Photos from Russia

Assmann Office Furniture from Germany. Nothing says prestige and professionalism like Assmann office furniture.

Bus driving pundits? Yes, I think the EU is robbing you as well.

Recipe from the Old Country

Chicagoboyz are connoisseurs of fine foods. I love smoked salmon in particular. Here’s an easy but really good recipe:

Buy fresh salmon, the fresher the better, and a bottle of salt. Get a zip-lock bag, or any sealable container. Cut the salmon filet/section in half, leaving the skin on, and de-bone. Rub handfuls of salt all over the salmon. Don’t worry about putting too much salt, it won’t affect the taste. Put the salmon in the bag, seal, and refrigerate for a day. Serve with bread.

Bon appetite.

Update: My mother in law corrected me. It’s not handfuls of salt, rather a good amount but not too much. I guess this is where the art of cooking comes into play.


Here’s a tech/web recommendation/review. I’m traveling in the boonies, meaning outside of the USA without broadband or cheap telephone service. In fact locally it costs about $1 per minute to call back to the states. Enter Skype. If you’ve used it before, you’ll know it has terrific sound quality. What really blew me away is its performance on dial-up. In the middle of nowhere, as long as you have a 56k internet connection, you can call from your laptop to any phone in the world for pennies. This is nothing new, as ICQ has a similar service with IDT’s Net2phone, which I tried before as well. Skype wins hands down however. The sound quality is better than a regular phone, but more importantly, there is no lag or dropped sounds.

If you’re traveling with a laptop, and need a cheap way to call home, get Skype.

Propaganda of the Day

“The last time the U.S. withheld funds, it led to a huge debt to the U.N. and inhibited our ability to lead within the institution,” Wirth said. “This is like trying to force a bank to renegotiate your home mortgage by refusing to make your monthly payments.”

Timothy Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation

Uh… no. Witholding funds to the U.N. is more akin to a casino withholding credit to a gambling junkie who can’t win and can’t stop.

Offshoring Jobs – Literally

Here’s an interesting twist on offshoring jobs: buy an old cruise ship, park it in international waters 3 miles off Los Angeles, and fill it with programmers. Very smart in terms of circumventing H1B visas. India without the travel time. Outsourcing opponents will have a fit with this one. But in terms of logistical intelligence, it’s brilliant if they can pull it off. The article cites $10 million as their target price for an old cruise ship, which seems a bit low. Gotta love the free market.

Via Slashdot


Here’s a picture of a display I like from the World War II museum in Moscow. My first impression was that’s a lot of dead/captured of the Wehrmacht’s best.

Lex put it better than me:

It was the Soviet soldier who killed the Wehrmacht. His story is too little known. It does not in any way diminish what our GIs and the British tommies did to say that Ivan bore the heaviest burden, rose from the ashes of defeat, never gave up, and battered the Germans into the dirt. He served an evil regime, but he was fighting for his life and the life of his people, and his country had been invaded, so by the playground rule (who started this?) he was the good guy.

First shots fired vs Internet fair use

During the CBS/Rathergate fiasco, Lex predicted a counterattack is coming from the MSM. I predicted the MSM will go after linking/fair use, a la Drudgereport.

Today Drudge has the following headline:

Agence France Presse Sues Over Google News

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Agence France Presse has sued Google Inc. (GOOG), alleging the Web search leader includes AFP’s photos, news headlines and stories on its news site without permission.

It’s a shot across the bow, methinks.

Pretty smart move. If they sued a helpless individual, they would get the free speech/uproar factor. Sue another media company with deep pockets, and no one really cares. It becomes a technical fight by lawyers. Fight it out, and get a ruling on the side of copyright protection. Then use this ruling as a saber to rattle down the road.


Courtesy of Soldiers for the Truth

“We were moving down the street, clearing buildings,” Kasal recounted. “A Marine came out wounded from a building and said there were three more wounded Marines trapped in there with a bunch of bad guys (insurgents). As we entered, we noticed several dead Iraqis on the floor and one of our wounded.”

Kasal said there was no question of what to do. “If I was a general I would still think my job was to get the wounded Marines out of there,” he said. “So we went in to get them.”

As soon as he entered the two-story stucco and brick building, Kasal found himself in mortal combat. It was fighting to the death, and there was no quarter expected or given, Kasal said.

“An Iraqi pointed an AK-47 at me and I moved back. He fired and missed. I shot and killed him. I put my barrel up against his chest and pulled the trigger over and over until he went down. Then I looked around the wall and put two into his forehead to make sure he was dead.”

While Kasal and a young Pfc. Alexander Nicoll were taking out the insurgent behind the wall, another one with an AK hiding on the stairs to the second floor began firing at the Marines on full automatic. “That’s when I went down, along with one of my Marines (Nicoll). Then I noticed the hand grenade.”

It was a green pineapple grenade, Kasal said. It flew into the room out of nowhere and landed near the two downed men. Kasal now believes that other Marines who were watching their back left the room for reasons he still doesn’t know and an insurgent was able to somehow get behind him.

Kasal said his first instinct was to protect the young Marine lying bloody beside him. He covered the young man with his body and took the full brunt of shrapnel to his back when the grenade exploded. Kasal’s body armor and helmet protected his vital organs but the shrapnel penetrated the exposed portions of his shoulders, back, and legs, causing him to bleed profusely.

“I took my pressure bandage and put it on his leg,” Kasal remembered. “Then I tried to put Nicoll’s pressure bandage on a wound on his chest but it is very hard to get a flak jacket off a wounded man and I was bleeding and fading in and out.”

Nicoll survived the grenade blast and his previous bullet wounds but lost his right leg. “An artery was cut and they had to amputate his leg,” Kasal said. “I have seen him and talked to him several times since we got back to the States. He is doing OK.”

The grenade blast stunned Kasal. He floated in and out of consciousness. But in the back of his mind a voice kept telling him he had to stay alert or the Iraqis were going to come back and finish him and Nicoll off. “They weren’t going to let us live if they knew we were alive. It was kill or be killed,” he said.

Kasal wrestled his 9mm automatic out of its holster and lay on the floor waiting for help. It was thirty or forty minutes before other Marines arrived.

“That’s when I got shot in the butt,” Kasal recalled. “It was the shootout at the OK Corral – point-blank range. I was lying there shooting and somebody shot me through both cheeks. It smarted a bit.”

Kasal did not know the exact extent of his wounds until much later; all he knew was that he was badly hurt. He was floating in and out of consciousness, ultimately losing 60 percent of his blood before he was rescued. After first aid, Kasal and Nicoll were transported to a field hospital in Iraq, then flown to Landstuhl, Germany, where Kasal was hospitalized for a week before arriving at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

“I took seven rounds; five in my right leg, one in my foot and one to the buttocks area. When the grenade went off I got 30 to 40 pieces of shrapnel in my back,” Kasal said he later discovered.

What do you say to that? Makes me choke up just reading about it.

Thanks to Blackfive and Fred.

Quote of the Day

Goes to the good folks at The Diplomad:

And the 300 trucks? Notice how the UN press release rolls together IOM and UN. It would be akin to stating, “Between them the United States and Mexico have 12 aircraft carrier battlegroups.” Technically true, but . . . The overwhelming majority of those trucks are IOM’s — arranged and paid for by USAID.

Chicagoboyz Coordinating-Committee for the Coordination of Coordinators for Pan-European Aid (Please won’t you help?)

Here at Chicagoboyz, our hearts bleed for victims of natural disasters.

In our constant strive to do good in the world, and rallying behind Jan Egeland�s inspirational call to be less stingy, I want to take up the cause of victims in Florida ravaged by the worst hurricane disaster in recent memory. Taking inspiration from the United Nations, and The Diplomad, I propose setting up the Chicagoboyz Coordinating-Committee for the Coordination of Coordinators for Pan-European Aid (or CCCP for short). The mission of the CCCP will be to act as the primary coordinators coordinating the collection of aid from European countries.

Read more

Quote of the Day

From Dennis Prager, one of my favorite op/ed writers:

Wish No. 2: The ACLU will create a leftist Boy Scouts.

The ACLU and other leftist groups are highly accomplished at destroying good institutions such as the Boy Scouts. But they rarely build good institutions. So instead of trying to destroy the Boy Scouts — because the Scouts require its members to make an oath to God and country and because the Scouts believe that boys and men who publicly announce they are sexually attracted only to males should not be Scouts — the ACLU should build something for boys in the image of its values. Since it is so easy to destroy, dear leftists, why not try to build? Start perhaps with a Progressive Boy Scouts that will have no oaths to God and will welcome all males who announce they are homosexual. Then one day we will see which Boy Scouts produces better people.

Amazon It Is

Thanks Fred for pointing out this interesting tidbit:

Maud Newton and Mark Sarvas are boycotting Amazon because, according, 61% of Amazon’s political donations went to Republicans — whereas Borders gave 100% and B&N gave 98% to Democrats. Seems a bit harsh to me, but I can respect their stance.

I’ve always liked Amazon. Great layout, fast delivery, and good prices.

Borders and B&N always seemed overpriced (both books and food/drink) with limited selection. Nice to browse, but when you need something specific, Amazon (or the local library) is the place to go. Not to mention the wear and tear public browsing causes at Borders and B&N. If I want to buy a new book or magazine, I rather it be new…

So I won’t be throwing my money at Borders and B&N anymore. is a useful site. I’ll be sure to use it to check who the big Republican donors are and buy from them.

Social Insecurity

I’m not a fan of big government. Being an honorary Chicagoboy, I think given any task, chances are, the private sector will do it twice as well for half the cost. So obviously, I think Social Security is a joke, and that private accounts are the way to go. Since it’s the Christmas lull, I put some ink to paper, which me being a financial analyst, means putting it on Excel. I did a simple spreadsheet to see how a private account for a baby boomer household retiring in 2004 would have fared against the government. This is based on commonly available information, so is not a fine tuned model, but it’s enough to make my point.

I took the Census bureau’s household income from 1967 to 2003. I assumed 2004 income levels are the same as 2003 for simplicity sake since it’s not available yet. I assumed the current 6.2% Social Security tax rate is the same from 1967 to 2004 also for simplicity’s sake. The assumption is that the 6.2% tax would go into a government administered private account instead of the general pot. I then took the Dow Jones Industrial Average from July 1, 1967 to July 1, 2004, and calculated the compounded annual returns for the private account. I picked the July 1st mid-year point to correct for year-end fluctuations. I based the returns on the DJIA because it’s available. I would have preferred the S&P 500, or a broad market index such as the Wilshire 5000, but they aren’t available. The good is that the DJIA represents the best of American industry such as GE, Coke, and Boeing. The bad is that it doesn’t truly reflect the technology revolution as say the S&P 500 would. But it’s life.

Assume also that after retirement the account shifts to a low risk interest bearing account earning 5% a year on the unused account balance.

According to their website, the current, unfunded, maximum payout for 2005 Social Security payments is $869 a month; which translates to $10,428 per year.

Assume someone had a stroke of genius in 1967, and enacted the Social Security Reform Act of 1967, shifting all contributions to private accounts and invested the accounts in the DJIA.

Assume further that Incognito’s worker bee household began contributions to the account at age 25 in 1967, retiring in 2004 at age 62. If Nito’s household has always been in the mid-tier household income bracket, his final 2004 household income would be $54,453 a year. Under the plan, his monthly payout from the plan would be $1,417 a month, or $17,000 a year. This is 63% more than the current Social Security payout. The huge difference is that the private account is funded for 20 years of retirement, or to age 82.

Say Nito’s household is in the top income bracket for all or most of his life. His final 2004 household income would be $154,120 a month. His household payments for retirement would be $3,583 a month, or $43,000 a year. Again, this would be fully funded for 20 years of retirement.

Second tier 2004 household income would be $86,867 a year. Monthly payments would be $2,167 a month or $26,000 a year.

Say Nito wasn’t very successful in life. Fourth tier ending 2004 household income would be $34,000 a year. Social Security payments would be $950 a month, or $11,400 a year. Fifth tier ending 2004 income would be $17,984 a year. Social Security payments would be $504 a month, or $6,050 a year. Again the big difference being that it’s fully funded.

So the only time you’ll be below the current Social Security maximum is if both husband and wife make minimum wage all their lives.

Change the number of retirement years from 20 to 15 or 10, and you’ll be living well.

What-if numbers amount to exactly zero ($0). But it makes you think.

Maybe 37 years from now we’ll still be talking about reforming Social Security. Maybe someone will say wow, wouldn’t it have been a great idea to put it in private accounts?

Here is my Excel.

More thoughts: Based on the Census Bureau, there are 112 million households in the U.S. If you take the current annual mid bracket Social Security contribution of $3,376 a year as the average, that’s $378 billion a year. Investing private accounts for Social Security in a broad market index would imply putting 98% of the amount back into the economy (index funds charge about 1% for management fees, going by my rule of thumb for government implies a 2% management fee for lazy bureaucrats.) You can argue that putting $370 billion back into the economy would create a tremendous amount of new jobs, which in theory would cascade into more income, more contributions, etc etc. lifting all boats.

Update: Looks like good ol’ Cato Institute was way ahead of me:

For example, assuming historical rates of return, if individuals born in 1970 were allowed to invest in stocks the amount they currently pay in Social Security taxes, those individuals could receive nearly six times the benefits that they are scheduled to receive under Social Security, as much as $11,729 per month. Even a low-wage earner would receive nearly three times the return on Social Security.

Update 2: Thanks to Cole for pointing out the correct historical rates.

I’ve updated the excel and the numbers blow away the current Social Security payments. Even the lowest bracket is comparable to the current unfunded maximum payout:

Defund NASA

Here’s a good article by Paul Jacob on the merits of defunding NASA, and allowing private enterprise to lead the charge into space.

Americans and scientists and the current space industry must wean themselves from the idea of subsidy — a point I often make, of other industries, in my Common Sense e-letter. No matter how expertly NASA charges corporations for its services, such as satellite placement and repair, the very existence of a government-funded service bureau introduces a corrupting element into the industry.

Private enterprise can bloom in space. But only by getting NASA and government subsidies out.

Update: Ken made an excellent point in the comments. I was reponding, but I’ll respond here.

The free market has a record of innovation, lowering cost, and improving quality, particularly so in the high tech/high science industry. Government can and should piggy back off the private sector.

You would be surprised what private enterprise will fund. For example, say launch costs for putting heavy loads into space are cut to the point of commodity. Then the variable cost of the high-end research is diminished more or less to the research itself. Even that would probably benefit from privatization. Some company out there will want to look into Magnetic Sail Plasma Beam Propulsion. VC funded startups would want to patent it. Skunk works for the big defense companies would be the candidates with the infrastructure and knowledge base to support it. Letting a VC funded startup shoulder the cost for an expensive bleeding edge technology has historically been a very successful model. For that one startup that figures it out, the payoff would be, literally, astronomical. The other 99% of VC funded startups may be complete duds/write-offs. But that payoff is exactly what VC’s are gunning for. Say I am Kleiner Perkins. I would set aside $100 million, find 10 companies showing the most promise in space propulsion and put $10 million into each. If there aren’t any companies, I would incubate them (KPCB has an in-house entrepreneur program iirc) I would then syndicate the companies to where I own about 20% of each company to lessen the risk, and the companies would get more money to work with. So each company would get about $50 million in funding. If even one company does hit it big, that $10 million is going to be worth a lot more than $100 million. What’s high end space propulsion worth? If they had a lock on Magnetic Sail Plasma Beam Propulsion, I would value it in the public markets to the tune of $5 to $10 billion. 20% of $5 billion is $1 billion, for a 10 fold return on the original investment of $100 million. Bingo, science fiction becomes reality, and we have a new propulsion system.

It’s one scenario. But my main point is that government has a lackluster track record for innovation. They tend to play it safe when it comes to being a catalyst for major change. So why not let the profit-driven private sector do it? It may not seem as “noble” as the pure pursuit of science, but it has a knack of getting the job done.

Strong Tank

I’ve been a fan of the Army’s M1 Abrams tank since I was a kid. Most kids were reading comic books or baseball magazines; I was reading about U.S. and Soviet tank designs (I was a strange kid). Here’s an interesting site with pictures titled “M1A1 Abrams Lessons Learned During Iraq War 2003”. Here is the original powerpoint. One interesting outtake was the destruction of an abandoned M1 to not compromise the vehicle and/or technology. According to them it:

“Took one thermite grenade, one sabot in turret ammunition compartment, and two Maverick missiles to finally destroy the tank”.

Strong tank.

Update: The armor on the M1 is Chobham armor. Here is a brief description of it from

“Chobham armour is a composite armour developed at the British tank research centre on Chobham Common. Although the exact composition of Chobham armour remains a secret, it appears to be a combination of ceramic layered between armour steel plating, a combination that is excellent at defeating high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds. Possible ceramics for such armours are: Boron carbide, Silicon carbide, Aluminium oxide (Sapphire), or Titanium boride.

The exact nature of the protection offered by this layering remained a mystery for some time, but it was eventually revealed that Chobham armour works in a manner somewhat similar to reactive armour. When the armour is hit by a HEAT round the ceramic layer shatters under the impact point, forming a dust under high pressure. When the HEAT round “burns through” the outer layers of armour and reaches the ceramic, the dust comes flying back out the hole, slowing the jet of metal.

Modern tanks also have to face KE-penetrator rounds of various sorts, which the ceramic layer is not particularly effective against. For this reason many modern designs include additional layers of heavy metals to add more density to the overall armor package. The metal used appears to be either tungsten or, in the case of later M1 Abrams tanks, depleted uranium.

The effectiveness of Chobham armour was demonstrated in the first Gulf War, where no Coalition tank was destroyed by the obsolete Iraqi armor. In some cases the tanks in question were subject to multiple point-blank hits by both KE-penetrators and HEAT rounds, but the old Russian ammunition used by the Iraqis, in their Polish licence built T-72’s, their old T-55’s bought from Russia and upgraded with “enigma” type armour, and T-62 tanks left them completely incapable of penetrating coalition armour. It’s also worth noting that the Iraqis rarely actually hit the coalition tanks, because of lack of training and inferior optics. To date, only 5-10 Chobham-protected tanks have been defeated by enemy fire in combat, including an M1 that was hit by an RPG-7 in the Second Gulf War; no crewmembers of either the M1 or Britain’s Challenger II have been killed as a result of armour penetration.

The latest version of Chobham armour is used on the Challenger II (called Dorchester armour), and (though the composition most probably differs) the M1 Abrams series of tanks. Though it is often claimed to be otherwise, the Leopard II does not in fact use Chobham armour.”

Gung Ho

Drudge has a good link to raw footage of the fighting in Fallujah.

When this battle started for some reason I kept thinking of the battle of Stalingrad in World War 2 and the street fighting there. It says something about our boys over there that we had so relatively few casualties. I know, I know, tell it to the mother who lost a son. But, Thank God.

New Senate Minority Leader

I was curious who the new Senate Minority Leader will be, and it looks like the Dems have tapped Harry Reid from Nevada. On the face of it, things look promising. He’s a Mormon who is pro-life. This may rankle some folks out there, but the fact that he’s a Mormon and pro-life carries weight with me. I have a high opinion of Mormons, mainly because I’ve worked with quite a few during my career. For me, Mormons tend to be hardworking, religious people who are very very friendly. And based on what I’ve read, Reid looks like a reasonable man. Here are a few articles I read to get up to speed:

EDITORIAL: Sen. Harry Reid, minority leader

Nevada senator in line to assume minority-leader job

Las Vegas SUN: Reid confident in his bid for minority leader

Reid, Durbin May Be Democratic Leaders in Senate, Carper Says

Senate Dems look for new leader

Hopefully he’s not a dual identity Senator like Daschle: country boy at home, ultra leftist in D.C. But with Nevada being a Red State, that should at a minimum keep him in check. But there’s hope. Perhaps the Dem’s will get the message, and make this a part of the their push toward the center.

Maybe the Dems haven’t learned anything, and the ultra left is still driving the party. What would be funny, and the ideal situation for Republicans in 2006, is if the Dems decide that Reid is too soft spoken, and elect a more vocal heir to Daschle. What would be even more funny is if Kerry gets tapped to be the new Minority Leader. He is still a Senator after all.

As a side note, being that Kerry is still a Senator with responsiblity to the American people, shouldn’t he present all the secret plans he had while campaigning? If he did in fact have plans to get us out of Iraq and create 10 million jobs, shouldn’t he present and champion them now as a duty to the American people since he is still a Senator?

Ultimately, the Senate Minority Leader position is what Reid makes of it. The battle next year will be in approving judges, hopefully Reid will be more amenable.