 21st century wallet which diversifies currency use and manages transactions both online and offline. That wallet probably won’t fully emerge for a decade at the very least and more likely will take two to really standardize but it will be the death of the ability of national currencies to live on their past reputations. People will gain the ability to react to currency foolishness much more quickly. BTC will be an important part of that technology suite.
cross posted: Flit-TM
(From 2006, in response to a then-current story on a local grade school principal cancelling a long-standing tradition of a Thanksgiving tableau enacted by the small children dressing as Pilgrims and Indians. The link to the original story is long-decayed, but in light of this particular blast, and this one from the eternally plastic Cher … well, still relevant.)
Reader Mark Rosenbaum commented on one of my historical pieces this week: “Why couldn’t they tell history this well when I was in school a half century ago?” About that same time, I ran across this story—part of the run-up to the Thanksgiving holiday. Perhaps it might, in a small way, explain why people are not so enamored of history these days – at least, the sort of history taught in schools.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Lexington Green on November 29th, 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
In our book, America 3.0, and in Daniel Hannan’s new book, Inventing Freedom we talk about the importance of Magna Carta.
Mr. Hannan gave an excellent speech about Magna Carta, entitled “The Secular Miracle of the English-speaking Peoples,” which I commend to your attention.
Posted by Lexington Green on November 28th, 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Posted by Lexington Green on November 28th, 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620
The Mayflower Compact
May God bless all our ChicagoBoyz and -Girlz, our families, our readers and their families, our friends and our enemies (turn their hearts to righteousness, O Lord!), and an extra slice of God’s love to everyone who cannot be with their family on Thanksgiving, or has no family to go to, and is noshing at home, or is on duty on land or sea, or is stuck somewhere, and may be noodling on the computer and see this … .
May God grant safe travels and happy reunions and kindness and all good things, great and small, including but not limited to turkeys not being overcooked, and the gravy coming out correctly, and nothing burnt, and everything on the table on schedule and looking and tasting good, and many willing and cheerful hands making light work of the cleanup afterward, and a nice walk in the dusk and the cold air after dinner.
Thank you Lord for this great country, still a “civil body politic” after almost 400 years, and thank you for all who took risks and made sacrifices to give us what we have. Please grant that we may we be worthy to keep it and preserve it and improve it and to pass it on even greater than it has been given to us.
God bless America.
Happy Thanksgiving Day to all Americans and happy Hannukah to all Jewish readers and contributors to this blog.
Posted by Lexington Green on November 27th, 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Join us for a luncheon lecture by author Michael J. Lotus about his new book, with co-author James C. Bennett, titled America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century-Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come. As Mike will explain in Heartland’s library …
Our government is crushingly expensive, failing at its basic functions, and unable to keep its promises. It does not work and it cannot continue as it is. But the inevitable end of big government does not mean the end of America. It only means the end of one phase of American life.
America is poised to enter a new era of freedom and prosperity. The cultural roots of the American people go back at least 15 centuries, and make us individualistic, enterprising, and liberty-loving. The Founding generation of the United States lived in a world of family farms and small businesses, America 1.0.
This world faded away and was replaced by an industrialized world of big cities, big business, big labor unions and big government, America 2.0. Now America 2.0 is outdated and crumbling, while America 3.0 is struggling to be born. This new world will bring immense productivity, rapid technological progress, greater scope for individual and family-scale autonomy, and a leaner and strictly limited government.
This transition to America 3.0 will surprise many Americans, and astonish the world!
Don’t miss this discussion of a bright view of America’s future with a dynamic and intellectually stimulating speaker. For a preview of what you’ll hear, listen to Mike’s recent discussion about his book on the Heartland Daily Podcast: Part 1, and Part 2.
I am immensely pleased to announce this upcoming event. It is a real privilege to speak at the Heartland Institute.
Book Review – “Unintimidated – A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge” by Governor Scott Walker
Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge by Scott Walker
I just received Scott Walker’s new book and went to it right away. It is an interesting look at the time in and around the Wisconsin “protests” (I use quotation marks around the word ‘protest’ intentionally).
I expected more of an autobiography of Walker, and that is really the story that I wanted. It is always interesting to me to see how the formative years of people affect how they make decisions and treat others later in life. That is not what this book is about.
What this book is about is still an interesting topic. Walker goes in depth to explain just how bad former Governor Jim Doyle had left the State of Wisconsin’s finances due to accounting tricks and other gimmicks.
More importantly, Walker takes a deep dive to explain the scam that the unions were running with their automatic withdrawals of dues, monopolistic health insurance practices, overtime abuse, and other things – and how he was going to fix it.
Walker then goes in depth to explain what it was like during the “protests” and what was going on behind the scenes. He used the term “theater of the absurd” and that really hit home. Most (all?) of the “protests” were absolutely absurd.
As I was reading the book, I had to admit that I wasn’t really learning much of anything as far as the nuts and bolts of the legislation, “protests”, senators fleeing, and all the rest were concerned. I was actually at the capitol for much of the protests and have been following all of these things daily and I knew about all of the litigation and all the rest. But what was of interest to me were the personal stories of abuse that Walker and the Republican legislators were subjected to, including their families. Also of interest was Walker’s strength that he found in God and that he never wanted to go back or apologize to anyone for anything. He was doing what he thought was right, and decided to do his best and let the chips fall.
Walker also explains in detail the campaign during his recall and that this ad turned the tide:
Walker also takes a jab at Obama for not showing up to support Barrett in the recall election.
Toward the end, Walker seems genuinely angry at the Romney campaign for bungling, well, everything and goes into detail about what he did wrong, and how these things can be corrected moving forward.
I recommend the book so you can get an inside view of what the “protests” were like here in Wisconsin a few years ago, and to understand how Walker implemented his reforms to swing the state from an enormous deficit to a surplus today. His faith is featured throughout the book and he makes no apologies for what he has done.
It is an easy to read book that won’t take you long to plow through, especially if you find the subject matter interesting as I do. I hope to see a full autobiography on him in the future. Hopefully when he is sitting in the White House.
Cross posted at LITGM.
Posted by Lexington Green on November 26th, 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
This conversation is available as a podcast on YouTube here. The same podcast is available in two parts on the Heartland site, part 1 is here, and part 2 is here.
Heartland’s summary of part I:
Many people on the right believe America is on a downward slope into who-knows-where. They see no signs of improvement and think the future is dire. But not Michael Lotus!
He and co-author James C. Bennett wrote a book titled, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century. The book explores the possibility of a new era in America. The new era — they call it America 3.0 — is one that is less centralized ( less “top down”), and where we operate on more of an individual scale and become ever more productive.
In this podcast, Lotus discusses the previous two American eras — 1.0 and 2.0. America 1.0 is the time from the founding of the nation until just before the Industrial Revolution, which then takes us into America 2.0. Lotus says we are now at the tail-end of 2.0, in a kind of stagnant “transitional period.”
Why are Lotus and Bennett so hopeful? Well, they think that technology develops autonomously, regardless of the government obstacles in place (which cause it to slow down, but never cease improving). Furthermore, Lotus says that we have underlying cultural foundations that are unique — such as the nuclear family — that make us more resistant to the institution of socialism.
Even the host, Jim Lakely — Director of Communications at The Heartland Institute — began to transform his pessimistic attitude by the end of his conversation with Lotus!
Heartland’s summary of part II:
With all of the government debt, and the looming liabilities like Social Security, how is it possible that in thirty-some years America will be getting better?
Michael Lotus offers up his answer in Part II of the Heartland Daily Podcast about his new book titled, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century.
Lotus is confident that as technology develops, it will provide ways for us to lower the cost of living and liberate the economy. What if we could use a 3D printer to print and assemble a house in four days?
Everything is transforming right before our eyes; the geopolitical landscape, education, and societal values, among others.
Jim Lakely, Director of Communication at The Heartland Institute, asks Lotus about the geopolitical future of the United States. They discuss the fact that our founders meant for the U.S. to be much less centralized than it is, and how — in such a large country — it’s important for different parts of the country to live as they please, with smaller units of government.
Lakely and Lotus also discuss education. Lotus believes that government is the “boulder” holding us back and he says if we move that boulder, the world would “drop its jaw” at what we could accomplish. It seems that in this part, Lotus has lifted Lakely’s pessimism … at least for now.
Big thanks to Jim Lakely for this podcast!
A recent documentary on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia is titled “Putin’s Games” and is summarized here. The movie has not been released yet but I intend to see it as soon as it becomes available. According to the web, the movie discusses the 1) bribes that Russia paid to win the games 2) the vast corruption occurring during construction 3) other ill effects of
citing siting the games in a sub-tropical climate.
The documentary interviews a billionaire Russian who fled to the UK after refusing to pay immense bribes during construction:
“We received explicit threats: ‘You’ll be soaked with blood; drowned in blood,’” he said. “It was very straightforward. We know the history. Russia generally does not care much for human life.”
As far as bribing Olympic officials to beat Austria in order to get the games originally…
The money thrown around by the Kremlin to ensure that Russia was awarded the games is also revealed in the film. Karl Schranz, a former Austrian Olympic skiing champion and personal adviser to Mr Putin on bringing the Olympics to Sochi, talks about the big-money lobbying that went into the games – cash that Leonid Tyagetschev, the former head of Russia’s Olympic Committee, said was “practically unlimited.” The money was used to lobby for Sochi and against Salzburg, which was also in the running before, in 2007, the International Olympic Committee to give the games to Russia.
The Olympic Committees are against the release of this documentary and per the article:
Such was the displeasure of the International Olympic Committee when it heard of it that it refused to allow the use of the word “Olympic” in the title, or the use of any archived Olympic footage. They also wrote accusing the producers of making a “politically motivated” hatchet-job.
After rewarding the games to serial human rights violators in China and Russia, how can the Olympics even pretend to have a shred of credibility? It is astounding that they would call a documentary filmmaker who explains how Putin’s Russia is a hotbed of corruption a “hatchet-job”. What did they think would happen when you chose Russia for the winter Olympics? They need to read the biography of Putin by Judah, since this fiasco was all preordained.
Cross posted at LITGM
My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas
A few days ago Ann Althouse linked this wonderful interview with Clarence Thomas. I encourage you to watch it if you have a few spare minutes:
While watching it, I was reminded that I had his book sitting around somewhere. I got it years ago.
Remembering that I had made myself a vow that I was not going to buy anymore books until I had gotten through my current stack (with the notable exception of the Scott Walker book) I decided to pick up “My Grandfather’s Son” and get to it.
I am really glad I did.
Clarence Thomas came from the most poverty stricken circumstances you can imagine, and fought a lot of demons along his path to Supreme Court Associate Justice.
As a boy he grew up in rural Georgia but it seemed that he enjoyed his childhood. Until he had to move to Savannah. Here he was faced with grinding poverty and the hunger and cold that comes with being poor in the city. It was interesting for me to hear how Thomas was happier and better fed when he was living in rural Georgia. There, at least, he could fend for himself on the land and keep the hunger pangs away, while in Savannah he was basically stuck.
His father was never really in the picture, so he was being raised by his mother. One day she told Thomas and his brother to pack their stuff (such as it was) and head down the street to his grandfather’s house. He would be living there.
While this was heartbreaking for Thomas, the new place was a palace compared to what they were living in. The brothers were taken care of and were introduced to the Catholic church. The grandfather ran his house with an iron fist, but in a good way. The boys now had schooling, structure, and someone to answer to if they were fooling around. I would like to add here that it is my firm belief that many of the woes of black society in the inner cities, and many of the woes of society in general, can be squarely blamed on broken families, and children not having structure in their lives in their formative years. But this is certainly grist for another post.
Thomas looked back upon these times in his formative years fondly. Sure, he would have wanted to played in the streets, but Thomas’ grandfather was determined to make Thomas and his brother see the value of studying and hard work.
Eventually, Thomas graduated high school and found his way to Holy Cross, then to Yale. All along the way he experienced racism, both overt and covert. I found it interesting that he respected the whites in and around Savannah more for their openness about how they thought blacks inferior versus the covert racism deployed by urban liberals.
Thomas held a succession of jobs, working for Monsanto, the EEOC, the DC Court of Appeals, and eventually the Supreme Court. He describes in detail the bruising confirmation hearings and how awful the politics were.
More interesting to me was how he described his problems with his personal life, with alcohol (he no longer drinks) and the problems he eventually has with his family relationships. I will leave the details out because I want you to read the book, but it was refreshing to hear someone of a stature like Thomas to describe how he had to fight a lot of demons along his path.
The book is very easy to read and I couldn’t put it down. Thomas is a great American and has a great American story to share. I recommend that you read it someday.
Cross posted at LITGM.
Posted by Lexington Green on November 25th, 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
The long awaited book by Daniel Hannan, entitled Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World.
My copy arrived last week, and I am more than eager to read it.
The blurb for the book says:
British politician Daniel Hannan’s Inventing Freedom is an ambitious account of the historical origin and spread of the principles that have made America great, and their role in creating a sphere of economic and political liberty that is as crucial as it is imperiled.
According to Hannan, the ideas and institutions we consider essential to maintaining and preserving our freedoms—individual rights, private property, the rule of law, and the institutions of representative government—are the legacy of a very specific tradition that was born in England and that we Americans, along with other former British colonies, inherited.
By the tenth century, England was a nation-state whose people were already starting to define themselves with reference to inherited common-law rights. The story of liberty is the story of how that model triumphed. How it was enshrined in a series of landmark victories—the Magna Carta, the English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution, the U.S. Constitution—and how it came to defeat every international rival.
Today we see those ideas abandoned and scorned in the places where they once went unchallenged. Inventing Freedom is a chronicle of the success of Anglosphere exceptionalism. And it is offered at a time that may turn out to be the end of the age of political freedom.
Mr. Hannan’s argument sounds terribly convincing! In fact, it is much the same argument that we make in America 3.0.
We previously post about the wonderful review of America 3.0 which Mr. Hannan wrote. As he noted, we draw on many of the same sources:
Here is a powerful and persuasive book. I confess to using the phrase “powerful and persuasive” in the sense that most bloggers do, to mean “agrees with me”. The authors have drawn on the same sources that I most frequently turn to: the brilliant Cambridge historian and anthropologist Alan Macfarlane; Oxford’s James Campbell, the supreme authority on late Anglo-Saxon England; David Hackett Fischer and Kevin Phillips, whose histories of the United States contextualise the great republic within the Anglosphere continuum. They have returned, too, to the foremost Victorians, notably Stubbs, Freeman and Maitland, who fell out of fashion during the twentieth century, but whose truths will endure when more recent interpretations have been found wanting. I think I also detect Macaulay’s elegant spoor, though he isn’t cited directly. And, of course, they pay due reverence to America’s founders, above all Jefferson – whose words were unfailingly wise, even if his deeds didn’t always match them.
One further influence on Mr. Hannan, cited in his book, is my coauthor James C. Bennett. Jim popularized the term “Anglosphere,” which first appeared in Neal Stephenson’s science fiction novel The Diamond Age.
Jim’s 2004 book The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century is essential reading.
Posted by Lexington Green on November 24th, 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
I am up to 138/377 in Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World. It is very good, and covers much of the same history, and relies on many of the same sources, as America 3.0.
It is nice to see Jim Bennett cited at the beginning, and the word “Anglosphere” used throughout.
I will have more to say once I have finished it.
Get Dan’s book and read it once you have finished reading America 3.0!
Why the West? I do not think there is any other historical controversy that has so enthralled the public intellectuals of our age. The popularity of the question can probably be traced to Western unease with a rising China and the ease with which the issue can be used as proxy war for the much larger contest between Western liberals who embrace multiculturalism and conservatives who champion the West’s ‘unique’ heritage.
A few months ago I suggested that many of these debates that surround the “Great Divergence” are based on a flawed premise–or rather, a flawed question. As I wrote:
“Rather than focus on why Europe diverged from the rest in 1800 we should be asking why the North Sea diverged from the rest in 1000.” 
I made this judgement based off of data from Angus Maddison‘s Contours of the World Economy, 1-2030 AD and the subsequent updates to Mr. Maddison’s data set by the scholars who contribute to the Maddison Project.
As far as 1,000 year economic projections go this data was pretty good. But it was not perfect. In many cases–especially with the Chinese data–it was simply based on estimates and extrapolations from other eras. A more accurate view of the past would require further research.
That research has now been done. The economic historian Stephen Broadberry explains:
As it turns out, medieval and early modern European and Asian nations were much more literate and numerate than is often thought. They left behind a wealth of data in documents such as government accounts, customs accounts, poll tax returns, Parish registers, city records, trading company records, hospital and educational establishment records, manorial accounts, probate inventories, farm accounts, tithe files. With a national accounting framework and careful cross-checking, it is possible to reconstruct population and GDP back to the medieval period. The picture that emerges is of reversals of fortune within both Europe and Asia, as well as between the two continents. 
Drawing on a multiple specialized studies, Mr. Broadberry is able to create a table that is more accurate than the one I used earlier:
|Taken from Stephen Broadberry. “Accounting for the Great Divergence.” voxEU.org. 16 November 2013.|
There are a few things here worth commenting on.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on November 23rd, 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The Depression did not really get going until the Roosevelt Administration got its anti-business agenda enacted after 1932. The 1929 crash was a single event, much like the 2008 panic. It took major errors in economic policy to make matters worse. Some were made by Hoover, who was a “progressive” but they continued under Roosevelt.
There’s a lot of upside for Republicans in how this went down. It came at a time when Republicans control the House and are likely to do so for the duration of President Obama’s second term, so the weakening of the filibuster will have no effect on the legislation Democrats can pass. The electoral map, the demographics of midterm elections, and the political problems bedeviling Democrats make it very likely that Mitch McConnell will be majority leader come 2015 and then he will be able to take advantage of a weakened filibuster. And, finally, if and when Republicans recapture the White House and decide to do away with the filibuster altogether, Democrats won’t have much of an argument when they try to stop them.
As Taranto puts it:
“”The political problems bedeviling Democrats” is a marvelous bit of understatement. The abject failure of ObamaCare has made the prospect of a Republican Senate in 2015 and a Republican president in 2017 much likelier. Thus even from a purely partisan standpoint, rational Democrats would have been more cautious about invoking the nuclear option when they did than at just about any other time in the past five years.”
The filibuster maneuver by Reid is not a demonstration of strength. It is an admission of weakness. The idiots at HuffPo and the LA Times are beating their chests in joy at the prospect of eternal Democrat majorities that can ignore those pesky Republicans.
In fact, what Reid is acknowledging is that the Democrat majority in the Senate is going away and now is the time to pack the courts and regulatory agencies with ideologues and get all the anti-business regulations in place while they can. The hard left, which believes in magic and Cargo Cults, is cheering them on.
Bloomberg sees what happened, too.
“Under any administration, federal agencies seek to implement the president’s policies by developing regulations,” Jeff Holmstead, a lawyer at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP in Washington who has represented coal-heavy utilities, said. “But in most cases, the judges on the D.C. Circuit are the people who decide whether those regulations comply with federal law.”
I fully expect to see anti-fracking regulations roll out soon, once the Obama appointments get confirmed by the rump Senate. However, what goes around, comes around.
It is our understanding that the Supreme Court exception was included to satisfy pro-abortion extremists, the most active and basest part of the activist base. The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler reported yesterday that the two biggest such groups, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America, both declined comment on the nuclear move, “leaving it unclear whether they are concerned about their ability to block future objectionable”–i.e., Republican–”nominees.”
The abortion lobby sees the future better than giddy leftists who think government creates wealth and jobs.
Recently I was riding on the Metra, the commuter rail system that connects the suburbs to downtown Chicago. I picked up “On the Bi-Level”, the flyer that Metra management makes available to riders and was browsing through it when I came upon this innocuous sounding statement:
I certainly will not argue that Metra is without challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge, and one that will impact many of our plans, is our needs for more capital money to invest in our system. We estimate Metra will need about $9.7 billion over the next decade to achieve a state of good repair on the system, and we expect to receive about a fourth of that amount from traditional federal and state sources. Riders need to understand that fares help us cover our operating costs but have never been a significant source for capital expenses – we must rely on Washington and Springfield for that funding.
Within the utility community there is a concept called “generation equity”. This implies that you need to spread the burden of replacement and renovation across the life cycle of users, rather than hitting them all on the first riders, such as in the case of a train line. On the other hand, you cannot just ignore ongoing capital costs and let the system run into ruin by paying the minimal upkeep costs every year.
In this article, Metra lays bare the facts that:
- Fare costs (riders) only “help” them cover their operating costs
- Funding from other sources (and debt) helps them cover the rest of their operating costs
- Then they rely on largess from the state or Federal governments for about a fourth of their capital costs
- And who knows where they are going to get the rest of the funds for capital replacement
In fact, it would be impossible for Metra to re-build the train lines that they have today in the current regulatory and legal environment. Permits, lawyers, litigation, politically favored contractors, and a welter of archaic tools and practices would make the costs impossibly high and the deadlines incredibly long. By “capital” costs, they are generally talking about replacing bridges, stations and sections of existing track rather than “true” expansion, although they do occasionally add some incremental lines or stations.
Cross posted at LITGM
Logistics, the ability to transport and supply military forces, underwrites military strategy. The importance of logistics is the reason for the adage, “Amateurs talk tactics while professionals talk logistics.” These truisms of military affairs are often glossed over by General Douglas MacArthur’s critics — like US Naval Historian Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison — and replaced with talk of MacArthur “Seeking Personal Glory” and taking “Unnecessary Casualties.” This was especially true when it came to MacArthur’s liberation of the Southern Philippines. MacArthur’s Southern Philippines campaign, far from being “unnecessary” and a “strategic dead end,” was a logistical enabler for Operations Olympic and Coronet, the American invasion plans for the islands of Kyushu and Honshu Japan.
MacArthur had been directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to be able to stage through the Philippines 11 divisions by November 1945 and a further 22 by February 1946. The securing of the Southern Philippines would cut off Japanese small boat production there, protected MacArthur’s sea lines of communication filled with small boats and a polyglot freighter fleet from both radar and radio directed Japanese Kamikaze aircraft and suicide boats, and provide the vitally needed Filipino workforce for assembly work and port capacity to support the staging those divisions for the invasion of Japan.
To understand the Southern Philippine campaign in historical context, you need to know that MacArthur’s liberation of the Philippines was done in four phases.
1) Sixth Army’s Leyte Campaign
2) Sixth Army’s Mindoro/Luzon Campaign
3) The Eighth Army’s the Leyte-Samar operation (including clearance of the Visayan passages)
4) The Eighth Army’s extended Southern Philippines campaign south of the Visayan passages
The first two phases are not included in the “waste of soldiers” critiques of MacArthur, while the other two usually are. So I will lay out MacArthur’s logistical reasons to pursue those “unnecessary” military operations as the relate to the invasion of Japan.
Read the rest of this entry »
1. The problem with Obamacare is that it fundamentally changes the relationship of government to the people. The change is wholly malign. There is no way to operate the Obamacare system and also force the government to respect the people’s rights. Obamacare will, at every step, increase the risk at which government holds our rights.
We’re already seeing that with the roll-out, which has promptly violated the president’s best-known and most categorical promises – an indication of his complete lack of respect for us – as well as the people’s rights to decide what to do with their own property (in this case, their earnings), and to execute private contracts according to their own preferences.
What matters about Obamacare is that it has forced so many people to do so many things involuntarily. It will continue to do so. Obamacare is about government force, about limiting people’s options, and about constraining the people to do or not do certain things. That’s what government is about, which is why it’s what Obamacare is about. Government is incapable of being about anything else.
The public debate right now treats the Obamacare fiasco as if the central proposition is that taking over one-sixth of the economy is a technological challenge. The reality that matters is that government taking over the network of human decisions involved in “health care” is a moral outrage. Doing that is applying the model of regulatory force to a vast complex of human questions that have no universal, “right” answers. We might as well let the government tell us what to eat, what to wear, where to live, and what God to believe in – and if Obamacare stands, our government will eventually do just that.
Quite frankly, I think the advice to Republicans to simply stand silent and “let Obamacare implode” is foolish. There is no hope of Obamacare imploding. It’s not a malformed bomb, governed by physical principles. It’s a man-made political arrangement. Its defenders will keep moving the goalposts and changing the rules to keep it on the field. It will get all the overtime it needs. The only way to defeat Obamacare is to actually counter it with a plan and a principled argument.
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It has taken a long time, but the price of hearing aids is in the process of falling dramatically. How has this happened? Technological innovation, of course, but there is more. There’s no shortage of technological innovation in U.S. health care. However, because third-party payers, that is, health insurers and governments, determine prices, there is no mechanism for customers to signal value to providers.
This is not the case for hearing aids: Although some states have mandated insurance coverage for hearing aids, this is usually limited to disabled children. The big market for hearing aids is seniors, and Medicare does not cover hearing aids.
This is another case of a phenomenon observed elsewhere by NCPA Senior Fellow Devon Herrick: Where patients pay directly for medical care, prices fall like they do in every other market.
(Via Leif Smith on Twitter.)
(I’m off to a book event today – the Christmas Market, or Weihnachtsmarkt, at the conference center in New Braunfels, for the launch of The Quivera Trail. In the mean time, another thrilling frontier adventure. The details and the quotes are taken from Walter Prescott Webb’s history of the Rangers, which is so powerfully testosterone-laden that I have to keep it sectioned between a couple of … milder-themed books which have a sedating effect.)
After the debacle of the Civil War, the Texas Rangers barely existed as an entity – either in Indian-fighting, or law-enforcing. The Federal government would not countenance the organization of armed bodies of volunteers for any purpose. Combating Indians or cross-border bandits was the business of the regular Army; interested semi-amateurs need not apply. But a Reconstruction-Republican governor, E. J. Davis, did institute a state police force in 1870, the existence of which was lauded as necessary for the preservation of law and order – such as it was. The state police under Davis was relatively short-lived and unadorned by laurels during its brief term, being dissolved at the end of his administration – but one of their officers had such a sterling reputation that when the Texas Rangers were formally reorganized, he was charged with heading one of the two divisions. One was the Frontier Battalion, dedicated to the Ranger’s traditional mission of fighting hostile Indians. The other – the Special Force – was charged with generally upholding law and order, shortly to become the Ranger’s modern raison d’être. Leander Harvey McNelly served for only a brief time in the interim of the change from Indian fighting to upholding law and order – but his leadership inspired many of those Rangers who took note of his personal example to heart.
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For as long as I can remember this little book has been moving with me from home to home. I have had it for a long time.
“History of the United States Illustrated, Volume IV, 1861-1888″ by E. Benjamin Andrews. Printed in 1903.
Having put a stop to most of my book buying until I read my current stack, this one was next. I am glad I hung on to it. Knowing the way I operate I am sure that I got it from a garage sale or something.
Mr. Andrews, and I would suppose that most people around the turn of the century, were intensely proud of what America had accomplished up to this point. This was made pretty clear after the Civil War and Reconstruction portions of the book. The public works and transportation projects that were completed were astounding given the technology of the time.
One portion of the book in particular caught my interest over all the rest, and that was the section on the Fisheries Disputes. Oddly, there isn’t even a wiki entry on this, as a whole subject.
Basically, these disputes were between the US, Great Britain and Canada over fishing rights. Many treaties had been drawn up over the years, but due to wars, some treaties were considered null and void, and typically one side would have one strong position with their legal points, and the other side would do the same. I don’t want to bore you with too many details in this footnote of history, but I found it fascinating how the author of a general history of the United States during this time found the Disputes so important to include them in the volume.
I had never even heard of the Fisheries Disputes before, and I have been reading history books all of my life.
Which brings me back to the main point of this rambling post. I remembered part of America 3.0 while reading the part about the Fisheries Disputes. This from page XXV of the Introduction:
However, the focus of this book is on the longer term, centuries into the past and decades into the future. Over such a large span of time our current political struggles, as engrossing as they are now, will mostly sink into history as mere noise around a discernible signal. Only the passage of time will confirm what that signal is, and whether our hopeful predictions were well grounded.
Does anyone remember the Dubai Ports Scandal? I am sure some of you do, but in a few years there won’t be too many left that do. Interesting how history keeps teaching me.
Cross posted at LITGM.
Majority Leader Harry Reid has succeeded in getting the Senate to change the rules such that most of Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote.
This action is simply one more manifestation of the Democrats’ hostility toward any limitations on government power…at least, any limitations of government power as long as they are in control (which they clearly intend to be for a long, long time.)
While the Obama administration is clearly more hostile toward the institutions of American democracy than even most previous Democratic presidents have been, still, the desire of Democrats to remove constraints on government power goes back a long ways. As I noted in a comment to this post, Woodrow Wilson believed that separation of powers was obsolete…he argued for this viewpoint based on extremely simplistic reasoning about the “organic” nature of government and the assertion that an organism could not have “organs offset against each other as checks, and live.” (As I also noted in the same comment thread, one would think that anyone who had run any kind of organization would understand the need for “organs offset against each other as checks.” even at the simple level of an auditing department and the separation of payment authorization from payment execution…and, of course, the concepts of feedback control and homeostasis clearly demonstrate the need for those “organs offset against each other” in any complex system.)
Also in the same thread, Vader cited someone who had said that Wilson’s belief in his own moral righteousness was so great as to approach mental illness. This is clearly also true of Obama, probably to an even greater degree than it was true of Wilson. And people with this level of arrogance, of course, tend to be especially impatient of any restraints on their power.
But it goes far beyond Obama himself. The growth of educational credentialism has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people who believe that their college degrees…entirely irrespective of any actual accomplishments that they have made or actual knowledge that they possess…have given them preternatural wisdom and hence they right and duty to control the lives of their less-enlightened countrymen.
American democracy is in grave danger. The 2014 elections will probably be the last chance to keep this country..and the world…from going down a very dark path. I’m reminded of a speech Winston Churchill gave during the years of appeasement, specifically in March 1938, in which he spoke of Britain and its allies:
descending incontinently, recklessly, the staircase which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad staircase at the beginning, but, after a bit, the carpet ends. A little further on there are only flagstones, and, a little further on still, these break beneath your feet.
See also my related post When law yields to absolute power.
Just re-read Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native (outstanding) and watched the 1994 movie (pretty good.) The book, like much Victorian literature, was originally serialized in a magazine, in this case Belgravia: a Magazine of Fashion and Amusement.
I found the original illustrations that accompanied the serialization here. Inclusion of illustrations was apparently quite expensive in comparison with straight text, even after the efficiency improvements that went with higher print volumes, so they tended to be fairly scarce–only 12 of them for the whole serialized novel, in this case.
More about the book and the economics of Victorian publishing here…it is interesting that the high cost of book encouraged lending libraries to insist that books be published broken into multiple volumes, so that reader access to the book could be “timeshared,” resulting in a higher ratio of revenue to cost.
Hardy and the artist who did the illustrations (Arthur Hopkins) were able to collaborate only by mail, and Hardy was not thrilled with the first image of his main female protagonist, Eustacia…he was happier with the later versions of this character.