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    Interesting

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

    An artist named Jayne Riew observed that “In the days after the election, people around me struggled to make sense of what had happened. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the female vote. Among women who cast ballots, 42% were with him, not with her. Most of the women and mothers I knew were shocked or angry that other women and mothers could choose Trump over Clinton.”  The common assumption was that Trump voters must be “people who haven’t seen the world,” “resentful of our success,” “unskilled and no-tech,” “old and behind the times,” “white people who are afraid,” etc etc.

    She notes that “to reach 42%, Trump had to have drawn in women who didn’t fit the stereotype,”  and set out to do some actual research.  The resulting website, She’s With Him, is a photo essay based on interviews with 7 female Trump voters.  Worth taking a look.

    Riew’s own website is here.

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Elections, Politics, Trump, USA | 19 Comments »

    Kamala Down and other December Follies

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th December 2019 (All posts by )

    The potential slate of Democrat Party nominees for next years’ presidential election is down by one, as of last week with Kamala Harris withdrawing from consideration. I thought she would hold out a bit longer, appearing to be electorally ballot-proof, as a woman of (at a long squint) color, privileged (not to say exotic) upbringing, and reliably progressive inclinations, plus the establishment national media were already giving her the ‘buffed lightly with a flannel cloth as she is a luminous pearl’ treatment that had been previously administered to Barak Obama. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Obama, Politics | 24 Comments »

    The Seemingly Unending Schiff Show

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th November 2019 (All posts by )

    I was going through my routine at Planet Fitness this morning, as is our habit – three times weekly, usually around 8 of the clock; half-past at latest, for an hour on the elliptical and the stair-step with a cool-down on the recumbent. There is a bank of television screens across the middle of the gym, offering all the alphabet networks, plus CNN, Univision, the Planet Fitness channel, and something that has Friends and Seinfeld on rotation during the time that I am not watching any of them. (I have perfected the art of reading my Kindle while stepping and pedaling; after all, being able to read makes the whole exercise thing bearable.)

    All the news feeds – four or five of the screens had the same damn unending Schiff show; which is to say that interminable search for solid grounds upon which to impeach a sitting and duly elected president of the USA. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Blogging, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, Europe, Internet, Leftism, Media, Politics, Terrorism, The Press, Trump | 26 Comments »

    Regular and Irregular Channels

    Posted by David Foster on 18th November 2019 (All posts by )

    Some of the witnesses at the ongoing Congressional hearings seem quite disturbed at the use of “irregular channels” for decision-making and implementation, supplementing and bypassing the “regular” channels. (here, for example) Reminds me of a Churchill story…

    In February 1940, Churchill was not yet Prime Minister but rather was First Lord of the Admiralty. He received a letter from a father disappointed that his son had been turned down for a commission, despite his qualifications and his record. Churchill suspected class prejudice and wrote to the Second Sea Lord, saying that “Unless some better reasons are given to me, I shall have to ask my Naval Secretary to interview the boy on my behalf.”

    The Second Sea Lord, unhappy with the meddling from above, responded to the effect that it was inappropriate to question the decisions of “a board duly constituted.” To which Churchill replied:

    I do not at all mind “going behind the opinion of a board duly constituted” or even changing the board or its chairman if I think injustice has been done. How long is it since this board was re-modeled?… Who are the naval representatives on the board of selection? Naval officers should be well-represented. Action accordingly. Let me have a list of the whole board with the full record of each member and his date of appointment.

    General Louis Spears was present when Churchill, after taking the above hard-line, saw the candidates. After chatting with the boys, Churchill explained the matter to Spears:

    “They have been turned down for the very reason that should have gained them admission. They are mad keen on the Navy, they have it in their blood, they will make splendid officers. What could be better than that they should rise higher than their fathers did? It is in their fathers’ homes that they grew to love the Navy, yet they have been turned down because their fathers came from the lower deck,” and he pouted and glared with fury.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Current Events, History, Management, Miscellaneous, Organizational Analysis, Politics, Trump | 16 Comments »

    Crusade

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th November 2019 (All posts by )

    A bit of a loaded word, isn’t it? But a label that American anti-slavery activists would have felt entirely comfortable with, in the first half of the 19th century. Such was the knowledge that taking up the cross of a cause could be hazardous, indeed – but the fight was for the right, and the eventual prize was worth it and more; the promise that every man (and by implication, every woman as well) had a right to be free. Not a slave, as comfortable as that situation might be to individuals – but to be free, answering only to ones’ conscience, as was expressed in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, never mind that one might have varying degrees of success in that pursuit – one had the right to decide how to go about it, in whatever method and manner than one chose. One had the right to not be property, as if an ox or a horse.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Anti-Americanism, Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, History, Media, Politics | 27 Comments »

    The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Inedible

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th October 2019 (All posts by )

    For some peculiar reason, the political commentariat this week are bending their bulging brains towards the question of which one of the progressive Democrats currently angling for a presidential bid next year will catch the brass ring. We have a year and a few days to go until Election Day, 2020, and nine months until the Democrat Party convention when the final decision on a candidate will be made; I speculate that the fierce urgency of defeating Orange Man Bad has a lot to do with so many hopefuls running early and often, and the overwhelming media interest in their assorted prospects.

    I can’t claim ownership of a finely-tuned predictive crystal ball, or have any informants within the inner party, but I have been following the political scene as reflected in the crazy-house mirror of the internet since about 2002, and before that through a variety of print publications, and over time one does develop a sense of how things may develop with regard to next years’ presidential campaign.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Current Events, Politics, Predictions | 46 Comments »

    Why Impeachment Now ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th October 2019 (All posts by )

    The intention to impeach Donald Trump actually followed his election by a day or two. The idea that “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” have been committed is ludicrous. So, why go to this risky strategy now ?

    Well, the Mueller/Weissmann investigation was a dud. Even the left recognized that it did them no good.

    President Trump’s job approval rating has rebounded since the release of a summary of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings related to Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to a new poll.

    A Gallup survey released Friday finds that 45 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance, up from 39 percent in March …

    [T]he latest approval figure matches two previous highs in Gallup polling.

    Trump’s earlier 45 percent readings came during his first week in office in January 2017 and in June 2018 after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

    And when it turned out the report itself contained very damaging evidence of presidential obstruction of justice, Democrats began to think that perhaps public opinion would turn even further against the 45th president, and there was some evidence of that, too:

    The last sentence is wishing.

    At FiveThirtyEight, which maintains the most comprehensive database of polls, Trump’s average approval rating was at 42.1 percent on March 24, the day Barr released his “summary of principal findings.” A week later it was exactly the same. On April 18, when the redacted Mueller report was released, Trump’s average approval rating was 42 percent. FiveThirtyEight reported 14 polls taken (partially or fully) on or after that date. Trump’s average is now at 41.3 percent.

    In simpler terms, it was a flop. So why keep at it ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Elections, Politics, Trump | 9 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th September 2019 (All posts by )

    Conrad Black:

    Beneath the façade of Norman Rockwell and Walt Disney and most of Hollywood’s production before it was taken over by the limousine left, the United States is a jungle, and that is its strength and its weakness. It assures an immensely competitive Darwinian society in constant fermentation with high levels of achievement in practically every field, but it also causes inordinately large numbers of people to be ground to powder. The land of opportunity is the place where anyone can accomplish almost anything, but there is a threadbare safety net and more than 30 million people live in poverty. It has six to 12 times as many incarcerated people as other large, prosperous democracies, including Canada. And like all jungles, it is run, even if from a little behind the scenes, by the human equivalent of 30-foot constricting snakes and 700-pound cats. Trump’s offence, and his strength, is that he doesn’t make much effort to disguise the fact that he is a fierce, tough and often ruthless alumnus of the very tough schools of American capitalism, entertainment and politics.

    Trump is a man of his times. It’s sad that the times are such that only a Trump can promote America’s interests successfully, but that’s reality as recognized by a plurality of voters. Trump, unlike most elected Republicans in national office, gets results and that’s what counts. The media clerics will always misrepresent what’s going on, not only because of their partisan bias but because they deal in words and Trump is a man of action. Trump doesn’t play their game and they are unwilling or unable to understand what he does. Ordinary voters are probably more clear-headed.

    Posted in Conservatism, Politics, Trump, USA | 25 Comments »

    “Snopes Measures Light Wavelengths, Rates Trump’s Controversial ‘Sky Is Blue’ Tweet As ‘Mostly False'”

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th September 2019 (All posts by )

    TACOMA (AP) – Ever the watchdog and vigilant guardian of printed truth on the internet, legendary fact-checking site Snopes.com has discovered and reported yet another gross inaccuracy coming from the deservedly-maligned and completely untrustworthy Trump administration. This time, President Trump has followed up his “#SharpieGate” assertion that Alabama could’ve been hit by a hurricane with an even less justifiable weather-related claim – that “the sky is blue”. Rigorous investigation by Snopes concludes that this questionable Trump assertion is “mostly false.”

    Read the rest.

    Satire, truth – or both?

    Posted in Humor, Media, Politics, Trump | 3 Comments »

    The Ideological Turing Test

    Posted by David Foster on 26th August 2019 (All posts by )

    The Turing test is a means of assessing whether an automated system is truly intelligent by testing its ability to simulate an actual human being in conversation…the test to be conducted via terminals, over a communications link. Here’s an excerpt from Alan Turing’s own example of a hypothetical conversation:

    Interrogator: In the first line of your sonnet which reads “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” would not “a spring day” do as well or better?

    Witness: It wouldn’t scan.

    Interrogator: How about “a winter’s day,” That would scan all right.

    Witness: Yes, but nobody wants to be compared to a winter’s day.

    Interrogator: Would you say Mr. Pickwick reminded you of Christmas?

    Witness: In a way.

    Interrogator: Yet Christmas is a winter’s day, and I do not think Mr. Pickwick would mind the comparison.

    Witness: I don’t think you’re serious. By a winter’s day one means a typical winter’s day, rather than a special one like Christmas.

    At a considerably lower literary level, quite a few automated telephony systems today make an attempt to convince their targets that they are dealing with an actual human being, at least for a few seconds.

    The ideological Turing test…the term was invented by Bryan Caplan, following some comments by Paul Krugman…refers to an individual’s ability to accurately state opposing political and ideological views.  Caplan quotes John Stuart Mill: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.”

    My observation is that neither side in America’s current political divisions is over-endowed with people capable of passing the ITT.  Paul Krugman asserted, unsurprisingly, that liberals do it better:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Elections, Human Behavior, Marketing, Politics, Tech | 30 Comments »

    “After Minimum Wage Hike, Labor Day Will Be Replaced by Cheaper, More Efficient, Robot Labor Day”

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd August 2019 (All posts by )

    … Foremost on the front burner is an attempt by the Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. A fiscal review by the Senate Budget Committee, however, showed that doing so would make human labor costs so prohibitive that all human workers would quickly be replaced by AI software, self-serve kiosks, or those creepy headless Boston Dynamics robots. As companies could no longer afford to pay people $120 to not do a lick of work on the first Monday in September, “Labor Day” would have to be changed to “Robot Labor Day,” and the focus would switch to celebrating how our robot friends keep companies in business, rather than how minimum wages and unions almost destroyed them.

    Read the entire post.

    Satire, like skateboarding, is not a crime – yet.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Humor, Leftism, Politics | 37 Comments »

    The War on Trump. Stage Two.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 17th August 2019 (All posts by )

    The release of the Mueller Report with his painful conclusion that there was no Trump Russia collusion, has sent the political left on a search for another issue. “Obstruction of Justice” is not working out so the strategists at the New York Times, GHQ of the Trump Resistance, has settled on a new theme, explained at an Editorial Board meeting last week.

    A transcript of a recording was obtained by Slate.

    In the 75 minutes of the meeting—which Slate obtained a recording of, and of which a lightly condensed and edited transcript appears below—Baquet and the paper’s other leadership tried to resolve a tumultuous week for the paper, one marked by a reader revolt against a front-page headline and a separate Twitter meltdown by Jonathan Weisman, a top editor in the Washington bureau. On Tuesday, the Times announced it was demoting Weisman from deputy editor because of his “serious lapses in judgment.”

    The headline issue was a hilarious swap of headlines after the first was considered too friendly to Trump.

    [R]eader expectations of the Times have shifted after the election of President Trump. The paper… saw a huge surge of subscriptions in the days and months after the 2016 election… The Times has since embraced these new subscribers in glitzy commercials with slogans like “The truth is more important now than ever.” Yet there is a glaring disconnect between those energized readers and many Times staffers, especially newspaper veterans. [Executive Editor Dean] Baquet doesn’t see himself as the vanguard of the resistance… He acknowledges that people may have a different view of what the Times is, but he doesn’t blame the marketing. “It’s not because of the ads; it’s because Donald Trump has stirred up very powerful feelings among Americans. It’s made Americans, depending on your point of view, very angry and very mistrustful of institutions.

    So, readers who hate Trump went nuts after the first headline was not angry enough.

    So, what to do ?

    But there’s something larger at play here. This is a really hard story, newsrooms haven’t confronted one like this since the 1960s. It got trickier after [inaudible] … went from being a story about whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia and obstruction of justice to being a more head-on story about the president’s character.

    In other words, the New York Times went all in on RussiaGate and that exploded in their faces, so now they’ve had to shift their Main Narrative to denouncing Trump as racist:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Elections, History, Politics, Trump | 67 Comments »

    Six Hundred Million Years in K-12

    Posted by David Foster on 17th August 2019 (All posts by )

    (This post is now an August perennial, in honor of the beginning of the new school year–indeed, many kids have already been in school for 2 or 3 weeks)

    Peter Orszag, who was Obama’s budget director and is now at Lazard, thinks it would be a good idea to cut back on summer school vacations for kids, arguing that this would both improve academics and reduce obesity.

    I’m with Jeremy LottBut to look at the vast wasteland that is American public education — the poor teaching, the awful curriculum, the low standards, the anemic achievement, the institutional resistance to needed reform — and say that the real problem is summer vacation takes a special sort of mind.

    I wrote about the war on summer vacation back in 2006, after stopping at a store in Georgia on the first day of August and discovering that this was the first day of school for the local children.

    The truth is, most public K-12 schools make very poor use of the time of their students. They waste huge proportions of the millions of hours which have been entrusted to them–waste them through the mindless implementation of fads and theories, waste them through inappropriate teacher-credentialing processes, waste them through refusal to maintain high standards of performance and behavior.

    When an organization or institution proves itself to be a poor steward of the resources that have been entrusted to it, the right answer is not to give it more resources to waste.

    Orszag and similar thinkers seem to have no concept that good things can happen to children’s development outside of an institutional setting. Plenty of kids develop and pursue interests in science, literature, art, music…plus, there is plenty to be learned simply by interacting with friends in an unstructured environment.

    Would the world be better off if Steve Wozniak and Jeri Ellsworth..to name only two of many, many examples..had their noses held constantly to the school grindstone rather than having time to develop their interests in electronics?

    Lewis E Lawes, who was warden of Sing Sing prison from 1915 to 1941, wrote an interesting book titled Twenty Thousand Years in Sing Sing. The title refers to the aggregate lengths of the sentences of the men in the prison at a typical particular point in time.

    Lawes:

    Twenty-five hundred men saddled with an aggregate of twenty thousand years! Within such cycles worlds are born, die, and are reborn. That span has witnessed the evolution of the intelligence of mortal man. And we know that twenty thousand years have seen nations run their courses, perish, and give way to their successors. Twenty thousand years in my keeping. What will they evolve?

    Following the same approach, the aggregate length of the terms to be spent in K-12 schools by their current students is more than 600,000,000 years. What proportion of this time is actually used productively?

    And how many of the officials who supervise and run the public schools, and the ed-school professors who influence their policies, think about this 600,000,000 years in the same serious and reflective way that Lawes thought about the 20,000 years under his supervision? Some do, of course, but a disturbing percentage of them seem to be simply going through the bureaucratic motions.

    And the politicians and officials of the Democratic Party, those who talk so much about their devotion to Education and The Children, are the last people in the world who are ever going to call them on it.

    Posted in Big Government, Crime and Punishment, Education, Politics, USA | 6 Comments »

    “Twitter Rolls Out New Feature That Auto-Posts ‘Ban Assault Rifles!’ From Your Account Any Time a Mass Shooting Hashtag Starts Trending”

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th August 2019 (All posts by )

    Don’t give them ideas:

    Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said he was “excited” about the rollout of the new feature.
     
    “For at least 2 years now, maybe even longer, America has been faced with the tragedy of mass shootings,” said Dorsey. “While some people waste time considering the feelings of the victims and their families, others do the smart thing and start offering solutions to the problem. Now, the only solution that would have any effect – at least according to all the angry tweets I’ve read on the topic – is a complete ban on assault rifles. The problem is, not everyone is doing all they can to spread that message – like those ‘why don’t we discuss this calmly and study our options’ morons.”

    UPDATE: This is satire.

    Posted in Humor, Leftism, Media, Politics, RKBA | 8 Comments »

    “Red Flag” Laws

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th August 2019 (All posts by )

    From this helpful summary of recent trends in US gun laws at Ammo.com:

    After a wave of mass shootings in 2017 and 2018, one of the most fashionable pushes for gun control was the rise of so-called “red flag” laws, or Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs).
     
    [. . .]
     
    Red flag laws enable law enforcement to confiscate firearms from an individual who is considered a threat to themselves or others. However, these confiscatory actions can be taken based on simple allegations. An accusation from a family member, friend, or associate is enough of a justification for law enforcement officers to seize an individual’s firearms.
     
    Potential for due process violations has emerged since red flag laws started gaining traction. Even the American Civil Liberties Union, who views the Second Amendment as a collective right as opposed to an individual right, has expressed concern about how red flags will essentially create Minority Report-like scenarios in America. Individuals could see their rights stripped just based on speculation on the part of petitioners and a judge.
     
    Subsequently, the accused are compelled to take their accusers to court, even though the accused has never been charged with or convicted of a crime. To make matters worse, the defendant could have their weapons seized without even a hearing before a judge. Months could go by before a gun owner wins back his gun rights in court.

    It seems likely that govt officials will use red flag laws to harass unpopular people. It seems likely that red flag laws will have perverse unintended consequences such as ex-girlfriend empowerment. Red flag laws will be enforced by the same institutions and officials whose inability to prevent or stop mass shootings is used as an argument for passing red flag laws.

    In politics, if it feels good, if it’s fashionable, if it’s glib, if everyone seems to want it, it’s probably a bad idea.

    Posted in Leftism, Politics, Rhetoric, RKBA | 15 Comments »

    Jeffrey Epstein’s Death in Federal Custody, the Suicide of Federal Government Credibility

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 10th August 2019 (All posts by )

    The announced “death by suicide” of Pedo-Pimp to the Powerful Jeffrey Epstein in Federal government custody while;

    1. On a 24/7 suicide watch,
    2. After his first “suicide attempt,”  in late July, and
    3. Before there was any time for a real autopsy…

    …is such utter horse manure as to utterly destroy any shred of credibility of the Federal government.

    That Federal Attorney General Barr first called for an FBI investigation of Epstein’s death — to deafening loud round of public rasp-berry’s.

    Then he followed that credibility destroying knee jerk response near seconds later by saying the Department of Justice Inspector General would conduct the investigation — given the non-prosecution of so many in the DoJ & FBI after the IG caught them red handed leaking FISA surveillance sources and methods to the press — amounts to an “Eff-U” slap in the face to the General Public.

    This is pure “Pravda Reporting on Chernobyl” territory.  It’s all about elite posturing and “Face” while the radioactive pile burns.

    America functions on the consent of the governed.  This requires the government be credible through elite replacement by elections as well as the fair administration and enforcement of justice for both the powerful as well as the least of us.

    The circumstances of Mr Epstein’s death are such that I’ve completely lost any faith in the concept of “Justice” that in any way involves the institutional FBI or Department of Justice.

    I hate saying that because it leaves us here:

    “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.”

    That Rubicon has now been crossed. G-d help the people of these United States.

    Please comment and tell me I’m wrong.  I’m in the mood to be lied too.

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Law, Law Enforcement, Morality and Philosphy, Politics | 71 Comments »

    More Than Crazy Years

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st August 2019 (All posts by )

    Yes, the great science fiction visionary, Robert A. Heinlein (PBUH) an Annapolis grad and serving naval officer who was discharged for reasons of health early on in what might have been a promising naval career at the right time and in the right generation to have made a significant command mark in WWII, generated the concept of the crazy years. But I wonder if he had the slightest clue of the far-frozen limits of bug-house, chewing-at-the-restraints, raving-at-the-moon crazy that current political figures, media personalities, self-styled internet stars, and academic t*ats would achieve … and just in the last week or so. Really, under the old rules of civility, the ones that I grew to adulthood honoring, decent citizens would have just looked away, murmuring polite demurrals and excuses under their breath, while deleting the offending party from their address book and never inviting them to their neighborhood potlucks any more … but now the crazy has got to such an extent that one can hardly keep up.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Human Behavior, Leftism, Media, Politics, The Press, Urban Issues | 24 Comments »

    A Visual Impression of the Democratic Debate

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st August 2019 (All posts by )

    double trouble

    Posted in Photos, Politics | 9 Comments »

    “Like a combination Love Boat and Gravy Train”

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st July 2019 (All posts by )

    NEW YORK CITY (AP) – After a journey spanning 5 years and over 100,000 nautical miles, a liberal research vessel has finally returned home to the New York harbor from which it originally launched. After stopping in 197 countries and interviewing over 50,000 people, the researchers report that they were unable to locate anyone who was not entitled to US health care, welfare payments, or voting rights.

    [. . .]

    (Read the whole thing.)

    Posted in Humor, Leftism, Politics | 7 Comments »

    When the Saxon Began to Hate

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th July 2019 (All posts by )

    It was not part of their blood,
    It came to them very late,
    With long arrears to make good,
    When the Saxon began to hate.

    I have often jokingly wished that some kind of secret sign existed, like a Masonic emblem or peculiar handshake by which those of us conservatives who do not go about openly advertising our political affiliations to all and sundry might discretely identify a kindred spirit. Those of us in the real world have friends, neighbors, and co-workers who range across the political spectrum; Traditional good manners and consideration for those who didn’t share your beliefs once dictated a degree of ambiguity regarding political leanings, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs. This sense of discretion owed more to conventional good manners rather than cowardice, although a disinclination about being bashed about the head by a member of the Klantifa, harassed out of a restaurant, or a Twitter campaign to get one fired from employment are lately a very real possibility as a result of overtly advertising ones’ conservative sympathies.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, History, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Media, Miscellaneous, Politics, Predictions, Tea Party, Trump | 39 Comments »

    Re-Privatizing Fannie and Freddie: It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 19th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Privatization reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a hot topic on and off since their founding eight and five decades ago respectively, is heating up once again after more than a decade of temporary conservatorship. All past reform efforts have failed. What should we have learned?

    • Private markets operate on one set of incentives and accountability, government on an entirely different set. Each has its problems and imperfect solutions.
    • Private markets may inappropriately discriminate against qualified borrowers, for example, whereas public programs may fail to adequately discriminate.
    • Public enterprises created to jump-start or complement private markets often miss the mark, with unintended consequences.
    • Politicians much prefer to deliver subsidies through taxes (in this case tax exempt debt substituting for taxable equity) rather than expenditures – especially since the Budget Control Act of 1974 – and implicit off-budget credit guarantees that delay the reckoning.
    • In spite of good intentions and design to get the best of both, privatized hybrid public-private systems inevitably embody the worst: public risk for private profit. Lacking both market and public discipline, they cause systemic failure that “nobody could have seen coming.”
    • Political reform reflexively blames private market failure, doubling down on unaccountable and ineffective bureaucratic methods while providing opaque bailouts through greater tax and credit subsidies.
    • Political reform starts with what is, not what should be, repeating the cycle.

    U.S. secondary markets evolved entirely in response to anachronistic political forces. FHA was created in 1936 to stimulate new construction jobs subsequent to a huge housing construction boom. Fannie Mae was created two years later to prop up flagging demand for FHA mortgages. Ginnie Mae was created in 1968 to liquidate Fannie Mae after prior privatization attempts failed to reduce official government debt, but the residual $1 billion secondary market facility with minimal shares outstanding as a result of a mandatory user purchase program was instead privatized. When that entity turned down tax exempt pass-through securitization to circumvent the myriad laws and regulations preventing the development of a national securities market, Ginnie Mae stepped in. Rather than liquidate, the privatized Fannie turned to funding conventional mortgages for their mortgage banker clients. To protect their turf, portfolio lending savings and loans then demanded their own secondary market facility, Freddie Mac. It later privatized mainly to provide management incentives comparable to Fannie, particularly stock options.

    They then morphed into massive public directed credit institutions, with profits from government subsidies privatized but otherwise lacking the benefits of market efficiency and discipline. About half of F&F subsidies were captured by shareholders, managers and politicians (my estimates), an invitation to affordable housing proponents to share in this booty. Several 2018 Democratic presidential candidates have proposed upping these goals.

    U.S. mortgage markets were characterized by cut-throat competition decades before the advent of government sponsored enterprises (GSEs): the indiscriminant lending and private market securitization during the sub-prime lending bubble of 2004 to 2007 suggests that is still the case.

    What the private market can’t deliver are the tax and credit subsidies – worth tens of billions annually – that result from federal backing to support fixed rate mortgage interest rate and affordable housing credit risks. Any re-privatized hybrid system that promises to mimic the market, e.g., by requiring that it actuarially price a government credit guarantee as the market oriented Milken Institute and others recommend and to impose market capital requirements and risk regulations directly conflicts with these goals and is doomed to failure. Regulatory restrictions will remain malleable because politics has and will continue to trump bureaucracy. Nor will the market discipline this regulated too-big-to-fail public mission duopoly, having correctly inferred an implicit guarantee in the past for the GSEs, disclosures, regulations and legislation notwithstanding.

    There is a better “public/private” policy option to deliver these subsidies. Long term fixed rate FHA insured mortgage loans have since 1970 been funded almost exclusively with Ginnie Mae securities. Investors take the interest rate risk, HUD takes the credit risks and all ancillary functions are delegated to a competitive private marketplace. FHA, a government sponsored mutual insurance fund with de facto public backing since incorporated into and regulated by HUD insures each mortgage. The un-capitalized Ginnie Mae de jure security guarantee covers only timeliness of FHA payments, but de facto acts as a guarantor of FHA mortgage securities.

    While FHA has failed actuarially – in part due to overly ambitious political goals and its focus on borrowers who may not have qualified for a conventional loan – bailouts have been opaque with minimal or no budget transfers, investor losses or market disruption. It survived the sub-prime lending debacle relatively unscathed. This system hasn’t failed systemically because it separates the private and public functions into different entities, minimizing public risk for private profit incentive conflicts.

    A federal guarantor for conventional mortgage securities modeled after Ginnie Mae (something Ginnie Mae proposed in the late 1970s but I opposed on grounds that it would displace the private savings and loan system of the time) should replace F&F, with the existing infrastructure auctioned to the highest bidder .

    Properly designed, a federal guarantor wouldn’t experience any loss except in catastrophic circumstances. The original Fannie Mae and particularly Freddie Mac secondary market system that left credit risk primarily with multiple state regulated private mortgage insurer’s (pmi’s), experienced negligible credit losses until the market collapse of 2008, after which F&F credit losses of about $300 billion were ten times total pmi industry losses, due to loss severity far exceeding insurance limits. A federal guarantor should be limited to pools of fixed rate mortgages with deeper pmi coverage to reduce exposure, and ideally partially re-insured with private mortgage pool insurers to further capitalize and diversify risk.

    The tax and credit subsidies all go to uniformly lower rates. Deeper affordability subsidies in pursuit of federal home ownership affordability goals were previously provided by HUD’s Section 235 homeowner program targeted to individual FHA mortgage borrower needs, the right approach for achieving this goal. But after years of default losses, Congress shut it down in 1989 rather than increase the budget to reflect the true cost. Following the law of unintended consequences, the affordable housing goals were then dramatically expanded in the Federal Housing Enterprises Regulatory Reform Act of 1992, a precursor to their subsequent failure.

    The debate over the desirability and magnitude of homeownership subsidies remains unresolved. This proposal shifts it to the political arena.

    Kevin Villani

    —-

    Kevin Villani, chief economist of HUD during the Carter and Reagan Administrations and Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985, is the author of Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on the political origins of the sub-prime lending bubble and aftermath.

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Economics & Finance, Politics, Public Finance | 3 Comments »

    National Conservatism

    Posted by Grurray on 17th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Here is Peter Thiel’s keynote address at the National Conservatism Conference, if you haven’t seen it yet. His accusations about Google’s disloyalty are front and center. I’m not sure what to think about that particular part. There’s no doubt that Google has a socially liberal, internationalist bent that favors cooperation with China at the expense of domestic interests. On the other hand, if we’re singling out companies and industries that have pursued profits that undermined American values, there are plenty to go around.

    Most of his other points are spot on. As a nation we chose bits over atoms, and it did not turn out well for a large segment of America. He has some scathing comments about the American dream and higher education that are hard to argue with, while approaching a nihilism that we don’t normally associate with conservatism.

    The conference was organized by Yoram Hazony, political philosopher and author of the excellent book The Virtue of Nationalism, that I highly recommend.

    Posted in Book Notes, Conservatism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society | 9 Comments »

    Bernie Sanders Won the Debate

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 4th July 2019 (All posts by )

    (WSJ: Bernie Sanders Won the Debate)
     
    —-

    The 20 candidates in the Democratic debates on June 26 & 27 accepted Sanders’s fundamental vision of Democratic Socialism.

    Bernie Sanders’s June 12 speech at George Washington University proposing “a 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights (EBR)” to “a decent job that pays a living wage; quality health care; complete (higher) education; affordable housing; a clean environment; and a secure retirement” all “regardless of his or her income” started a competition among the current democratic candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination with promises of free stuff. This new Democratic socialism makes two promises:

    “It is free to the masses.”

    “If you like your democratic system of government, you can keep it.”

    This isn’t new and isn’t true.

    The ideological Cold War between the socialist totalitarian countries and the capitalist social democracies ended with the economic and political bankruptcy of virtually all of the former. The latter expanded their welfare states by taxing the economic fruits of capitalism, contracting when going too far, with symptoms including declining investment and innovation and rising public deficits and debt burdens. The proposed EBR to expand the welfare state to socialist extremes while maintaining democracy will erode both living standards and liberty.

    The Unintended Consequences of the Economic Bill of Rights

    The market system is based upon individuals responding to incentives, mostly embodied in market prices. Contemporary economists have done Nobel-worthy research demonstrating that individuals don’t always respond rationally. But the EBR promising free or cheap stuff well below cost with wages and income determined well above productivity is incompatible with a market economy and individual liberty. It would severely distort work and consumption incentives: already declining labor force participation would collapse and productivity stagnation would worsen. Costs of health care, education and housing would rise. The Green New Deal environmental proposal would cost up to $100 trillion while providing negligible environmental benefit. Private household saving would shrink further with the right to a secure retirement.

    States that raise income taxes on high net worth businesses and/or firms face an exodus of both. Individuals and firms similarly shift their tax residence outside the U.S. reducing U.S. domestic innovation. Trade deficits widen. The cost of the EBR exceeds the revenue from these types of taxes by orders of magnitude. The progressive states are already voting themselves into bankruptcy, anticipating a federal bailout.

    Modern Monetary Theory: Old Fashioned Money Printing

    To avoid the political consequences of massive middle class taxation, the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) promoted by a Sanders campaign economic advisor proposes debt financing. Wall Street prognosticators forecast the end of the debt supercycle in 2011 and the collapse of the international monetary system in 2014, going code red. But the debt supercycle has continued, so proponents of the MMT assume that interest rates will remain low indefinitely so the cost can be financed with no long term consequence, whether bought by domestic or foreign creditors or the Federal Reserve.

    They may be right about America’s creditors continuing to accept debt in the near term, but excessive debt always ends, suddenly and badly: the longer it goes on the bigger the bust. As the world’s reserve currency the debt can’t simply be inflated away. The consequences of a U.S. international default, no matter how delivered, would be catastrophic.

    Democratic Socialism and Individual Freedom

    The socialist EBR is the responsibility of the administrative state, which requires totalitarian political power to deliver. What, then, do democratic socialists mean by “democracy”?

    The ancient Greek city-states began experimenting with democracy (literally, “people power” in Greek) about 2500 years ago, limited to males selected on merit. After about a century of experimentation, Greek philosophers concluded that democracy was a form of mob tyranny that undermined individual freedom and the rule of law. United States exceptionalism is rooted in the U.S. Constitution, an experiment in a representative federal republic held in check by a limited list of enumerated powers to protect individual freedoms and prevent mob rule.

    The extension of voting rights to former slaves – and over a half century later to women– was overdue. The 14th Amendment was necessary to restrict the ability of Southern states from inhibiting their voting rights but has since been interpreted to give the federal government virtual total supremacy. The direct election of Senators in the 17th Amendment of 1912 further expanded populist democracy.

    Marx promised democracy and universal suffrage. Trotsky promised a peoples democracy, as did Mao. The current progressive platform on voting rights; opposing voter registration, supporting immigration of dependents with voting rights rather than working rights, eliminating the Electoral College, reducing the voting age to 16 years old, registering prisoners, and drive-by voter registration would complete the transition from a representative republic to a peoples democracy.

    Kevin Villani

    —-

    Kevin Villani, chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985, is a principal of University Financial Associates. He has held senior government positions, has been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on the political origins of the sub-prime lending bubble and aftermath.

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 8 Comments »

    Fixing the border facility crisis

    Posted by TM Lutas on 4th July 2019 (All posts by )

    It’s useful to review how to fix conditions of overcrowding in a facility. There are two fixes available.

    1. You build more capacity
    2. You increase training and oversight of the personnel running the facilities if they’re not behaving adequately

    Both of these fixes require more money allocated by Congress. It helps when the Executive requests more funding but Congress doesn’t require it.

    Go look at the legislative history. President Trump asked for more funds, Congress turned him down. It wasn’t his own party that denied him, it was the Democratic delegation that was against relief.

    President Trump sought to work around the restrictions by declaring an emergency and using military construction money. It was left wing advocates who went to court to fight Trump, preventing him from building more facilities.

    The left wing solution is to cause so much suffering so that our hearts break and we stop enforcing the law.

    That’s cruel. It’s cruel on purpose.

    Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez alleges misbehavior by camp personnel. She is one of a small select group, just 535 people strong who could directly improve the situation by introducing legislation that would force improvements in behavior. She has yet to introduce any.

    The Congresswoman is a prominent part of the cruelty agenda.

    In a normal country, hard questions would be asked by the mainstream media of those who have recently been part of this cruelty agenda.

    Posted in Americas, Culture, Immigration, North America, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Blood Lands Rising! — A Music Video Tour of Modern Ukrainian National Identity

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

    Back in January 2015 I wrote the column “Ukraine’s Viking Revival” on the shape of the emerging Ukrainian Nationalism caused by the Putin regime’s invasions of Crimea and the Donbas. It is a phenomena that will be seen in coming decades as one of the formative event of the 21st Century.

    See here:

    Ukraine’s Viking Revival
    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/47214.html

    Ukraine's Viking Revival

    Ukraine’s “Viking Revival” complete with top knots, war cats and Tartar warriors.

    For reasons best known to my writing muse, I revisited it Sunday for the lyrics and video of “100 BIYTSIV.” (100 Warriors)

    Translated to English Lyrics:

    Flowing / like blood from a blade
    across the steppe / in a fine line:
    left-handed battle / and the right fight,
    death awaits / in the distant blue
    .
    We go – one family
    one hundred warriors and I.
    And day by day, over again,
    One hundred warriors and one order.
    .
    Day by day, who knows where
    orders take us – and the hundred go.
    .
    Through the fire / and bullets flying
    through coal / and through granite
    .
    We go – one family
    one hundred warriors and I.
    And every day, over and over again,
    One hundred warriors and one order.
    .
    With every turn / and crossroads
    every fork in the road / so far
    So far / your beloved is
    waiting back home / you with her
    .
    By chance / yesterday our destiny
    fell upon us / today,
    and tomorrow who knows / what will come …
    For the Fatherland / I give my life …
    .
    Tomorrow I, then you
    Who knows how, and when we go
    to battle we arm ourselves, death to the enemy!
    No rest for my feet …
    .
    We go – one family
    one hundred warriors and I.
    And day by day, over again,
    One hundred warriors and one order.
    .
    My love, do listen, and do not cry!
    He did not die / for our homeland!
    Let the enemy die / for our Donbass,
    A long road / awaits us.
    .
    We go – one family
    one hundred warriors and I.
    And day by day, over again,
    One hundred warriors and one order.

    All of which were set to to the tune of SSgt Barry Sadler’sThe Ballad of the Green Berets.”

    I ran down and updated the video link address in my old post:

    …and from there spent time looking across the latest music video markers of Ukrainian Nationalism.

    There is quite a bit with really good production values and story telling. Some are from the ATO & Right Sector, but many other artists are now drawing upon these same Viking/Vanagarian/Tartar national symbols, complete with sword dancing and shield maidens,  to forge a unique Ukrainian National Identity apart from Russia.

    The “Blood Lands” of Ukraine are rising. And the peoples of Ukraine are remaking themselves into a new, wild, Viking ethnic nationalist image, drawing on their past heritage, and their new hatreds, with all that entails.

    Proud to be Ukrainian

    Proud to be Ukrainian — This video starts with children in fields and flashes to Ukraine’s struggles in the past and with Putin’s Regime.

    Я – українець і кажу це гордо! / Proud to be Ukrainian
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb_gjqCf5lU&list=RDn8wLN79Ii5Q&index=29

     

    Ukrainian Army Anthem

    Ukrainian Army Anthem — This anthem is a repackaging of the OUN Anthem.   The 1929 “March of Ukrainian Nationalists”,  which is now the basis of the revised and rearranged “Mарш Hової Aрмії [March of the New Army]” Wikipedia has the English lyrics.  Putin era Russians hate this song immensely.

    Ukrainian Army Anthem
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgdANpB9PnY
    .
    .
    .
    Марш нової української армії

    Марш нової української армії – This has the same Ukrainian Army Anthem set to the visuals of the 2018 Ukraine military parade celebrating the centennial of the brief 1918 Ukraine National Republic. Ukraine‘s first independent state since it was dismembered after the Battle of Poltava in 1709.  That Republic was conquered and incorporated into the Russian dominated Soviet Union.  The men above wears the uniforms of that Republic.

    Марш нової української армії

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nc1TwvbJSKA

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe, History, Miscellaneous, Politics, Russia, War and Peace | 19 Comments »