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  • Archive for November, 2007

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Posted by Helen on 21st November 2007 (All posts by )

    All best wishes for Thanksgiving to our American friends from this side of the Pond. To be honest, it ought to be a British festivity as well. They were English, were they not?

    Posted in Americas, Anglosphere, History | 9 Comments »

    My View of Iraq

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 21st November 2007 (All posts by )

    I would consider myself a pretty normal guy. I love football, good food, fishing, spending time with my family and reading. Other things interest me as well. I used to be a news and politics junkie but have had to trade that off as my life got busier.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iraq | 18 Comments »

    “Public opinion is a lagging indicator.”

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th November 2007 (All posts by )

    . . . said Charles Krauthammer on TV today. He is right.

    That’s one reason why weak surfers of public opinion like the Clintons should not be leaders. Effective leaders must be able to lead, which by definition means taking unpopular positions, based on nothing more than principle, some of the time, when the stakes are high. Lincoln did it. Churchill did it. FDR did it (on the war). Reagan did it. Bush Jr. did it and continues to do it.

    Who among the current presidential candidates is capable of holding and defending unpopular positions for long periods when necessary? I don’t know if any of the Democrats can do it. Among the Republicans, I think Giuliani can do it. McCain: who knows. Romney and Thompson: maybe.

    From the standpoint of leadership, Giuliani vs. any Democrat may be all the choice we need.

    Posted in Political Philosophy, Politics | 20 Comments »

    How to Lose a Shirt You Don’t Own

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 20th November 2007 (All posts by )

    One reason the effect of the US subprime loan crisis has spread so far and so quickly is that financial institutions have many ways of participating in the debt market other than issuing or buying debt instruments. Most of the financial news I have read omits explanations of how it happens, other than generic references to “derivatives.” Here are some of the other ways to have a loss without touching a mortgage.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance | 2 Comments »

    Electronic Paper–Finally a Commercial Proposition?

    Posted by David Foster on 20th November 2007 (All posts by )

    I’ve written several posts about the emergence of electronic ink / electronic paper technologies. In a nutshell, these technologies allow information to be displayed on a medium which is (a) thin, (b) flexible (to at least some degree), (c) readable in bright sunlight, and (d) power-efficient (power is used only when changing the page, not for display per se.) As I wrote in 2004:

    “These technologies could have major implications for the display of long text documents, eliminating the current undesirable alternatives of reading it on the screen or going to the trouble of printing it out, and I think they could have tremendous influence on the future of the media industry (especially periodicals.)”

    A couple of years ago, Sony launched the Sony eReader, a 9-ounce product that can store about 80 average-sized books. Downloading is via an i-Tunes-like interface from a PC. My perception is that eReader has not been a runaway success, although it has developed some niche markets–it seems to be popular, for instance, among fans of romance novels, especially really hot romance novels.

    Today, Amazon launched a product called Kindle, which has some interesting attributes:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Tech | 9 Comments »

    Real Estate Purchasing… and Wishful Thinking

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 19th November 2007 (All posts by )

    Like much of the USA, Chicago and in particular my neighborhood (River North) has had an immense construction boom in housing over the last decade or so. Condos have sprung up everywhere, and some buildings that initially started out as high-end apartments converted over to condominiums.

    Not only has there been an increase in the number of units, the turnover in units once purchased by the buyer is quick. If our building is any guide, perhaps 25% of the units are resold on the secondary market every year. We are a medium sized building, which I consider anywhere between 75 – 150 units, and not a weekend goes by without a couple of Realtors in the lobby and a few open houses. The Chicago Tribune has a decent real estate section and you can select a given building (by defining a unique address) & see the turnover across a period of time, along with the gain (or loss) in pricing on units that have been purchased more than once in that time period.

    The boom seems to be coming to an end. There is a lot nearby that was going to have a 19 story condo building; now there is a sign on the lot saying that a ground level lease is available. Some other buildings that were proposed seem to be moving quite slowly, as well.

    I would broadly segregate the condo real estate market into the following groups: 1) developers that haven’t started yet 2) developers for which construction is substantially committed and units are being sold 3) units available for resale from owners who own / occupy the unit.

    This advertisement is from a developer in category #2 – the building is up, many of the units have been sold, and now the developer is trying to clear out the rest of the inventory. This building in particular (I can see it outside my window, picture below) was an apartment building that converted over to condos; the process is pretty far underway (I think that they have sold most of the units) and the developer apparently is pretty committed to unload the rest of the units. In the fine print of the ad you can see the straightforward comment:

    “We’ve lowered our prices to give you the kind of deal that you’ve been waiting for. If you think you can do better, tell us. We’ll see what we can do.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 9 Comments »

    Be Careful!

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th November 2007 (All posts by )


    Safety is a watchword at Chicagoboyz.

     

    Posted in Humor, Photos | 4 Comments »

    Representative Government Without Elections?

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th November 2007 (All posts by )

    Selection of a representative government doesn’t have to be done by voting. Given the downsides of voting with which we are all familiar, it might be worth considering alternative methods for choosing legislators.

    A couple of such alternatives are presented here and here. (The first proposal is to select legislators by lottery; the second proposal suggests a variant on the lottery system that would treat selection of citizens for legislative service in the same way that we treat jury selection.)

    I don’t know if the fact that these two proposals appeared as columns in Canadian newspapers is significant. I wonder why we don’t see more such proposals in the USA.

    Of course the political class, whose livelihood is based on rent-seeking that would not be possible without elections, would oppose such reforms. So would many businesses, and even entire industries, that benefit from legislative largess. But that doesn’t mean the idea or replacing elections with something else shouldn’t be considered.

    UPDATE: In the comments, Robert Schwartz explains why the columns I cited appeared in Canadian newspapers.

    Posted in Political Philosophy | 13 Comments »

    Dubious W&W from C&W

    Posted by Ginny on 18th November 2007 (All posts by )

    One of my friends finds country depressing. Kevin Fowler portrays life on the edge; so does Gretchen Wilson. They remind us of the rawness of the old Sun recordings; they portray (and perhaps are themselves), as Waylon Jennings put it, working without a net. But the danger & the fear in such highwire acts produces an energy we also feel. Lyrics after the jump.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Music, Video | 2 Comments »

    State Liquor Control Taxes

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 18th November 2007 (All posts by )

    On Saturday night, I was doing what I usually do, which is head over to the giant and amazingly well-stocked BINNY’S liquor store right by my condominium in Chicago (as documented in this “action” post) and roam the aisles a bit like a kid in a candy store before settling on some type of purchase. To my surprise, Binny’s was completely packed, with people who had shopping carts filled to the brim with every type of wine, beer and liquor. When I finally got up to the cashier (sadly enough, they recognize me and even let me in if I happen to be down there when the store is about to close) I asked what was going on and they said a tour bus pulled up out front from out of state and everyone was stocking up on liquor. The cashier said that this happens all the time. I asked the person behind me in line and she said that they were from Michigan and that she takes the tour every year around the holidays. I asked if this was legal and she kind of chuckled and that was that.
    Sure enough, when I walked past the “Binny’s Booze Bus” the side doors facing the sidewalk under the seats were open and the spaces where the luggage was supposed to go were full of liquor of every variety, efficiently packaged by the case. (As an aside, I am switching back to cameras and kind of giving up on my Flip Video… because my posts were too boring w/out photos and the video software was too time consuming to mess with).

    The first thought that crossed through my head was “I can’t believe that any taxes for anything are better in Chicago than anywhere else (other than our flat state income tax rate)” since we have the highest sales tax rate of any big city in the nation, and I figured we taxed liquor to death, too. But this bus full of booze-seeking Michigan residents offered tangible proof that the situation existed, so I decided to do some research.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Economics & Finance, Taxes | 20 Comments »

    Subterranean Palindrome Blues

    Posted by Lexington Green on 18th November 2007 (All posts by )

    If Weird Al Yankovic did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
     


     
    My kids turned me on this one, though they did not get the reference.
     
    UPDATE: [Jonathan here.] Sorry about the bad link. Lex is busy and can’t fix it at the moment. One of us will fix it ASAP.
     
    UPDATE 2: Fixed!
     

    Posted in Music, Video | 4 Comments »

    The Psychology of the Warlord

    Posted by Zenpundit on 17th November 2007 (All posts by )

    Kent’s Imperative had a post up that would have been worthy of Coming Anarchy:

    Enigmatic biographies of the damned

    “….Via the Economist this week, we learn of the death of an adversary whose kind has nearly been forgotten. Khun Sa was a warlord who amassed a private army and smuggling operation which dominated Asian heroin trafficking from remotest Burma over the course of nearly two decades. In the end, despite indictment in US courts, the politics of a failed state permitted him to retire as an investor and business figure, and to die peacefully in his own bed.

    The stories of men such as these however shaped more than a region. They are the defining features of the flow of events in a world of dark globalization. Yet these are not the biographies that are taught in international relations academia, nor even in their counterpart intelligence studies classrooms. The psychology of such men, and the personal and organizational decision-making processes of the non-state groups which amassed power to rival a princeling of Renaissance Europe, are equally as worthy of study both for historical reasons as well as for the lessons they teach about the nature of empowered individuals.

    Prospective human factors and leadership analysts are not the only students which would benefit from a deeper pol/mil study of the dynamics of warlords and their followers in the Shan and Wa states. The structures which were left behind upon Khun Sa’s surrender were no doubt of enduring value to the ruling junta, and tracing the hostile connectivity provided to a dictatorial government by robust transnational organized crime is an excellent example of the kombinat model in a unique context outside of the classic Russian cases…”

    Read the rest here.

    There are no shortage of warlords for such a study. Among the living we have Walid Jumblatt, the crafty chief of the Druze during the 1980’s civil war in Lebanon, the egomaniacal and democidal Charles Taylor of Liberia, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar the Islamist mujahedin commander and a large assortment of Somali, Colombian, Indonesian and El Salvadoran militiamen and paramilitaries. The history of the twentieth century alone offers up such colorful characters as “The Dogmeat General“, the ghoulishly brutal Ta Mok of the Khmer Rouge, “The Mad Baron” Ungern von Sternberg, Captain Hermann Ehrhardt and Pancho Villa among many others.

    What would such a historical/cross-cultural/psychological “warlord study” reveal ? Primarily the type of man that the German journalist Konrad Heiden termed “armed bohemians”. Men who are ill-suited to achieving success in an orderly society but are acutely sensitive to minute shifts that they can exploit during times of uncertainty, coupled with an amoral sociopathology to do so ruthlessly. Paranoid and vindictive, they also frequently possess a recklessness akin to bravery and a dramatic sentimentality that charms followers and naive observers alike. Some warlords can manifest a manic energy or regularly display great administrative talents while a minority are little better than half-mad gangsters getting by, for a time, on easy violence, low cunning and lady luck.

    Every society, no matter how civilized or polite on the surface, harbors many such men within it. They are like ancient seeds waiting for the drought-breaking rains.

    Crossposted at Zenpundit

    Posted in History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Society, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Texas & the Textbooks

    Posted by Ginny on 17th November 2007 (All posts by )

    A friend e-mailed this article from the local paper:

    Six publishers submitted drafts of their textbooks to the TEA hoping to get in line for selection of the next generation of math books that will be used in Texas public schools next fall.

    One publisher, Houghton Mifflin, left more than 86,000 errors in books, 79 percent of the total.

    (AP –“School Textbooks Rife With Errors”)

    Not that Houghton Mifflin was alone; in the six 109,263 errors were found.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education | 9 Comments »

    Ugliness & the Life Force

    Posted by Ginny on 17th November 2007 (All posts by )

    A&L links to a review of Umberto Eco’s latest book. Underneath some modernism is a fear of the life force as much as a fear of death; that what we consider beautiful is also what is healthy and what is procreative is a long standing assumption – one that modern evolutionary theoreticians repeatedly prove. So, what are the implications of what Ezra Pound hailed as

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes | 6 Comments »

    The Culture of Death in a Chicago Elevator

    Posted by TM Lutas on 16th November 2007 (All posts by )

    I work in a building with an in-elevator video system. This morning, a tale of russian cultists, 29 in all threatening to blow themselves up in their sealed cave if anyone interrupts them as they wait for the end of the world this spring. “Who cares” erupts loudly from the only other person in the elevator, a guy in a business suit. I was “It’s always good to talk them off the ledge” I replied and off I went to work.

    You had to be there to catch the contempt, the utter disregard for the sanctity of life in his simple words. He was wondering why his life was being inconvenienced by these russian religious fanatics when he could be getting his stock news on his elevator ride. That was how little their lives meant to him. It was the culture of death in a nutshell. These 29 people (I later learned 4 were children, the youngest under 2 years old) were just meat to this guy and not only that, he had to share the sentiment so we could all join him in being unhappy at the inconvenience. We could have found out about the Dow 15 seconds earlier. And what about Britney? Don’t these Captivate Network guys have any sense of proportion?

    The Culture of Death, where the rubber meets the road, will have a suit on more often than not, will be ‘respectable’ more often than not, and, more often than not, will insist on you joining in. That’s creepy, and not as theoretical as it was yesterday.

    Posted in Morality and Philosphy, Personal Narrative, Russia, Society | 16 Comments »

    Hell is Other Robots

    Posted by Shannon Love on 16th November 2007 (All posts by )

    So my son and I are watching reruns of FutureRama and the title of the episode was “Hell is Other Robots.” I laughed at the title and my son asked me why.

    I replied, “It’s a play on a line from the French author Jean-Paul Sartre that goes, ‘Hell is other people.'”

    “Huh,” said my son, “I guess he didn’t go out much.”

    I think I will steer him away from the advanced literature courses in college to spare the professor migraines.

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 13 Comments »

    Academics and Entertainers

    Posted by David Foster on 16th November 2007 (All posts by )

    I find it very intriguing that academics and entertainers are–at the present time in the U.S.–generally on the same side of political and social issues.

    Because superficially, at least, the typical college professor and the typical (rock star, actor, etc) would seem to be very different kinds of people.

    Thoughts on this? Anyone? Bueller?

    Posted in Academia, Society | 23 Comments »

    Addendum to the Physical Fitness Series

    Posted by Zenpundit on 15th November 2007 (All posts by )

    I’ve been training with weights for over twenty years and have passed through various phases of bodybuilding, powerlifting, “strongman”-type odd lifts, crosstraining and other forms of conditioning. I’ve seen a wide variety of training techniques, been employed as a personal trainer and met a number of professional athletes, coaches and world class amateurs in my time. I’d pretty much thought that I’d seen everything there was to see in a weight room.

    My gym is quite large and it keeps a sizable number of personal trainers on a staff, including a couple of advanced specialists. Recently, I’d noticed that among them were a handful of trainers who had their clients regularly performing a rather odd combination of exercises in very short succession – they were hoisting kettlebells, then running over to a bench press followed by a set of power cleans to exhaustion. I’ve seen them pull out gymnastic rings, squat while holding an olympic bar in overhead press position and try to chin themselves into a back spasm. Today, one of the few female trainers who doesn’t look like she emigrated from the old German Democratic Republic, had a middle-aged dude trying to do some kind of deadlifting circuit, then bench then clean and jerk with a deep squat position. He was sort of fading on that exercise.

    Generally, I mind my own business when I’m working out but I finally had to ask what in the sam hill they thought they were doing.

    Evidently, there’s a kind of weightlifting cult out there revolving around a website called Crossfit.com that publishes a workout of the day that is religiously followed by devotees in gyms across America. Despite some of the kookiness I’ve witnessed firsthand, the training philosophy Crossfit offers has some merit, particularly if your real passion is another sport for which you need improved conditioning. They have trainees moving weights as athletically as possible using compound movements with very little rest, which replicates how your body might apply strength with speed while in motion. The program is not going to build overwhelming strength or size but from my observations the serious Crossfit trainees get the kind of rugged, muscular endurance and short bursts of power you see in good collegiate wrestlers. They also tend to lean out a bit, an added bonus, though this is negated by the glassy-eyed look trainees get when they discuss the work-out of the day. Too reminiscent of Amway salesmen and Hari Krishna guys at airports.

    I’m not going to join the cult. I like specializing in lifting very heavy weights (ok – relatively heavy weights these days) but I might sneak in their more practical routines to round out my fitness profile.

    Posted in Diversions, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Personal Narrative, Sports | 19 Comments »

    Virtuous Pride? Virtuous Anger?

    Posted by Ginny on 14th November 2007 (All posts by )

    Writers need regular exercise in writing, it seems to me, so fairly often during the semester I give them a subject on which they can develop a few paragraphs in class. Sometimes my anecdotes seem a series of “how not to teach” – but, nonetheless, this exercise often gives both my students and me useful insights. This week I asked them to make concrete and real a description of an abstraction – in this case, choosing to write about one of the seven vices or virtues. The real surprise was that, while many developed interesting narrative examples and useful analogies, their assumptions (in the better papers tempered by a sense of complexity) often assumed those traits on the vice side were virtues and vice versa. This was especially true of pride and humility, but also of anger, which they saw as a justifiable response to other’s bad behavior. And so, as I contemplated the problems of this generation, I woke up to Peter Berkowitz’s “The Insanity of Bush Hatred.”It is difficult for Huck Finn to see the wrongs of slavery when surrounded by authority figures (some of whom were generally good people) who accepted that old institution as a given. Only with difficulty can students, who are regularly exposed to thinking of the kind Berkowitz describes, be led to believe that rationality, objective inquiry, acknowledgement of complexity, respect for an intellectual opponent are virtuous, or even possible. And, without civility and reasoned discourse, how can we have the discussions necessary for a democracy to thrive?

    Posted in Academia, Education | 17 Comments »

    Income Mobility

    Posted by Ginny on 14th November 2007 (All posts by )

    WSJ notes a government study that finds news as remarkable as that college-age boys are attracted to college-age girls.  The inevitability of one arises from human nature, the other from the nature of an open market place. The obvious may be acknowledged by Lou Dobbs and John Edwards, but such an admission would interfere with provoking sufficient envy to ensure their own income – and power – mobility.


    Posted in Economics & Finance | 9 Comments »

    Family Free-Riders Revisited

    Posted by Shannon Love on 13th November 2007 (All posts by )

    Over at Business Week, Karyn McCormack covers some of the same ground that I did in my infamous Family Free-Riders post by asking “Is Raising Kids a Fool’s Game?” It’s worth checking out.

    [Related Post: Family Free-Riders, Family Free-Riders Part II, Paying For Productive Adults]

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Society | 3 Comments »

    As A Personal Aside, I Have To Say…

    Posted by Zenpundit on 13th November 2007 (All posts by )

    That I have broken bread with Lexington Green on but two occasions. Both were highly interesting experiences for me. If you get a similar opportunity, I strongly recommend that you accept.

    Posted in Blogging, Diversions, Human Behavior, Personal Narrative | 13 Comments »

    The Small Wars Journal Hits The MSM Big Time

    Posted by Zenpundit on 12th November 2007 (All posts by )

    For any readers interested in Iraq, military affairs, fourth generation warfare, the liberal media and counterinsurgency:

    The publisher and the editor-in-chief of the highly regarded Small Wars Journal, respectively Bill Nagl and Dave Dilegge, are doing a public Q&A at noon on Tuesday with the powerhouse The Washington Post. I imagine that Bill Arkin will be involved somewhere as well – but we can hope otherwise. ;o)

    Read about the details at the SWJ BLog.

    Submit YOUR questions here.

    Cross-posted at Zenpundit.

    Posted in Announcements, Iraq, Media, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | Comments Off on The Small Wars Journal Hits The MSM Big Time

    W&W from C&W

    Posted by Ginny on 12th November 2007 (All posts by )

    The C&W star is cosmopolitan, taking the world’s time zones as his own.

    Alan Jackson meets Margarittaville:

    I’m gettin’ paid by the hour, an’ older by the minute.
    My boss just pushed me over the limit.
    I’d like to call him somethin’,
    I think I’ll just call it a day.

    Pour me somethin’ tall an’ strong,
    Make it a “Hurricane” before I go insane.
    It’s only half-past twelve but I don’t care.
    It’s five o’clock somewhere.

    (“It’s five o’clock somewhere“)

    Posted in Music | Comments Off on W&W from C&W

    We Will Mock The Brave And Wise

    Posted by Shannon Love on 12th November 2007 (All posts by )

    Given the disparity in information that presidents and the general public use to make and judge national security decisions, can we in the general public ever feel confident that we can accurately judge the decisions that presidents make on such matters at the time they make them?

    I don’t think so.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Human Behavior, National Security, Terrorism | 9 Comments »