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  • Archive for May, 2008

    Mounting Up with Wings as Smitten Eagle: Ethos

    Posted by Smitten Eagle on 17th May 2008 (All posts by )

    This is the first post in an occasional series on learning to how to fly as a Marine.

    I am a Marine pilot, and this is the journey I took after I earned my gold bars as a Second Lieutenant of Marines to become a Marine aviator.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Military Affairs, Personal Narrative | 7 Comments »

    Nuclear Power Cost Over-runs

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 17th May 2008 (All posts by )

    The United States (and many other countries, such as Britain) faces an energy crisis of its own making. Due to a variety of bone-headed “deregulation” schemes, there is now no financial incentive for companies to build new large, baseload generating plants (nuclear, coal, hydro) and there are massive dis-incentives in the form of zealous greens and myopic regulators that will fight them every step of the way should they attempt to solve this problem.

    While these facts are on the ground and manifestly self-evident (no new nuclear plants have been built in decades, not counting the TVA re-powering one site) and new baseload coal plants are extremely few and far between, journalists have been touting the “re-emergence” of nuclear power based on almost no hard evidence. As soon as these articles came out, I immediately pointed out the immense difficulties in building one of these plants, which range from the fact that there are 1) no financial incentives large enough to offset the massive risks 2) these estimates are “pie in the sky” and not backed up by cases of building in the USA 3) the history of these sorts of projects, on the other hand, is well documented and grim. This type of “reporting” is typical when reporters have only the barest knowledge of the facts at hand; as such they “humanize” the story and take uninformed or biased opinions verbatim without challenging the facts.

    The Wall Street Journal had an article in their May 12, 2008 issue titled “New Wave of Nuclear Power Plants Faces High Costs”. Per the article:

    “A new generation of nuclear power plants is on the drawing boards in the U.S., but the projected cost is causing some sticker shock: $5 billion to $12 billion a plant, double to quadruple earlier estimates.” Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, The Press | 9 Comments »

    Random Act of Patriotism

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 16th May 2008 (All posts by )

    I left work a bit early today to shop for the troops. I have sent care packages to many people over the years since the Iraq War begun. I am approaching one hundred care packages now, most of them going to people I have never met.

    As of late people I know have been deployed and I have concentrated my efforts on them.

    Today in my grocery basket was two large bags of Jolly Ranchers, a dozen Hersheys bars with almonds, and a container each of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and onion powder. The sauces and onion powder will be combined with other ingredients to make homemade beef jerky, always a favorite with the troops. The Jolly Ranchers and chocolate bars were going to be sent as is.

    The woman behind me in the checkout line said that I was a sweettooth, just like her. I said that the chocolate wasn’t for me. She asked me “then who is it for?” I usually in these cases just say “for a friend”, but today for whatever reason said, truthfully “these bars and Jolly Ranchers are what a friend of mine who is now serving on an aircraft carrier said he wanted. So I am going to pack them up with some homemade beef jerky and send him a care package”. The woman said that I was a great person for doing that and I assured her that the truly great people are the ones on the carrier.

    Just before I went to checkout the woman in front of me turned to me and said that she overheard my conversation with the woman behind me and insisted that I have her change – all $6.23 of it. “This is to help you ship that stuff to your buddy. Tell him he is appreciated.” Before I could refuse it she was gone and I was left standing there with $6.23 in my hand, which I really was quite unsure what to do with. The cashier said “Well put it in your wallet! And tell that guy that we are praying for him and love him and are so proud of what he is doing for us”.

    What great people. It gets tiring at times being a conservative living in Madison with all of the hatred of the right that goes on here, but today was special…special indeed.

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 14 Comments »

    Frontside vs. Backside

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 16th May 2008 (All posts by )

    In my profession, I deal with many large corporations.  Many of them are household names that everyone has heard of.  I buy products from these corporations, mark them up, inventory them, and resell them for a profit.  I am a middleman, in wholesale distribution.  I suppose you can call me a relic that made it – I remember a long time ago many companies warning their distributors that with the dawning of the internet age that we would beome obsolete.  Nothing could be further from the truth – but I digress.

    Consumers, by and large, see the frontsides of major corporations, or their retail marketing arms.  Very few people would know the ins and outs of GE’s locomotive division, but are very familiar with GE appliances such as washers and dryers.  It is very difficult for the average person to comprehend how large some of the companies in the Fortune 500 are, how they go to market, and how diverse many of these companies are.  Everyone who likes golf knows Titlest, but nobody knows who Fortune Brands is.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Environment | 14 Comments »

    Jimmy Carter v 2.0?

    Posted by David Foster on 16th May 2008 (All posts by )

    This writer sees a strong resemblance between Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter:

    IS IT POSSIBLE that America really wants to return to those depressing days of gas lines and leisure suits? Of malaise and shock over the aggressiveness of America’s enemies? The days when the policies Obama is advocating raised unemployment rates, interest rates and inflation rates into the double digits? When America’s enemies looked the President of the United States in the eye — and found he really wanted to kiss them on the cheek?

    (via Common Sense & Wonder)

    Speaking of Obama and Carter, here’s what Obama said on April 11 regarding the former President’s overtures toward Hamas:

    I’m not going to comment on former President Carter. He’s a private citizen. It’s not my place to discuss who he shouldn’t meet with.

    …and on April 16, he “clarified” his position a bit:

    Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama on Wednesday disagreed with former President Jimmy Carter’s overtures toward Hamas, saying he would not talk to the Islamist group until it recognized Israel and renounced terrorism. …

    “That’s why I have a fundamental difference with President Carter and disagree with his decision to meet with Hamas,” Obama said.

    (via LGF)

    Posted in Politics, Terrorism | 1 Comment »

    Enslaving the Responsible

    Posted by Shannon Love on 16th May 2008 (All posts by )

    Over at Reason, the Libertarian Party of California is quoted as saying:

    There’s no reason why consenting adults should not be allowed to marry so long as their arrangement doesn’t interfere with any other individual’s ability to live their life in any way they want to.

    Aye, there’s the rub. With the contemporary culture of the invasive nanny state, we do not let people suffer the consequences of their own mistakes.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Conservatism, Human Behavior, Libertarianism, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy | 9 Comments »

    Live by the Study, Die by the Study

    Posted by Shannon Love on 15th May 2008 (All posts by )

    According to a NY Times story:

    According to roughly a dozen recent studies, executions save lives. For each inmate put to death, the studies say, 3 to 18 murders are prevented. The effect is most pronounced, according to some studies, in Texas and other states that execute condemned inmates relatively often and relatively quickly.

    I can only say one thing: ROFLe3!

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Science | 2 Comments »

    The Tornados of Texas

    Posted by Shannon Love on 14th May 2008 (All posts by )

    The hook, the curled trailing edge of thunderstorms that can spiral up to form a tornado, passed right over our house. My son and I stood in our front yard watching lightning lit clouds on the south side of the sky going east while those on the north went west. In the center, a clear tube ran up into the darkness of the sky. It was very quiet and still with only the low rumble of nearly continuous distant thunder. The immense energy of the storm felt palpable, like that part in a sci-fi movie where the giant space ship moves slowly over head.

    It’s that time of year.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 6 Comments »

    CPA Debate

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 14th May 2008 (All posts by )

    The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) publishes a monthly magazine titled The Journal of Accountancy. In their May 2008 issue, they have a point-counterpoint (not as wild as the old Saturday Night Live skits with “Jane, you ignorant sl*t”) on the topic of “fair value” for accounting.

    I posted indirectly on the topic of fair value in this post when I noted that quarterly reporting, which is frequently charged with contributing to short-term thinking in the markets, had salutary effects in that CEOs were forced to publish results frequently which led to the ousters of many CEOs in the financial industry who were responsible for disastrous write-offs.


    In a simplified version, the topic of “fair value” relates to whether or not write-downs should be taken on assets on the balance sheet (which reduces profits on the income statement) based upon reductions in market values, even if the assets haven’t been sold. For example, if a company has a bunch of loans on their books for $10B, and based on recent downturns in the market and sales of similar assets to third parties, the CURRENT value is $8B, then that company would reduce the value of the asset by $2B on the balance sheet and show a $2B loss on their income statement.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 2 Comments »

    The Greatest General

    Posted by Smitten Eagle on 14th May 2008 (All posts by )

    There has been quite a discussion on the nature of scholarship and generalship here, here, here, and here. Much of the discussion related to the utility of having a corpus of military history knowledge, and on the utility of having our military professionals and foreign policy wonks reading that corpus.

    It might be instructive to see who we think is worthy of making our collective list. List in hand, we might be able to deduce a few defining qualities that make for superior generalship, and whether the victor in battle is also the scholar.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education, History, International Affairs, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 33 Comments »

    Night Fishing

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th May 2008 (All posts by )

    (Click image for larger.)

    Posted in Photos | Comments Off on Night Fishing

    Trying to Act Professionally

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 13th May 2008 (All posts by )

    I always try to act professionally at my job – I really do. It is never good to burn your bridges with anyone as you never know where you will end up – or where they will end up. On occasion the bridge must be burned, however. I think that is a normal part of doing business in a competitive marketplace. In other words, you can’t let someone stomp on you forever, or have endless meetings with you with the illusion that they are going to buy goods or services from you.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Personal Narrative | 11 Comments »

    Offshoring Production to the USA

    Posted by David Foster on 12th May 2008 (All posts by )

    Chinese entrepreneur Liu Keli, who runs a company making copper cylinders for printing presses, decided to open a factory in South Carolina. He was motivated by a desire to improve his position in the U.S. market, and was surprised to find that substantial cost savings were also possible on some important aspects of his business. Specifically: electricity costs are 75% cheaper, and continuity of service is much better. Mr Liu also got 7 acres of land near Spartanburg for one fourth of what it would have cost him in Dongguan, a city in southeast China where he operates three plants.

    Labor is, of course, significantly more expensive: about six times as much on a per-hour basis. But with the benefits from reduced power and land costs, and a $1500/employee tax credit from South Carolina, the overall cost picture is closer to that in China than he would have previously imagined.

    I’m also kind of surprised by these wide differences in land and electricity costs.

    (via Carpe Diem)

    Posted in Business, China | 7 Comments »

    Whooping Cough

    Posted by Shannon Love on 11th May 2008 (All posts by )

    The video is underlit. Just listen to it.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Science | 14 Comments »

    Wile E. Is Getting Too Bold

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 11th May 2008 (All posts by )

    I’m licensed to carry concealed firearms, and it is a given that I always go armed if it is legal for me to do so. There certainly is no question that I am packing when I take my dogs on their evening walk every night.

    Last year the pack and I came across a coyote that was gorging on trash, a fairly sizable wild predator in the heart of a modern city that was miles from any wilderness area. Although I was certainly ready to put it down if it was rabid and attacked, I let it go without hindrance when it turned tail and ran. Besides the fact that I’m not about to fire a gun unless I need to protect myself, coyotes aren’t enough of a threat to merit hunting them down in the city.

    That might just change.

    Click on that last link and see how coyotes in southern California have attacked small children in three separate incidents in a five day period. It was only because of the timely intervention of adults that none of the children were killed. Killed and eaten.

    And it isn’t as if the children in question were mere babies, either. It seems that the coyotes are trying to snatch toddlers from playgrounds and front yards. Think of a 2-year-old with their face in the sharp grip of a coyote’s jaws.

    This news article discusses how the experts are puzzled by how predation on humans on SoCal is on the rise, even though it mentions how one of the coyotes which attacked a little girl was limping as it approached the child. Seems to me that you don’t need to be an expert to realize that humans are easy meals for animals unless they are properly equipped to resist something with natural weaponry.

    Added to that is the hippy-drippy “Nature is our cuddly friend!” attitude that dominates in that area of the country. If you have people who actually delight in having wild predators live in close proximity to human children, then there is going to be tragedy some time down the road. Where is the big mystery?

    There is no real chance that a predator will be able to prevail over me, or that one will harm a child in my care. But that is because no one in their right mind would ever be able to describe me as a hippy.

    My esteemed colleague Dan From Madison wrote a well received series of posts concerning how cougars are losing their fear of humans. It is no surprise that the big cats generate more concern because they are certainly more dangerous, and they have easily killed adult humans. I think that, unless attitudes change, there is going to be an incident where a child is killed by a coyote some time in the not-so-distant future.

    And then the hunt will be on, hippies be damned.

    Posted in Environment, Leftism, RKBA | 24 Comments »

    Pitiful Aim

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 11th May 2008 (All posts by )

    Most of the students in my charity self defense course eventually get around to asking my advice concerning the most effective home defense weapon. I always recommend a shotgun without reservation.

    There is a lot to be said for the humble scattergun. It is probably the most devastating close combat weapon there is, unless you have access to a submachine gun or a flamethrower. (And both of those damage your house too much.) Load it up with the right type of ammo and it will cure what ails you.

    They are also incredibly intimidating, which has caused more than a few violent criminals over the years to give up without a struggle when they found themselves on the business end of a 12 gauge. They are so scary, in fact, that the Germans accused the United States of war crimes when our troops started to use shotguns in World War I. The guys who embraced poison gas as a weapon thought that a Doughboy using a pump action scattergun in the trenches was beyond the pale!

    For more than a century, shotguns have also been the main heavy arm for street cops. They are extremely effective close up, but have less penetration and range than a rifle. Just the thing if you are concerned about innocent civilians, yet still have to take down a nest of criminals who have set up shop in a densely crowded neighborhood.

    As a last note, shotguns are easy to learn how to use, and to use well. This doesn’t mean that no training at all is necessary, just that it doesn’t take nearly as much time to turn a novice into a safe and effective defensive shotgunner as it does to teach the basics of using a rifle in an urban setting.

    All of that was going through my mind when I read this article by Bob Owens. It seems that the Chicago Police Department, reeling from a week of increased criminal shootings on the streets, is planning on buying 13,000 assault rifles and issue them to their patrol officers.

    Whoa, Nelly! Hold the phone! Are they going to invest in SWAT training for every single one of their patrol officers? Because that is what it would take to minimize the risk to innocent civilians that using weapons with such high penetration in a city would bring.

    No, of course Chicago wouldn’t invest in such training! They would never have the budget for something like that. Click the link to the Owens article and read how it is problematic for them to be able to find the money to buy the rifles, let alone the ammo needed for training and the infrastructure to keep the weapons in repair.

    Have I mentioned that shotguns are only about 20% of the cost of an assault rifle? They are even cheaper than most handguns! So why advocate a poorly reasoned plan to buy assault rifles when a cheaper, easier, safer, and extremely effective alternative is available?

    Because it is all an exercise in public relations. The city has been subjected to some bad press because of their lack of ability to control criminal violence, so this is an attempt to be seen as taking positive and highly visible action. Assault rifles are sexy and have a bad boy cachet, while shotguns are dull and pedestrian and lack charisma. The fact that it wastes money and actually puts innocent civilians at greater risk isn’t important, they have to look good on the evening news!

    You might think that this is an isolated event. Chicago has a few bad weekends, some ne’er-do-wells shoot each other up in gang territory, and the city tries to deflect criticism by buying some unnecessary toys for their boys. But I would like to bring this news article to your attention, which reports that several other police agencies are planning on equipping their patrol officers with semi-auto versions of military weapons.

    I suppose this post here at The Chicago Boyz will destroy any chance I have of employment as a firearms instructor for a major police agency. They’d never waste money on someone who says it is better to go with what works instead of what looks good on camera.

    (Hat tip to Glenn for the heads up on the Bob Owens article.)

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Law Enforcement, RKBA | 13 Comments »

    Timing Invasions

    Posted by Shannon Love on 11th May 2008 (All posts by )

    One Time’s site, Romesh Ratnesar argues we should consider invading Burma in order to head off a humanitarian disaster that could claim upwards of a million lives.

    It’s not a bad idea except it is at least 6 months too late.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Political Philosophy, War and Peace | 30 Comments »

    State Created Black Markets

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 11th May 2008 (All posts by )

    This is a very interesting article in the WSJ about how it apparently now seems to be more profitable (and less risky) to steal a semi full of cigarettes than to steal an armored car full of cash. This is mainly due to the mountains of taxes that the various agencies in New York have put on the product. You have a huge state tax on top of the New York City tax, making a very nice spread between a non taxed product and a taxed product.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 4 Comments »

    Faulkner’s Grip on Psychology

    Posted by Ginny on 10th May 2008 (All posts by )

    “The old fierce pull of blood.” – Faulkner

    Literature helps us understand human nature. Disciplines designed to do so are not always so good at it. Sometimes, indeed, they seem counterproductive. “Buried Prejudice”, an article by Siri Carpenter in Scientific American Mind (via A&L), argues that “[e]ven our basic visual perceptions are skewed toward our in-groups. Many studies have shown that people more readily remember faces of their own race than of other races.” But to Carpenter (and the researchers summarized) the tension between our understanding of truth and justice (transcendent ideals that also pulled Faulkner’s young hero, Sarty) and our feel of the tribal (which he feels mixed with “despair” and “grief”) is not the tension between feeling and thinking, the biological and the rational. Our culture has slowly developed institutions to restrain the tribal passions central to our earlier survival but detrimental to a more diverse and larger society. But, Carpenter describes a group of researchers who have found (“[u]sing a variety of sophisticated methods,” that we “unwittingly hold an astounding assortment of stereotypical beliefs and attitudes about social groups: black and white, female and male, elderly and young, gay and straight, fat and thin.” (The word “astounding” is telling.) Of course, this is not always helpful – say, in sitting on a jury – when we link (as Jesse Jackson implies he did in the catchy intro) “black” with “danger”.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Civil Society | 2 Comments »

    Friday Fotos!

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th May 2008 (All posts by )

    An assortment. Click “Read the rest” to see the rest.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Photos | 4 Comments »

    Liberals, Conservatives, and Happiness

    Posted by David Foster on 8th May 2008 (All posts by )

    An NSF-funded study, and a response.

    Posted in Conservatism, Leftism, Society | 2 Comments »

    Defeating the Washington Monument Syndrome

    Posted by TM Lutas on 8th May 2008 (All posts by )

    Bureaucrats defend themselves against proposed reductions in what they believe they have coming to them by immediately threatening to close down the most popular and/or most vital service they provide. The US Park Service became famous for it and gave the phenomenon its name through its habit of immediately closing down the immensely popular Washington Monument whenever a government shutdown occurred or threatening to close it down when budget cuts were discussed. It’s a species of blackmail, simple to operate, but even simpler to shut down, if you understand it and have the guts and the foresight to prepare.

    All government services provide various levels of benefit to the public, from essentials like police protection and national defense down to museums on the history of condiment and bridges to nowhere. At the same time they distort, to a greater or lesser degree the private sphere. Sometimes this is a net good (police departments distorting the private gang system) and other times it’s not so good (we’ve yet to recover from disruptive urban renewal bulldozing of black neighborhoods in the 20th century). All these activities have to be funded by some sort of tax or fee and the taxes too have various levels of pain and benefit associated with them. The taxes also distort the private sphere (sales taxes suppress consumption, inheritance taxes suppress thrift, luxury taxes shift buying yachts to Canada).

    It’s perfectly possible for any individual and for our society in general to list out taxes and spending, from least justifiable to most in two lists. Politicians occasionally do this and try to reign in various forms of government stupidity. The Washington Monument Syndrome consists of bureaucrats taking threatened spending cuts and applying the cuts to the wrong end of the list at key moments before there is a popular consensus on cutting spending, disrupting spending control plans.

    The solution to this syndrome is simple, ban it. Remove civil service protection from government workers who engage in the practice. Follow through by getting these blackmailers out of government service when they try their tricks anyway.

    We need to change the sequence of events so that the consensus of what’s most valuable is arrived at first. Then when stark economic reality shows up and revenues aren’t there to cover expenses, we already know where all the cuts would land. Bureaucrats who significantly deviate off the list and purposefully pick painful targets for cuts will be exposed for what they have always been: saboteurs of the will of the people, emotional blackmail artists holding popular programs hostage.

    Ideally you would develop the cut lists in good times as an exercise in civic responsibility and first execute the list in bad times so spending cuts do the least harm and tax cuts the most good. As a political reality, things are never that neat. Good and bad times are never universal. Probably the best time to do it is in the honeymoon phase of our next Democrat president, when the media’s in the tank and blowing kisses at the new administration. It gives the opposition something to do and answers the charge of “how to pay for” tax cuts. The people decide what they want and the government organizes and gives voice to their sometimes contradictory desires.

    It also puts the shoe on the other foot in terms of government economic analysis. Static analysis of tax cuts, inaccurately taking into account their growth effects, would lead to steeper cuts in spending than necessary. Besides being economically illiterate (which it always was), that sort of analysis would become a politically perilous thing to do because it would lead to more people losing services.

    Another follow on effect is an opportunity for privatization. Certain services will lose their secure funding, and become episodic. We’ll fund them in good times but they’ll repeatedly face the chopping block in bad times. Private philanthropy could step in and ensure steady funding through an endowment so the job gets done without this government spending yo-yo. This splits the actual “bleeding heart liberals” off the socialist coalition as it becomes clear that sometimes shrinking government is a better way to actually get something done for the poor and the powerless.

    Posted in Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Libertarianism, Politics, USA | 12 Comments »

    Do Not Talk To The Police

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 8th May 2008 (All posts by )

    This is a great video about your Fifth Amendment rights.  Don’t be afraid to use them.

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Law, Law Enforcement | 4 Comments »

    “I hope the officers of her Majesty’s army may never degenerate into bookworms.”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 7th May 2008 (All posts by )

    In a recent post, I noted that various military branches had lists of suggested reading. I optimistically suggested that this might partially offset the virtual banishment of military history from America’s colleges and universities. I was politely but firmly corrected by an excellent comment from SmittenEagle. SE’s comment (which you should read) is far better and more interesting than the post it responds to.

    I will only respond to one point in his comment. SE stated, inter alia that “…I find that most of my peers (junior Marine officers) don’t spend nearly enough time in study. The Marine capstone doctrinal publication, MCDP-1: Warfighting, implores officers to spend at least as much time in study as they do on physical fitness. That is a lot of time, and almost all of my peers fall far short.”

    This reminded me of something from a long time ago … .

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Iraq, Military Affairs, National Security, War and Peace | 22 Comments »

    Number Gut Part II

    Posted by Shannon Love on 6th May 2008 (All posts by )

    Way back in 2004 I wrote about how the lack of an intuitive sense of scale prevented many people from viewing the Lancet Iraqi Mortality survey with skepticism. The same lack of sense of scale shows up in other areas such as in this article (via Megan McArdle) about ending subsidies to the oil industry instead of levying a windfall-profits tax.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Media, Politics, Statistics, The Press | 13 Comments »