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  • Archive for the 'Big Government' Category

    The very bad Continuing Resolution and how we got here.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th February 2019 (All posts by )

    We now have a a terrible non-compromise Continuing Resolution on border security. The Appropriations committee reported out HR31, the Continuing Resolution.

    The Homeland Security division of this bill upholds Democratic values and funds smart and effective border security including construction and screening technology at ports of entry, where most drugs illegally enter the country.

    The $1.375 billion it provides for border barriers is 76% less than the President demanded for a concrete wall, and critical protections are put in place for environmentally sensitive areas.

    Neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, yet every Democrat and nearly every Republican who served on the conference committee to write this bill has signed it in support.

    Boilerplate. The real story is what was inserted in conference.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Immigration, Politics | 4 Comments »

    Sneaky Robots and Robotic Bureaucrats

    Posted by David Foster on 10th January 2019 (All posts by )

    An artificial intelligence program was assigned the task of turning satellite images into street maps.  It was graded by comparing reconstructed images (reconstructed from the map) and comparing them with the original; also, by the clarity of the street map.  The grades were used by the program to continually improved its performance.

    But what the program sneakily learned to do was to encode details of the original image into the street map, in a manner invisible to humans, thereby optimizing its grade on the reconstructed image…independently of how well the street map…which was the actual desired product…actually reflected the original image.

    Humans, also, often respond to incentives in ways very different from those expected by the designers of those incentives…as many creators of sales commission plans and manufacturing bonus plans have discovered.  Bureaucracies, especially, tend to respond to the measurements placed on them in ways that are not consistent with the interests of the larger organization or society that they are supposed to be serving.  See Stupidity, Communist-Style and Capitalist-Style and The Reductio ad Absurdum of Bureaucratic Liberalism.

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Deep Thoughts, Management, Russia, Tech | 1 Comment »

    Industrial Electrification and the Technological Illiteracy of the US Army Air Corps Tactical School 1920-1940

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 1st January 2019 (All posts by )

    This blog post on “Industrial Electrification and the Technological Illiteracy of the U.S. Army Air Tactical School 1920-1940” marks the new year with a departure from past history columns I’ve written for Chicagoboyz in that it is exploring a theme I refer to as “The Bane of Technologically Illiterate Military Leaders.”[1] As such, it will not be fully fleshed out with sources and notes.  Consider it a ‘first draft’ of an article I’ll post later.

    The issue with ‘Technologically Illiterate Military Leaders‘ I’ll be exploring in this and future articles is that such leaders tend to make the same classes of mistakes over and over again.  And when those military leaders reach flag rank on the bones of theories and doctrines that fail the test of combat through their technological illiteracy.  They then bury the real reasons why those doctrines failed behind walls of jargon and classification to avoid accountability for those failures.

    Where you can see this pattern most easily in the historical record is with the US Army Air Corp Tactical School (ACTS) “Industrial Web” theory of strategic bombing  and it’s inability to understand what the changes that industrial electrification caused had meant to this theory.  The “Industrial Web”  theory stated there were “choke points” in an industrial economy which bombing would cause a disproportionate reduction in enemy nation’s weapons production supporting total war.[2]

    Figure 1 — This is an example of early industrial age direct mechanical power transmission that was replaced by small electric motor powered tooling in the 1920 to 1940 time period. The US Army’s Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) early 1930’s era “Industrial Web” theory of strategic bombing was built upon this technological paradigm. Many of the failures of the World War 2 Combined Bomber Offensive can be laid at the feet of Western military leaders illiteracy of what the move to electric motor power, and away from this technology, meant to the vulnerabilities of industrial economies. Source: Wikipedia

    On the surface, this was a logical sounding intellectual construct.  In practice, it failed miserably at places like the 14 October 1943 second Schweinfurt raid on German ball bearing factories and the  Yawata Strike,  the start of the early B-29 campaign on Japanese Coke ovens.

    The unavoidable, in hindsight, issue for USAAF leaders trained in the Air Corps Tactical School in the period between 1920 and 1940 was that it spanned the change in industrial infrastructure from steam engine, line shaft and power belt to electric motor powered mass production.[3]  Thus the ACTS theorists had a fundamentally flawed understanding of industrial economies vulnerability to aerial bombing going into World War 2 (WW2) because they were technologically illiterate regards the radical change industrial electrification caused.

    This flawed understanding was that roof damage in a factory with line shaft and drive belt power transmission — whether steam or electric driven — stops all production until the roof-mounted line shaft is re-seated or replaced.  This was not the case for electric motor delivered power located on the factory floor.  The technological illiteracy here was not seeing the fact that electric motors fundamentally disassociated factory production processes from factory physical structure. [4]

    The basic idea that ACTS theorists had at the time was that their “Industrial Web” was a serial system where every component had to work to produce an effect.  Thus ACTS theorists fundamentally believed in the “weak link” theory of reliability, rather than the need to obliterate all key components that a parallel, or complex serial/parallel system, with redundancy required.   The point failure weakness of line shaft and drive belt industrial infrastructure fit this “serial system with a weak link” belief system of ACTS theorists to a tee. [5]

    So when you read wartime USAAF bomb damage assessment reports from the WW2  Combined Bombing Campaign giving such and such percentages of factory roof’s destroyed being used as a means of determining whether production there was knocked out.  You are seeing a “weak link” short hand based upon line shaft power transmission infrastructure assumptions.

    When you read later post-war bomb damage surveys reading  “…that machines and machine tools were damaged far less severely than factory structures,” you are seeing a USAAF staffer dodging those pre-WW2 “Industrial Web/Weak Link” line shaft infrastructure assumptions by not using the term at all.

    This sort of language shift to hide real world meanings with jargon, thus neatly avoiding accountability for failure in combat, is one of the classic ‘poker tells’ in researching ‘Technologically Illiterate Military Leaders‘.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Energy & Power Generation, Germany, History, Japan, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, War and Peace | 75 Comments »

    Trump is winning on immigration.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 28th December 2018 (All posts by )

    We currently have a “partial government shutdown” which no one seems to notice. Most of the appropriations bills were passed and signed. The Homeland Security budget became a Continuing Resolution and is being held hostage in the Senate where Chuck Schumer has vowed “So, President Trump, you will not get your wall,”

    Trump has not vetoed anything so the responsibility for the “shutdown” is not obvious. The 40,000 federal employees who are furloughed or not getting paid are over 80% Democrats. The most recent pay period will result in checks today. Then the next pay period in two weeks will be the one where the “nonessentials” will not be paid.

    Schumer: “So, President Trump, you will not get your wall,” Schumer added. “Abandon your shutdown strategy. You’re not getting the wall today, next week, or on January 3 when Democrats take control of the House.”

    How is this playing in the country ? Some surprises.

    Ann Althouse reads the Washington Post so I don’t have to.

    She notices the comments to that article on the child that died in US custody.

    I’ve excerpted the parts of the article that might make a reader want to blame the father. Was the boy exploited? Was he regarded as expendable? There’s plenty else in the article that might make you want to blame the U.S. government (mainly for not giving quicker medical treatments). I would also think many readers would mostly feel sad that a boy died and bemoan poverty generally. So I was surprised at how harsh the comments were against the father. I didn’t expect this at The Washington Post. This is the most liked comment:
    This child’s siblings in Guatemala are alive and well. The child was dragged to the US using money that could have paid the father’s overdue electric bill, which is not a reason to grant asylum.

    I wonder how long the Democrats will let this go on if Trump does not cave in ? He seems to have a gut instinct about what Americans think.

    CNN seems to think that signing MAGA hats in Iraq is some sort of crime.

    CNN Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr said “a lot of questions” have been raised following President Trump’s surprise visit to troops in Iraq where he signed ‘Make America Great Again’ hats and flags.

    “There’s a lot of concern because military policy, military regulation prohibits military members in uniform from doing anything that can be construed as a political endorsement. That’s what you want from your U.S. military. They’re not a political force,” Starr reported.

    “How did the red hats get there? Some people are saying, well, the troops just brought them and wanted to get them signed. But even if that is the case, the question remains, there were commanders, there were senior enlisted personnel on the scene, they know the regulation. Why did this happen?” Starr asked.

    The cluelessness is almost painful. Obama signed stuff when he was president.

    What will the end game look like? The new House is even farther left wing than the Senate. Could the “shutdown” go on for months ?

    Look at the comments to the WaPoo article.

    Thank you. I am liberal myself but I get tired of people who shut off their critical thinking when it comes to brown people. This guy made a spectacularly risky decision, and his child paid the price. It’s on his head. This is, of course, on the assumption that the U.S. wasn’t negligent in the kid’s care – which is certainly possible. Nonetheless it’s his father who endangered him.

    This looks like trouble for Democrats. What if Trump stares down Democrats for months ?

    Posted in Big Government, Immigration, Politics, Trump | 63 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th December 2018 (All posts by )

    Rush Limbaugh on Dec. 7:

    Donald Trump arrived, the way I hear this Tillerson sound bite, Trump arrives knowing what he wants to do. He doesn’t arrive unsure and he’s not gonna admit that who doesn’t know what to do because he’s not from this world. He’s there, and he has a specific agenda that everybody that elected him knows what it is: Make America Great Again.
     
    Sadly, he hasn’t done a lot on that agenda. He hasn’t built the wall yet. We haven’t repealed and replaced Obamacare. There’s a lot of things in the Trump agenda that have not happened yet. But that’s not what Tillerson’s talking about. Tillerson’s talking about some guy comes in and says, “This is what I want to happen.” And your typical Washington bureaucrat or CEO bureaucrat will say, “Well, where’s the memo? Where’s the plan? Where’s the blueprint?”
     
    Trump said, “There’s no blueprint. Just do it! This is what I want to happen. This is what I want.”
     
    “Well, uh, you know, you shouldn’t do it that way.”
     
    “I don’t care what you — just make it happen.” Trump is one of these, this is how he’s worked, “make it happen.” If he’s talking to Jared, if he’s talking to Trump Jr. or Eric or Ivanka, “This is what I want, make it happen.” That’s not how Washington works. Washington works on things not happening. The whole point of bureaucracy is to not do such that it looks like you’re getting things done. There might not be any need for you after you finish. So everything’s never done. Of course Trump’s gonna have compatibility problems with that.

    [emphasis added]

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Politics, Quotations, Systems Analysis, Trump | 14 Comments »

    Is Paris Burning ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 2nd December 2018 (All posts by )

    A famous request from Adolf Hitler was also the tile of a book about the liberation of Paris in 1944, and might be a question about the riots of this week by the “Yellow Vests”

    There is not a single media report about the Yellow Vest demonstrations in Paris and France that I’ve read or watched that has not been slanted by Fake News.

    It has (usually) not been deliberate, I gather, and nobody has said anything factually wrong; what is the problem is the fact that (very) important stuff has been omitted.

    It is not wrong to say that the demonstrations were caused by the government’s decision to raise gas prices. What is missing is that this is just one of several draconian measures dating back half a year, i.e., ‘tis the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

    It requires someone on the scene to describe what has really been happening.

    For the past four to five months, the French government has done nothing but double down on bringing more and more gratuitous oppression and more and more unwarranted persecution measures down on the necks the nation’s drivers and motorcycle riders.

    In fact, the imposition of ever harsher rules has been going on for the past decade and a half or so — whether the government was on the right or on the left — and that is why the choice of les gilets jaunes (the yellow jackets) by the demonstrators is particularly ironic.

    The 2008 law (under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy) requiring the presence of high-visibility vests (gilets de haute visibilité) aka security vests (gilets de sécurité) in every vehicle — hardly an unreasonable rule, for sure, as similar ones exist throughout the continent — was just another example of the myriad of evermore-onerous rules for car and motorcycle owners over the past 15 years, and so the government in effect provided the 2018 rebels with their uniforms.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Current Events, Europe, France | 56 Comments »

    The Revenge of John McCain.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 1st December 2018 (All posts by )

    John McCain Was elected to Congress in 1982 and elected to the Senate in 1986 taking the seat previously held by Barry Goldwater. In 1989, he was involved in the “Keating Five Scandal.

    The five senators—Alan Cranston (Democrat of California), Dennis DeConcini (Democrat of Arizona), John Glenn (Democrat of Ohio), John McCain (Republican of Arizona), and Donald W. Riegle, Jr. (Democrat of Michigan)—were accused of improperly intervening in 1987 on behalf of Charles H. Keating, Jr., Chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which was the target of a regulatory investigation by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB). The FHLBB subsequently backed off taking action against Lincoln.

    The late 1980s were the era of the Savings and Loan scandals.

    The Federal Home Loan Bank Act of 1932 created the S&L system to promote homeownership for the working class. The S&Ls paid lower-than-average interest rates on deposits. In return, they offered lower-than-average mortgage rates. S&Ls couldn’t lend money for commercial real estate, business expansion, or education. They didn’t even provide checking accounts.

    In 1934, Congress created the FSLIC to insure the S&L deposits. It provided the same protection that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation does for commercial banks. By 1980, the FSLIC insured 4,000 S&Ls with total assets of $604 billion. State-sponsored insurance programs insured 590 S&Ls with assets of $12.2 billion.

    Inflation in the late 1970s and early 1980s led to pressure on Savings and Loan institutions that had been lending money at 6% to home buyers but savers were demanding higher interest rates to compensate for inflation. The S&Ls were caught in the “Borrow high and Lend low” vise that led to their demise.

    My review of Nicole Gelinas’ book on the 2008 economic crisis includes some discussion of the 1986 problems.

    The story of the 2008 collapse begins in 1984 with the rescue of the Continental Illinois Bank. Here began the “too big to fail” story. Two things happened here that led to the crisis. One was the decision to bail out all depositors, including those whose deposits exceeded the FDIC maximum. Secondly, the FDIC guaranteed the bond holders, as well. Thus began the problem of moral hazard. Another feature of this story was the role of Penn Square Bank, which had gone under two years earlier in the wake of the oil price collapse, which devastated many of its poorly collateralized loans in the oil industry. Both banks had been caught seeking higher returns through risky investments. Penn Square, however, had been allowed to collapse. Continental was rescued and that began a trend that the author lays out in detail through most of the rest of the book.

    The 1986 crisis and the 1989 scandal affected McCain deeply. He was a freshman Senator and was probably included in the group for two reasons. First he was the only Republican and Second, Keating, a Phoenix developer, was a constituent. McCain was humiliated and his ego was as big as all outdoors.

    His reaction to his humiliation was once of the worst pieces of legislation in the 20th century, The McCain-Feingold Act.

    In 1995, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) jointly published an op-ed calling for campaign finance reform, and began working on their own bill. In 1998, the Senate voted on the bill, but the bill failed to meet the 60 vote threshold to defeat a filibuster. All 45 Senate Democrats and 6 Senate Republicans voted to invoke cloture, but the remaining 49 Republicans voted against invoking cloture. This effectively killed the bill for the remainder of the 105th Congress.

    McCain, still in his “Maverick mode and still running on ego, persisted.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Elections, Health Care, Personal Narrative, Politics | 19 Comments »

    A Critique of Electronic Health Records Systems

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd November 2018 (All posts by )

    …with extension to other kinds of application software.

    At the New Yorker, of all place:  Why Doctors Hate Their Computers.

    See also this 2012 article in the Atlantic.

    [Jonathan adds: See also this 2009 Chicago Boyz post and discussion.]

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Medicine, Tech | 8 Comments »

    Coupling

    Posted by David Foster on 15th November 2018 (All posts by )

    (No, this post is not about sex…sorry. Nor is it about electrical engineering, though it might at first give that impression.)

    The often-interesting General Electric blog has an article about drones, linked to a cloud-based AI platform, which are used to inspect power lines and detect incipient problems–for example, vegetation which is threatening to encroach on the lines and short them out, or a transformer with a tendency to overheat.  The article mentions a 2003 event in which an encounter between an overgrown tree branch and a sagging power line resulted in a wide-area blackout that affected 50 million people.

    The inspection drone sounds like a very useful and productivity-improving tool: obviously, inspecting thousands of miles of power lines is nontrivial job. But the deeper issue, IMO, is the fact that one problem in one place can propagate over such a wide area and affect such a vast number of people.  Power system designers and the people who operate these systems are certainly aware of the need to minimize fault propagation:  circuit breakers and fuses, network analysis tools,  and the technologies of protective relaying were developed, by GE among others, precisely for reasons of fault localization.  But experience shows that large-scale fault propagation still sometimes does take place.

    This problem is not limited to electrical systems.  The mention of the tree-branch-caused 2003 blackout reminded me of a passage from the historian Hendrik Willem Van Loon:

    Unfortunately in the year 1914 the whole world was one large international workshop. A strike in the Argentine was apt to cause suffering in Berlin. A raise in the price of certain raw materials in London might spell disaster to tens of thousands of long-suffering Chinese coolies who had never even heard of the existence of the big city on the Thames. The invention of some obscure Privat-Dozent in a third-rate German university would often force dozens of Chilean banks to close their doors, while bad management on the part of an old commercial house in Gothenburg might deprive hundreds of little boys and girls in Australia of a chance to go to college.

    This probably overstates the interconnectedness of the global economy as it existed in 1914, but would fit our present-day global economy very well.  (The author was talking about the origins of WWI, which he blamed largely on economic interconnectedness…not correct, IMO, but the war was largely caused, or at least reached the scale that it did, because of another type of interconnectedness…in the shape of alliances.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Capitalism, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Trump, War and Peace | 18 Comments »

    The Trump Russia Collusion story explained.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th October 2018 (All posts by )

    The election of Donald Trump as president in 2016 was a catastrophic event for a segment of the US government. It had been assumed by the entire “Ruling Class” that Hillary Clinton would, at last, be elected president. Books have been written about her reaction to the loss. One was titled, “Shattered” and recounted her reaction. A pretty good analysis in this Amazon book review.

    To be fair to the authors, they lay the blame for her loss squarely on her. They sort of feel bad about it but their close access makes it obvious to them and they are objective enough to report it. The other main person held responsible is campaign manager Robby Mooks, who is so enamored with ‘analytics’ that he can’t see the forest for the trees. The canary in the coal mine is Bill Clinton, who senses that his wife and her campaign are not connecting with the white working class, but is ignored by the team who consider him washed-up and out of date.

    What happened after she lost ? The Russia Collusion story was concocted.

    Here is an analysis of How it began and why.

    It turned out, however, that the dossier was a Clinton-campaign opposition-research project, the main allegations of which were based on third-hand hearsay from anonymous Russian sources. Worse, though the allegations could not be verified, the Obama Justice Department and the FBI used them to obtain surveillance warrants against Page, in violation of their own guidelines against presenting unverified information to the FISA court. Worse still, the Obama Justice Department withheld from the FISA court the facts that the Clinton campaign was behind the dossier and that Steele had been booted from the investigation for lying to the FBI.

    Now, more analysis is coming from Sharyl Attkisson.

    Taken together in context, the evidence points to two important findings. First, U.S. government insiders, colluding with numerous foreign citizens and governments, conspired to interfere in the 2016 election. Second, after the election, these figures conspired to undermine, oust, and perhaps even frame Trump and some of his associates.

    The methods used, according to factual accounts and witnesses, include collusion with reporters and politicians, leaks to the press, and paid political-opposition research. Officials in the intelligence community were involved in the effort, which included the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), domestic and foreign informants or spies, and electronic surveillance.

    Both articles are worth reading in full. The fact that other diversions are appearing, like the hoax bomb story, suggests that the Democrats know the Mueller “investigation” is going to be ended soon with a dud.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Elections, Politics, Trump | 10 Comments »

    Sputnik Anniversary Rerun – Book Review: Rockets and People

    Posted by David Foster on 4th October 2018 (All posts by )

    Today being the 61st  anniversary of the Sputnik launch, here’s a rerun of a post about a very interesting book.

    Rockets and People, by Boris E Chertok

    Boris Chertok’s career in the Russian aerospace industry spanned many decades, encompassing both space exploration and military missile programs. His four-volume memoir is an unusual document–partly, it reads like a high school annual or inside company history edited by someone who wants to be sure no one feels left out and that all the events and tragedies and inside jokes are appropriately recorded. Partly, it is a technological history of rocket development, and partly, it is a study in the practicalities of managing large programs in environments of technical uncertainty and extreme time pressure. Readers should include those interested in: management theory and practice, Russian/Soviet history, life under totalitarianism, the Cold War period, and missile/space technology. Because of the great length of these memoirs, those who read the whole thing will probably be those who are interested in all (or at least most) of the above subject areas. I found the series quite readable; overly-detailed in many places, but always interesting. In his review American astronaut Thomas Stafford said “The Russians are great storytellers, and many of the tales about their space program are riveting. But Boris Chertok is one of the greatest storytellers of them all.”  In this series, Chertok really does suck you into his world.

    Chertok was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1912: his mother had been forced to flee Russia because of her revolutionary (Menshevik) sympathies. The family returned to Russia on the outbreak of the First World War, and some of Chertok’s earliest memories were of the streets filled with red-flag-waving demonstrators in 1917. He grew up on the Moscow River, in what was then a quasi-rural area, and had a pretty good childhood–“we, of course, played “Reds and Whites,” rather than “Cowboys and Indians””–swimming and rowing in the river and developing an early interest in radio and aviation–both an airfield and a wireless station were located nearby. He also enjoyed reading–“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn met with the greatest success, while Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin gave rise to aggressive moods–‘Hey–after the revolution in Europe, we’ll deal with the American slaveholders!” His cousin introduced him to science fiction, and he was especially fond of Aelita (book and silent film), featuring the eponymous Martian beauty.

    Chertok remembers his school years fondly–there were field trips to study art history and architectural styles, plus a military program with firing of both rifles and machine guns–but notes “We studied neither Russian nor world history….Instead we had two years of social science, during which we studied the history of Communist ideas…Our clever social sciences teacher conducted lessons so that, along with the history of the French Revolution and the Paris Commune, we became familiar with the history of the European peoples from Ancient Rome to World War I, and while studying the Decembrist movement and 1905 Revolution in detail we were forced to investigate the history of Russia.” Chertok purused his growing interest in electronics, developing a new radio-receiver circuit which earned him a journal publication and an inventor’s certificate. There was also time for skating and dating–“In those strict, puritanical times it was considered inappropriate for a young man of fourteen or fifteen to walk arm in arm with a young woman. But while skating, you could put your arm around a girl’s waist, whirl around with her on the ice to the point of utter exhaustion, and then accompany her home without the least fear of reproach.”

    Chertok wanted to attend university, but “entrance exams were not the only barrier to admission.” There was a quota system, based on social class, and  “according to the ‘social lineage’ chart, I was the son of a white collar worker and had virtually no hope of being accepted the first time around.” He applied anyhow, hoping that his journal publication and inventor’s certificate in electronics would get him in.” It didn’t–he was told, “Work about three years and come back. We’ll accept you as a worker, but not as the son of a white-collar worker.”

    So Chertok took a job as electrician in a brick factory…not much fun, but he was soon able to transfer to an aircraft factory across the river. He made such a good impression that he was asked to take a Komsomol leadership position, which gave him an opportunity to learn a great deal about manufacturing. The plant environment was a combination of genuinely enlightened management–worker involvement in process improvement, financial decentralization–colliding with rigid policies and political interference. There were problems with absenteeism caused by new workers straight off the farm; these led to a government edict: anyone late to work by 20 minutes or more was to be fired, and very likely prosecuted. There was a young worker named Igor who had real inventive talent; he proposed an improved linkage for engine and propeller control systems, which worked out well. But when Igor overslept (the morning after he got married), no exception could be made. He was fired, and “we lost a man who really had a divine spark.”  Zero tolerance!

    Chertok himself wound up in trouble when he was denounced to the Party for having concealed the truth about his parents–that his father was a bookkeeper in a private enterprise and his mother was a Menshevik. He was expelled from the Komsomol and demoted to a lower-level position.  Later in his career, he would also wind up in difficulties because of his Jewish heritage.

    The memoir includes dozens of memorable characters, including:

    *Lidiya Petrovna Kozlovskaya, a bandit queen turned factory supervisor who became Chertok’s superior after his first demotion.

    *Yakov Alksnis, commander of the Red Air Force–a strong leader who foresaw the danger of a surprise attack wiping out the planes on the ground. He was not to survive the Stalin era.

    *Olga Mitkevich, sent by the regime to become “Central Committee Party organizer” at the factory where Chertok was working…did not make a good first impression (“had the aura of a strict school matron–the terror of girls’ preparatory schools”)..but actually proved to be very helpful to getting work done and later became director of what was then the largest aircraft factory in Europe, which job she performed well. She apparently had too much integrity for the times, and her letters to Stalin on behalf of people unjustly accused resulted in her own arrest and execution.

    *Frau Groettrup, wife of a German rocket scientist, one of the many the Russians took in custody after occupying their sector of Germany. Her demands on the victors were rather unbelievable, what’s more unbelievable is that the Russians actually yielded to most of them.

    *Dmitry Ustinov, a rising star in the Soviet hierarchy–according to Chertok an excellent and visionary executive who had much to do with Soviet successes in missiles and space. (Much later, he would become Defense Minister, in which role he was a strong proponent of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.)

    *Valeriya Golubtsova, wife of the powerful Politburo member Georgiy Malenkov, who was Stalin’s immediate successor. Chertok knew her from school–she was an engineer who became an important government executive–and the connection turned out to be very useful. Chertok respected her professional skills, liked her very much, and devotes several pages to her.

    *Yuri Gagarin, first man to fly in space, and Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman.

    *Overshadowing all the other characters is Sergei Korolev, now considered to be the father of the Soviet space program although anonymous during his lifetime.  Korolev spent 6 years in labor camps, having been arrested when his early rocket experiments didn’t pan out; he was released in 1944.  A good leader, in Chertok’s view, though with a bad temper and given to making threats that he never actually carried out.  His imprisonment must have left deep scars–writing about a field trip to a submarine to observe the firing of a ballistic missile, Chertok says that the celebration dinner with the sub’s officers was the only time he ever saw Korolev really happy.

    Chertok’s memoir encompasses the pre-WWII development of the Soviet aircraft industry…early experiments with a rocket-powered interceptor…the evacuation of factories from the Moscow area in the face of the German invasion…a post-war mission to Germany to acquire as much German rocket technology as possible…the development of a Soviet ballistic missile capability…Sputnik…reconnaissance and communications satellites…the Cuban missile crisis…and the race to the moon.

    Some vignettes, themes, and excerpts I thought were particularly interesting:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Big Government, Biography, Leftism, Management, Military Affairs, Russia, Society, Space, Tech, Transportation | 4 Comments »

    An interesting analysis of the 2008 housing collapse.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th September 2018 (All posts by )

    The 2008 economic collapse gave us ten years of economic malaise and the presidency of Barack Obama.

    Why did it happen ? I have been a fan of Nicole Gelinas’ book, “After the Fall”

    I wrote a long review of it at Amazon, which is still a favorite of readers.

    Now, we have a very interesting new analysis, which blames housing almost exclusively.

    Looked at in terms of the popular narrative that there was a “financial crisis,” readers shouldn’t be fooled. There was nothing financial about what happened ten years ago. The “crisis” was made in Washington. Left alone, economies and markets never go haywire when natural market forces are putting out to pasture the weak, only to redirect the previously underutilized resources of the weak to higher uses.

    He makes an interesting point, which tracks with my own observations.

    a booming housing market of the kind experienced in the ‘70s and ‘00s is not a sign of economic vitality. Getting into specifics, a home purchase is not an investment. It won’t render the buyer more productive, open foreign markets for same, or morph into capital meant to develop something productivity-enhancing like software. Housing is consumption, that’s it. On the other hand, investment is what powers economic growth, so the very notion that a reorientation of precious capital away from consumptive goods and into production would foster economic crisis is for those who presume to comment on the economy to reveal how little they understand what they’re writing about. The feverish consumption of housing was what was holding the economy down, which means a reversal of what weighed on the economy would logically be good for growth. If so, markets would have discounted housing’s correction positively.

    I moved to Orange County in 1972 to begin my medical practice. I already owned two homes in South Pasadena which I had difficulty selling after the move. There was no appreciation of housing. By 1975, when a bear market caused a malpractice insurance crisis for doctors, my 1972 house had tripled in value. The South Pasadena house I finally sold in 1972 for the same ($35,000) price I had paid for it in 1969, was by 1979 for sale for $595,000.

    What did happen in both the 1970s and 2000s is that the dollar substantially declined vis-à-vis foreign currencies, commodities, and seemingly everything else. This matters because in both the ‘70s and ‘00s, gold, oil, wheat, land, rare stamps, art, housing, and just about every other kind of hard asset performed well. Well, of course. When money is losing value, the hard assets least vulnerable to currency devaluation perform best. In a repeat of the ‘70s, housing and other commodities proved a safe haven in the ‘00s from the U.S. Treasury’s policies in favor of a devalued dollar.

    I remember well the rush to buy gold and antiques as hedges against the post 1974 inflation. An elderly woman in Oceanside California got wide publicity for her “crazy” decision to invest her money in buying four Rolls Royces and putting them in storage. She paid about $50,000 each. Five years later they were worth about $200,000 each.

    Then came 2008.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Conservatism, Economics & Finance | 11 Comments »

    The other 9/11.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 11th September 2018 (All posts by )

    Today we mourn the loss of thousands of lives in a terrorist attack on 9/11, 2001.

    There was another 9/11 attack in 2012. It was three months before the 2012 presidential election and the implications of this were obvious.

    A recent movie documented some of the lies about that event.

    Despite Obama’s and Clinton’s recurring lies to the contrary, the deadly attacks of September 11, 2012, on U.S. diplomatic and intelligence facilities in Benghazi, Libya, had no connection with political protests. In director Michael Bay’s political-action thriller, which Paramount Pictures calls “a true story,” these two outposts get slammed ferociously by growing waves of well-armed jihadists who know exactly what they are doing. As if mocking Obama’s and Clinton’s lies, they do not drop their picket signs and then suddenly grab grenades, rocket launchers, and mortar shells. Instead, these killers skip the placards and head straight for the firepower.

    We actually know quite a bit about how that event came to pass.

    It began as “Operation Zero Footprint.”

    We know Operation Zero Footprint was the covert transfer of weapons from the U.S to the Libyan “rebels”. We also know the operation avoided the concerns with congressional funding, and potential for public scrutiny, through financing by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

    We also know that officials within the government of Qatar served as the intermediaries for the actual transfer of the weapons, thereby removing the footprint of the U.S. intervention.

    We know the entire operation was coordinated and controlled by the State Department and CIA. We also know (from the Senate Foreign Relations Benghazi hearings) that “Zero Footprint” was unknown to the 2011 Pentagon and/or DoD commanders who would have been tasked with any military response to the 9/11/12 attack – namely AFRICOM General Carter Ham.

    However, it would be implausible to think that then Defense Secretary Bob Gates or Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral McMullen were completely unaware of the operation. Even today, despite the numerous hearings and reports, this aspect remains murky. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Elections, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism | 5 Comments »

    Hate Crime Speech

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th September 2018 (All posts by )

    When it first became politically trendy to back passage of ‘hate-crime’ legislation, I privately thought it a bad idea, while understanding completely why it was an appealing notion, especially for political and social entities which presumed to act on behalf of those threatened by weaponized hate. The fear in such communities was real, every bit as real as the threats, the vandalism, the lynch mobs, and disenfranchisement. It would take a politician with balls of brass to stand up before a group who justifiably were frightened by all that, and discount those fears. It was the easy way out for politicians, the media and social organizations to portray hate crime legislation as a good and discount those doubts held by those of us with inclinations toward the philosophical. A crime was a crime: there were already laws on the books dealing with vandalism, murder, arson and so on. A motivation for committing a crime ought to be of interest only in establishing the guilt of the perpetrator, not for piling on additional penalties. We do not have windows to peer accurately into the souls of others. Essentially, classifying a crime as a ‘hate crime’ was punishing the thought, over and above the actual crime itself. I didn’t think it was a good idea then, and still don’t think so – especially given the overwhelming numbers of so-called “hate crimes” which turn out to be either deliberate hoaxes, or the deeply imaginative letting their imaginations run away from them. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, Customer Service, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Society | 7 Comments »

    Poisoned Fruit of the Poisoned Tree

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th August 2018 (All posts by )

    This week, the month-long mystery of the missing college student, Mollie Tibbits, was sadly resolved, with the discovery of her body in a local cornfield. Developments in the search for her were updated frequently over the last few weeks, and always featured at the top, or near to the top of headlines on the English tabloid, the Daily Mail. Which, for all its’ eccentricities, abuse of grammar, spelling, penchant for the flamingly obvious, providing Piers Morgan with a salary, extreme Kardashian-worship, and light-to-moderate Trump disdain, does cover the American news scene without much fear or favor.
    The longer the mystery of her disappearance went on, though – the greater the chance of a less than happy ending. And as it turns out that the chief suspect in her kidnapping and murder is a man with a distinctly dodgy background – an illegal alien of Mexican background, whose’ identity papers are something of a mystery. His American employers seemed to believe that everything was hunky-dory; this lends the cynical among us to assume that such paperwork must have been better forgeries than the usual run.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Immigration, Media, North America, Politics, Society, The Press | 13 Comments »

    The Omarosenleid

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th August 2018 (All posts by )

    I should think that Omarosa Manigault Newman must be weeping bitter tears and sticking little pins into a voodoo doll of John Brennan all this weekend, for he has stolen just about all of her publicity thunder in the end-of-week headlines and newscast coverage. A good few things are now obvious about her to that apparently small portion of the public (including myself) who didn’t watch reality TV series. One of those things is that she is a back-biting, vicious witch who blithely assumed that playing one for the cameras on a TV reality show would of course translate perfectly into a job at the White House, and another that taping conversations right and left to produce a tell-all inside book on the Trump administration would be just like secretly taping conversations for a tell-all book on the behind the scenes maneuvering on The Apprentice. Why on earth was she hired in the first place? Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, National Security, The Press, Trump | 10 Comments »

    CON Does Seem Like an Appropriate Acronym

    Posted by David Foster on 5th August 2018 (All posts by )

    Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia currently impose certificate-of-need (CON) restrictions on the provision of healthcare. These rules require providers to first seek permission before they may open or expand their practices or purchase certain devices or new technologies. The applicant must prove that the community “needs” the new or expanded service, and existing providers are invited to challenge a would-be competitor’s application.

    …from a Mercatus article on healthcare “Certificates of Need”, linked by The Advice Goddess.

    In most other industries, collusion of providers in order to keep supply down–and, hence, prices up–is considered an antitrust violation and can carry heavy civil and criminal penalties.

    Does anyone see any legitimate public-policy rationale for the requirement for the CONs in healthcare?

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Health Care | 20 Comments »

    Is Trump the Herald of “Localism?”

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th July 2018 (All posts by )

    Donald Trump is the source of great pain on the left and also in the professional politician class of the GOP.

    Why ?

    He was an outsider in GOP politics but the GOP politicians had failed a lot of the voters, including me. Like Ross Perot in 1992, he attracted a lot of people who were tired of being taken for granted by the regular politicians.

    Now there are some interesting theories of what is happening.

    Henry Kissinger, who knows Trump personally, has said some interesting things about him.

    The 93-year-old Nobel laureate told CBS show Face The Nation that the Republican’s unconventional style could be an asset and an ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for the US.

    ‘Donald Trump is a phenomenon that foreign countries haven’t seen. So it is a shocking experience to them that he came into office, at the same time, extraordinary opportunity,’ Kissinger said.

    ‘And I believe he has the possibility of going down in history as a very considerable president,’ he added.

    Naturally, this has disturbed some of the usual Trump opponents.

    Now, as Donald Trump signals that he wants a more cooperative relationship with Moscow, the 93-year-old Kissinger is positioning himself as a potential intermediary — meeting with the president-elect in private and flattering him in public. Like Trump, Kissinger has also cast doubt on intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia sought to sway the election in Trump’s favor, telling a recent interviewer: “They were hacking, but the use they allegedly made of this hacking eludes me.”

    The headline, of course, smears Kissinger, always hated by the left, as “a longtime Putin confidant.”

    What is going on ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Politics, Trump | 15 Comments »

    Rerun: The Dream(liner) and the Nightmare (of Social Toxicity)

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd July 2018 (All posts by )

    The FAA has issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive against the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The AD requires that the battery system be reviewed and modified as necessary to eliminate the danger of fires such as those that have recently occurred on these aircraft. The changes needed could presumably involve manufacturing processes, sourcing of components, electrical-system design, or some combination of these things.

    The FAA’s action here seems to me like simple and reasonable prudence. It is not uncommon for new aircraft types to encounter problems during their early operational days, and the 787 is an innovative plane in many ways, especially in the use of electrical means to replace functions traditionally done by hydraulic systems and by engine bleed air.  There may well turn out to be simple fixes that can be quickly implemented to resolve the issue; on the other hand it’s possible that the fix will involve signficant redesign and will cost Boeing and the airlines considerable money. Purely as speculation, I’d guess that the worst-case result for the study required by the AD would be the mandated replacement of the plane’s lithium-ion batteries with conventional aircraft batteries, at some sacrifice in the plane’s useful load and some redesign both of the relevant control systems and of some interior spaces.

    But the purpose of this post is not to talk about 787 technical issues, as much fun as that might be.

    After clicking on the Yahoo report about the AD issuance yesterday, I took a look at some of the comments, and a depressing experience it was. Here are some samples:

    Makes you wonder if Boeing did not have the FAA inspectors in their back pocket while certifying this airplane “air worthy”? Maybe a few bucks went along stuffing their respective back pockets as well. Good example of certifying government agencies working too close with the manufacturer.

    For the FAA to say it’s safe and then ground the planes, all credibility and trust in competence is out the window.

    Were they just going to wait until the costs of wrongful death lawsuits surpassed the cost of fixing the problem?

    They do lots of testing but just like windows they release it to the public and then we will fix all bugs in the system

    Parts made in China

    #$%$ batteries made in China and a world-class American airplane manufacturer fell for their cr@p product. Do you think that perhaps Chinese agents were behind deliberately sabotaging our country’s product?

    Dream gone bad. Overseas outscourced components on the cheap, assembled by redneck scabs in South Carolina.

    Just one more example of the FINE work being produced by wonderful, hardworking and dedicated union workers.

    Just more retaliation from Obama for the move to non- union South Carolina.

    no one care anymore all the factory workers just go to work to try to make $$$$$ and this it is hard too the pride in making or to build something does not exist anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Too bad the GOP helped rich buddies ship all the manufacturing jobs to china? Expertise comes with manufacturing. Burger jobs make poor planes?

    Read through several pages of comments like these, and the overwhelming overall impression is one of social toxicity…of people glaring furiously at one another, quick to assume that anything to goes wrong in any aspect of life is due to either malice or incompetence or both. It is a picture of generalized resentment and distrust, coupled with entitled ignorance.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Big Government, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Tech, USA | 7 Comments »

    The Coming Impeachment of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 15th July 2018 (All posts by )

    According to a number of right wing media sites — Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze”, Gateway Pundit, True Pundit among others — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is going to face a House authorizing vote for an impeachment investigation after Rosenstein was caught out lying to HSCI Chairman Nunes about his communications with former FBI attorney Lisa Page in her testimony Thursday and Friday of last week. 

    (See link — https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2018/07/13/lisa-page-testimony-highlights-deputy-attorney-general-rod-rosenstein-lied-to-chairman-devin-nunes/#comments).

    This impeachment vote will invoke “United States Vs Nixon (1974)” which was a 9-0 SCOTUS decision in favor of Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski during Pres. Nixon’s impeachment proceedings that said there are no “Executive” or “National Security” classification privileges versus a House impeachment investigation subpoena. And thus President Nixon had to turn over the contents of the White House tapes of President Nixon’s office to Jaworski.  

    Short Form — An impeachment investigation subpoena is the thermonuclear weapon of Congressional oversight of the Executive branch.  The Deep State has to cough up all the classified DoJ, CIA, and FBI counter-intelligence documents to include the names of sources, the surveillance methods used, and who were targets in the Trump campaign when, to the HSSCI Chairman Nunes or go to jail for obstruction of justice.
    .
    The problem with this thought is the the FBI and DoJ are in open rebellion against both the Constitution and the American people. I’ve spoken as to the reasons why in my May 2018 Chicagoboyz post THE DEEP STATE CIVIL WAR AND THE COUP D’ETAT AGAINST PRESIDENT TRUMP. 
    .
    The DoJ won’t cough up the subpoenaed documents unless US Marshall’s arrive to take said documents at gunpoint from the DoJ-National Security Division and FBI counter-intelligence SCIF’s (AKA Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility ). Which is when we will find many of them have been erased or altered at times the access logs for the SCIF’s say no one was there, and videos of those time periods are missing.  And given that the DoJ is in charge of the prosecutions for these obstruction of justice crimes…they won’t.  
    .
    At best, there will be a few token dismissals or firings. There is one set of rules for THE SWAMP and a different set for everyone else.  In other words, there is no federal justice, at Justice, when it comes to the criminal abuse of power by the Department of Justice.  
    .

    Posted in Americas, Anglosphere, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Iran, Iraq, Politics, Uncategorized, USA | 10 Comments »

    An Interesting and Timely IPO

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd June 2018 (All posts by )

    I’ve been aware for some time of a company called Avalara, which is in the cloud-based tax-compliance business.  In the US, Avalara keeps track of the vast array of sales tax rates, which are imposed not only at the state level but often also at municipal and county levels.  Avalara integrates with a number of electronic commerce platforms, which can pass destination address info to the system and thereby obtain the appropriate tax rate in real time and include it in the end customer’s charges at checkout.

    The company did its Initial Public Offering on June 13, and AVLR quickly jumped from its IPO price of $24 to about $45 , putting its market capitalization at about $2.9 billion.  Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a decision that has great implications for Avalara’s business…as well as for the businesses of hundreds of thousands if not millions of on-line retailers and the consumers who buy from them–and as of this moment AVLR is trading at $52.16, with a market cap of $3.32 billion.

    What the Court apparently ruled is that states can impose sales taxes on on-line transactions (and, I would presume, classical mail-order transactions as well) even when the seller does not have a physical “nexus” (such as a warehouse, and office or a factory) in that state. (And you can be sure that most of them will take advantage of this opportunity.)   This is really “just” a cost problem for very large on-line merchants such as Amazon, but the compliance issues for smaller businesses are going to be considerable.  Avalara seems well-positioned to help with this problem, but the ruling is still going to be far more burdensome to the smaller on-line merchants than to the large ones.

    See discussion of the sales tax issue at the Instapundit post.

    Regarding Avlara, I have not analyzed this company as a potential investment and am not giving an opinion on it for that purpose either pro or con, certainly not giving investment advice here.

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Internet, Taxes, Tech | 28 Comments »

    Draining the Swamp: Progressive Politics – the Road to Crony Capitalist Perdition

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 17th June 2018 (All posts by )

    From A Libertarian Republic to Majoritarian-Totalitarian Democracy: a Summary

    The 2016 American Presidential Election

    Trust in government fell by almost 80% from the end of the Eisenhower Administration to the end of the Obama Administration. Then Americans endured one of the most divisive and longest two year election campaigns leading up to the 2016 election. Former Democrat turned Republican Donald Trump defeated a field of 17 traditional center-right Republicans to run against traditionally center–left Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton who turned left to defeat her socialist competitor Bernie Sanders in the primary. Sanders correctly argued that the U.S. political system is rigged – more than he knew at the time – but responded by promising his generally young supporters socialism without totalitarianism. The public has endured another two years of divisiveness as the losing party tries to undermine and some would impeach the winner.

    Republican nominee and arguably crony capitalist businessman Donald Trump, the son of a crony capitalist housing developer, ran on the paradoxical promise to “drain the swamp.” The faux democratic election of crony capitalist supremo Vladimir Putin in 2011 drew the public reprobation of then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the subsequent Democratic Party nominee. Putin responded with a campaign of not so fake news not to elect Trump – they had the same polls as everybody else – but to expose Clinton as a crony capitalist who also engaged in election-rigging. He hit pay dirt. The faux Russian collusion scandal has since been used to undermine the legitimacy of the Trump Administration.

    On the issue of trade there was no difference between the three main candidates – all opposed the new TTP trade agreement. The U.S. trade deficit has been about $500 billion a year during this century, consumption financed mostly with additional debt. Candidate Clinton, who supported China’s entry into the WTO during the Clinton Administration agreed she would if elected renegotiate NAFTA, the trade bill passed at her husband’s initiative. On the related issue of immigration, candidate Clinton voted for the bipartisan Secure Fence Act of 2006, as did then Senators Obama and Schumer.

    The Obama Administration had doubled the federal debt outstanding to over $20 trillion – and the unfunded liability is approximately ten times that. President Obama’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff publically warned as early as 2010 that the debt was a threat to national security. Candidate Clinton promised she wouldn’t add a penny to the national debt, but her platform had an imbedded $10 trillion increase, less than Sanders to be sure. Candidate Trump promised to eliminate the debt in eight years by increasing economic growth. Clinton’s was a political lie, Trump’s an outlandish campaign promise since going unfulfilled: his appropriations bill contained a $200 billion increase in spending, a Democratic victory for domestic spending in return for Republican defense spending.

    Candidate Trump ran against the “deep state” wars and military interventions that candidate Clinton had voted for. But as President, Trump embraced it with overwhelming Democratic support to punish Russia.

    Progressivism’s Administrative State

    The Democrats’ agenda has arguably fared much better under Trump than Republicans did under Obama. Given these similarities in proposed and actual policies, the subsequent animosity might appear puzzling. But the biggest difference among the candidates relates to the relative roles of the public and private sectors. The U.S. is now governed by an unaccountable patria administrative state: judicial and legislative subsumed in the executive branch and sometimes independent even of that – judge, jury and executioner. The new religion is “science” requiring a faux consensus and leadership by the “experts” as proposed by John Kenneth Galbraith in the New Industrial State (1967) over a half century ago.

    Washington, D.C. is a place where self interested deals are made in hotel lobbies and K street offices, but the entire federal bureaucracy sits on a former swamp. Most federal politicians are political swamp people having worked their way up in local and state politics by making political deals for budget and/or tax subsidies and/or regulatory discretion – legal extortion. Candidate Clinton is a self described progressive and candidate Sanders a socialist, the former supports state control of business, the later favors more direct state ownership.

    The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, followed by the Soviet Union two years later. In 1995 U.S. President Bill Clinton declared “The era of big government is over.” Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, publishing in a Fabian pamphlet in 1998 argued: “Liberals (classical, i.e., American conservatives) asserted the primacy of individual liberty in the market economy; social democrats promoted social justice with the state as its main agent. There is no necessary conflict between the two, accepting as we now do that state power is one means to achieve our goals, but not the only one and emphatically not an end in itself.” But “the values which have guided progressive politics for more than a century – democracy, liberty, justice, mutual obligation and internationalism” have lead in practice to “state control, high taxation and producer interests (crony capitalism).” By the end of the century a few years after Blair spoke, the market had reached The Commanding Heights of the economy. But a decade later the Obama Administration had put the state back on top, seeking to control not just health care but finance and energy.

    Progressivism – like fascism and communism – started with the best of intentions, in opposition to crony capitalism. Social welfare programs were implemented to spread the wealth and provide a safety net, but during the progressive Obama Administration economic growth per capita stagnated. Candidate Trump believed that rolling back the administrative state regulations and the tax on savings and investment as suggested by Blair would restore real private economic growth, the key to managing the public deficit. His Democratic opponents both favored a vast expansion of the administrative state and increases in the tax on capital.

    Progressive Internationalism and the New World Order

    Progressives supported freer trade even if not reciprocal in the post WW II era because America could still enjoy a balance of trade surplus that could be used to fund investments abroad and a “new world order” of American dominance in a bi-polar world with the Soviet Union and its satellites. The European Union evolved as a mechanism to end European – especially German – “nationalism” in favor of this plan. Two events undercut this agenda of international control through capital flows: the 1960s wars on poverty and Vietnam turned American surpluses into deficits, and the common European currency created a German economic hegemony over Europe. The U.S. today is to China what Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland are to Germany, and that’s not a compliment. Both China and Germany – whose exports equal China’s with only 6% of the population – are mercantilist countries pursuing low wages and consumption domestically so that future generations can live off the debt that finances their over-consuming customers.

    Germany understands perhaps better than any country the problem of using foreign debt to finance current consumption as it did to feed a starving population during the interwar years. The excessive debt undermined the fledgling Weimar Republic, giving rise to Hitler. Trumps trade policy appears incoherent, as is much of the criticism. Progressives still argue for globalism and internationalism while conservatives and libertarians are hung up on Ricardian theory of comparative advantage in international trade and the accounting identity of the trade and capital balance.

    The problem isn’t global trade per se, but progressive policies that repress national saving and domestic labor and capital productivity while growing the administrative state. National boundaries still matter. In the EU the single currency zone has destabilized previously relatively stable prosperous countries, threatening political and economic collapse. The relationship between the U.S. and China reflects a similar dynamic: the willingness to accept American debt has kept the dollar from falling and trade adjusting. China holds over trillion dollars of debt backed by taxpayers, and was the biggest foreign funder of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the sub-prime lending bubble. Progressives argued that we would grow out of this debt, but simultaneously and inconsistently deny that the failure to grow during the Obama Administration reflected economic repression but “secular stagnation” – that capitalist innovation has run its course. If so, we are doomed when countries attempt to collect.

    Thus far the main part of the Trump agenda, the tax reform and regulatory roll back – against universal Democratic opposition and condemnation – appears to be working. Economic growth per capita has picked up, unemployment is the lowest since the turn of the century, and business investment net of depreciation is rising from historic lows. But it is way too early to declare success. China entered the WTO without meeting the minimum requirements for intellectual property protection or reciprocity, a Clinton Administration oversight. Fixing the former should be uncontroversial. Reciprocity insures that the most competitive – not the most subsidized – win. Subsidies may benefit American consumers temporarily, but the dislocations are costly and overconsumption dangerous, the debt leading to contemporary “gunboat diplomacy” to settle debts. A reciprocal tariff is a consumption tax, not irrational to consider under those circumstances.

    Progressive efforts to Impeach President Trump: the Totalitarian Administrative State Strikes Back

    Yet since the election, some progressive Democrats have been pushing for impeachment on grounds of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, although no evidence has yet been produced of that after two years of investigation.

    One thoughtful progressive commentator dismisses these grounds, arguing that the real grounds for impeachment are the “threats Trumpism poses to democracy and rule of law.” If true, those would indeed be grounds for impeachment but he doesn’t define Trumpism or provide evidence. The many articles in the progressive media can be summarized thus: Trump is tweeting against the administrative state agents that are out to get him.

    Libertarians and Republican conservatives have argued that progressives have been undermining liberty and the rule of law for over a century to create the administrative state, obfuscating their agenda by manipulating words to mean the opposite of their historical meaning. Trump’s Court appointments are intended to reverse that trend. Statism is usually associated with one-party faux democracy to prevent state power from turning against the entrenched interests with a change of government. Trump ran against the progressive new world order, arguing to “put America first.” The Democrats didn’t think Trump had any chance to win. This seems the more compelling reason for their impeachment efforts. The anti-Trump organized hysteria bears a marked resemblance to the largely Soros funded Republican and Democratic efforts to ignite the democratic color revolutions in the former Soviet states described by F.William Engdahl in Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order (2009).

    This isn’t about Trump tweets. It’s a battle for the commanding heights.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, Economics & Finance, History, Leftism, Libertarianism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Public Finance, Taxes, Tradeoffs, USA | 11 Comments »

    An American Version of the Habsburg Empire?

    Posted by David Foster on 13th June 2018 (All posts by )

    Based on a recommendation from Sgt Mom, I recently read A Sailor of Austria, a novel about an Austrian submarine commander in WWI.  I thought it was excellent, but this post isn’t a book review.

    Both this novel and the memoirs of a real-life Austrian sub commander, Captain Georg von Trapp, portray the intergroup tensions that plagued the multinational/multiethnic/multilanguage/multireligious entity that was the Austro-Hungarian empire.  These tensions only got worse, of course, as the war situation turned darker.  For example, Captain von Trapp, while having some shipyard work done in his submarine, observed that “the work is actually delayed. It is quite similar to Penelope’s tapestry: mysterious forces impede the construction. The crew is suspicious.”  He thought it likely that Czechs working in the shipyard were deliberately slowing the work, noting that  “At the American declaration of war, they supposedly really celebrated, but you can’t pin anything on them.”

    Reading A Sailor of Austria reminded me of my 2011 post Government Overreach and Ethnic Conflict, in which I quoted AJP Taylor:

    The Austrian state suffered from its strength: it had never had its range of activity cut down during a successful period of laissez-faire, and therefore the openings for a national conflict were far greater. There were no private schools or hospitals, no independent universities; and the state, in its infinite paternalism, performed a variety of services from veterinary surgery to the inspecting of buildings. The appointment of every school teacher, of every railway porter, of every hospital doctor, of every tax-collector, was a signal for national struggle. Besides, private industry looked to the state for aid from tariffs and subsidies; these, in every country, produce ‘log-rolling,’ and nationalism offered an added lever with which to shift the logs. German industries demanded state aid to preserve their privileged position; Czech industries demanded state aid to redress the inequalities of the past. The first generation of national rivals had been the products of universities and fought for appointment at the highest professional level: their disputes concerned only a few hundred state jobs. The generation which followed them was the result of universal elementary education and fought for the trivial state employment which existed in every village; hence the more popular national conflicts at the turn of the century.

    The present-day US doesn’t have the level of government dominance that existed in the Austro-Hungarian empire, certainly, but the degree to which many nominally-private activities are now government-funded (universities, healthcare)–combined with the extreme politicization of everything from coffee to football–is helping to drive those same behaviors of intergroup squabbling.

    It does seem that the US is in danger of ceasing to be a nation-state at all and transitioning into a  multinational, multiethnic, multilingual, multireligious, gender-divided empire comprised of groups that are primarily interested in gaining power over their internal rivals.

    Discuss

    Posted in Big Government, Biography, Book Notes, Culture, Europe, History, Society, USA | 18 Comments »

    Nicely Put

    Posted by David Foster on 1st June 2018 (All posts by )

    Dictators don’t getting into power by saying “Hey give ME power.”  Dictators get into power by saying “Let me give you power over your neighbor.”

    Defending Civil Society

    Not 100% true, but a useful thought.

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society | 9 Comments »

    Memorial Day and the Deprecation of Freedom

    Posted by David Foster on 28th May 2018 (All posts by )

    On Memorial Day, we pause to reflect on those who died to protect our freedom.  But today I have to wonder:  In this year 2018, what proportion of Americans seriously value freedom?

    Recently I encountered a meme on Facebook that went something like this:

    Keep telling yourself that America is the land of the free while the rest of the developed world enjoys universal healthcare, free college, paid maternity leave, and a ton more vacation time than any of us get.

    Nothing there about free speech, freedom of religion, or even freedom to pursue one’s chosen career.  How many people think this way?  I’m afraid it’s a nontrivial number and a growing one.

    I don’t think I even need to post a lot of links in order to demonstrate that individual freedom is being devalued by many in America today:  the evidence is too well known.  There are surveys showing that large numbers of college students view ‘avoiding offense’ as more important than free speech.  There are on-line mob attacks, and sometimes physical-world mob attacks, against those with dissident views.  College students who do hold such dissident views often feel they must keep those views to themselves, and this is increasingly true in the business world as well.  Americans have become tolerant of bullying bureaucrats and of virtually unlimited discretion on the part of prosecutors.  There is surprisingly little concern about the shadow thrown on free speech by the murderous threats (and sometimes actions) of radical Islamists:  draw a cartoon that offends them, and you may have to go into hiding.

    So my question for today is:  What factors are driving the devaluation of freedom in America today, and what can be done about it?

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Crime and Punishment, Human Behavior, Leftism, USA | 27 Comments »