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  • Archive for June, 2008

    An Inconvenient Statistic

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 18th June 2008 (All posts by )

    At the Gore estate, electricity conservation is something they simply talk about rather than do something about.  According to this, the Gore house in Tennessee uses almost twenty times more electricity than an average home.  Gorebal warming indeed.

    From the article:

    A man’s commitment to his beliefs is best measured by what he does behind the closed doors of his own home.

    A very appropriate comment.

    Posted in Environment | 8 Comments »

    Insanity vs. Stupidity

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th June 2008 (All posts by )

    Insanity: Obama campaign.

    Stupidity: McCain.

    McCain is clearly the less-bad candidate, but in the scheme of things both candidates are about as bad as it gets in US presidential elections.

    (via Babalu and Instapundit)

    Posted in Politics | 12 Comments »

    Seriously Pathetic

    Posted by David Foster on 18th June 2008 (All posts by )

    In a letter to [University of Chicago] President Robert Zimmer, 101 professors—about 8 percent of the university’s full-time faculty—said they feared that having a center named after [Milton Friedman,] the conservative, free-market economist could “reinforce among the public a perception that the university’s faculty lacks intellectual and ideological diversity.”

    via University Diaries

    Posted in Academia, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 11 Comments »

    My Kind of Guy

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th June 2008 (All posts by )

    (via Steve and Aaron)

    Posted in History, International Affairs, Israel, Middle East, Video | 6 Comments »

    An Image of Martial Discord

    Posted by Lexington Green on 17th June 2008 (All posts by )

    The Battle of Bunker Hill by Howard Pyle

    The Battle of Bunker Hill by the fabulous Howard Pyle.

    I’ve been tagged by History Guy for something called the “meme of seven”.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, History, Music, Personal Narrative | 13 Comments »

    An Open Letter to the Libertarian Party

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 17th June 2008 (All posts by )

    To whom it may concern,

    As I have aged I have paid more attention to what is going on in the world around me. I treasure the Constitution and the rights it gives us. Like many, I am disgusted with how my money is wasted on the federal, state and local level. Swine at the trough.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Libertarianism, Politics | 49 Comments »

    Visualcy at Complex Terrain Laboratory

    Posted by Zenpundit on 16th June 2008 (All posts by )

    Recently, I agreed to join Complex Terrain Laboratory, a British “think tank 2.0” as a contributor along with Matt Armstrong , Tim Stevens and Michael Tanji. There is a good synthesis there at CTLab between full-time professional academics and horizontal thinking bloggers and, I think, the potential to become an intellectual hub for intersecting fields.

    The following represents my first post at CTLab which I am cross-posting here at Chicago Boyz:

    Visualcy and the Human Terrain

    COIN and public diplomacy alike tend to encounter significant barriers to effective communication between the state actor and the intended audience. In part, this is due to gaps in cultural intelligence that will only be remediated by degrees with the careful advice of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and the experience derived from an extended immersion in another society. The other aspect of the problem is that the target audience often has greater complexity and cognitive heterogeneity than the Western society from which the warrior or diplomat hails.

    As a result of public education, the rise of mass-media and commercial advertising, Western nations and Japan, some earlier but all by mid-20th century, became relatively homogenized in the processing of information as well as having a dominant vital "consensus" on cultural and political values with postwar Japan probably being the most extreme example. The range between elite and mass opinion naturally narrowed as more citizens shared similar outlooks and the same sources of information, as did the avenues for acceptable dissent. A characteristic of modern society examined at length by thinkers as diverse as Ortega y Gasset, Edward Bernays, Marshall McLuhan and Alvin Toffler.

    The situation is more complicated in states and regions enduring the legacy of colonialism and failed state-centric (often Marxist) national development policies. Here the educational and technological gap between a very sophisticated, Western educated elite and a rural villager or tribal member may be exceedingly wide. Basic literacy levels may be low enough to leave substantial portions of the dominant population group outside of the literary tradition and reliant upon word of mouth, radio, television and – increasingly – images on the internet via handheld mobile devices.

    These are broad generalizations, of course. Western societies contain cultural "holdouts" like the Amish or digitally deprived underclass populations who are relatively disconnected from the mainstream and some developing countries have high, even enviable, levels of educational success and popular literacy. Nor are Western societies as homgenous in terms of information flows as they were two decades ago. But because images have powerful cognitive responses in the brain, the "Visualcy" effect is a factor that cannot be ignored in COIN, IO or public diplomacy. Images will have broad societal effects – at times akin to that of a tsunami.

    Interestingly enough, despite complaints by American conservatives regarding the political bias of news outlets like al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, these organizations are packaging news in the familiar "Pulitzerian frame" in which mass media have been structuring information for over a century. Effectively, habituating their audience to a Western style (if not content) of thinking and information processing, with all of the advantages and shortcomings in terms of speed and superficiality that we associate with television news broadcasting. This phenomena, along with streaming internet video content like Youtube and – very, very, soon – mass-based Web 2.0 video social networks will overlay the aforementioned complexity in regard to the range of education and literacy.

    What to do ?

    While acceptance of a global panopticon paradigm is unpleasant, due to decreasing costs for increasingly powerful technology and web-based platforms, this trend is irreversible in the medium term. Concepts and messages to be successfully communicated to the broadest possible audience will have to be thought of strategically by statesmen, diplomats and military officers with images as starting points, followed by words rather than the reverse ( to the extent that images are currently considered at all, except after some PR debacle). In the long term, greater prosperity and rising general education levels in developing countries may blunt the negative political effects of "visualcy".

    Or, given that the social media revolution is just getting underway, it may not.

    Posted in Academia, Blogging, Britain, Human Behavior, Military Affairs, National Security, Society | 2 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th June 2008 (All posts by )

    The optimal situation would be the preservation of nonproliferation — what Barack Obama calls “a world without nuclear weapons”. Unfortunately a nonproliferation regime in practice means a nuclear monopoly by a select few and the disarmament of the rest.
     
    Think about it. The two models of law and order are either to concentrate force in the police and disarm everyone else; or allow a universally armed society like the Wild West where the peace is preserved because because even granny’s packing.
     
    Barack Obama’s idea is that creating a world without nuclear weapons should begin with an American disarmament, which is a little bit like arguing that a neighborhood without guns starts with the police disarming themselves. Ha, ha ha.
     
    So what Barack Obama’s policy will probably result in is an acceleration of the collapse in nonproliferation which is already under way. AQ Khan did his damage a long time ago.
     
    So through technological diffusion and polic[y] idiocy, the odds are that nonproliferation will collapse sooner or later. Then what will we have then? I claim that once nonproliferation implodes everyone will want to get a nuke and won’t be shy about using it.

    Wretchard

    Posted in Middle East, National Security, Terrorism, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    Paying For Children Revisited

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

    I made one of my long comments over on Reason’s Hit&Run so I thought I would turn into post here.

    The economics of child raising is the ultimate driver of the welfare state. That makes it a matter of key importance to libertarians. If libertarians cannot create a free market system which provides for the material resources needed to turn a zygote into an engineer, then we will never see the end of the massively invasive state.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Libertarianism, Political Philosophy | 3 Comments »

    Preparing for Class

    Posted by Ginny on 16th June 2008 (All posts by )

    With “Who’s Gona Fill Their Shoes” in the background, I come upon a passage apt for discussions here of ambiguity:

     

    A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to communicate it without loss. The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language. When simplicity of character and the sovereignty of ideas is broken up by the prevalence of secondary desires, the desire of riches, of pleasure, of power, and of praise, — and duplicity and falsehood take place of simplicity and truth, the power over nature as an interpreter of the will, is in a degree lost; new imagery ceases to be created, and old words are perverted to stand for things which are not; a paper currency is employed, when there is no bullion in the vaults. In due time, the fraud is manifest, and words lose all power to stimulate the understanding or the affections. Hundreds of writers may be found in every long-civilized nation, who for a short time believe, and make others believe, that they see and utter truths, who do not of themselves clothe one thought in its natural garment, but who feed unconsciously on the language created by the primary writers of the country, those, namely, who hold primarily on nature.

    Emerson – Nature – “Language”

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Style | 2 Comments »

    Caution! Wild Girls!

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

    ChicagoBoyz can always find the party.

    Posted in Photos | 6 Comments »

    The Cargo Cult Revisited

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 15th June 2008 (All posts by )

    The “Cargo Cult” is the name of a religion that sprung up in the far islands of the Pacific after the second world war. When the war was in full swing, the Western Allies came in and brought all kinds of different foods, technologies, and the like. To the natives on these islands, who didn’t have the concept of how these goods were manufactured, the term “cargo cult” was coined to define the religious connotations that they placed on these goods. To an educated Westerner, most people probably had a brief chuckle at the thought of people treating day-to-day manufactured goods as objects of religious reverence.

    Bizarrely enough, it was the cargo cult that leaped to mind when I read this very interesting article in a recent issue of New York Times magazine. According to the article, girls suffer serious injuries while playing in competitive sports such as soccer and basketball at a rate significantly higher than men playing the same sport. On a typical soccer team of 20 girls, for example, the injury rate (ruptured A.C.L.’s, a major injury) would be on average 4 out of 20.
    Hurt Girls
    The article describes how a typical high performing traveling team generally has a large number of injuries, but the girls keep playing through the injuries, buoyed by the same “small group cohesion” that SLA Marshall wrote about in his analysis of US WW2 veterans (whether SLA Marshall was ultimately discredited is grist for another post). This cohesion bonds the girls to their team mates, and they keep playing through injuries despite the pain and risk of long term debilitating injuries.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Human Behavior, Sports | 15 Comments »

    Abu Musab al-Suri: Theorist of Modern Jihad

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th June 2008 (All posts by )

    I had seen a several references to the recent book Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of al-Qaida Strategist Abu Musab al-Suri by Brynjar Lia, and I thought it sounded interesting. However, I was inspired to order the book by an excellent recent review essay. I strongly suggest you read the review, even rather than reading this post.

    Osama bin Laden is the name and face we typically associate with the global Islamist terrorist movement. But bin Laden may be the man of yesterday. Al-Suri may ultimately be seen as the superior theoretician and strategist for the ongoing militant jihad against the USA, its allies, and the “near enemy”, i.e. the existing governments of the Arab Middle East. The reviewer describes al-Suri as “al-Qaida’s most formidable and far-sighted military strategist.”

    The review gives an overview of al-Suri’s extraordinary life as a militant, and as the author of numerous books.

    What I found most interesting was the parallel between al-Suri’s thought, and some of the current thinking among Western military writers on decentralized and networked warfare.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, International Affairs, Islam, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    I Spoke Too Soon

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

    A while ago I disparaged the Indian government’s backwardness (as I saw it) in considering a ban on futures trading. But now, not a few American pols, journalists and bloggers are sounding like the Indian finance minister, making similarly foolish suggestions in favor of restricting oil speculation.

    Everybody always wants to punish speculators. But speculators, by following their self-interest, provide the rest of us with market liquidity, price information and generally lower costs of doing business.

    Also, if you believe in freedom, free markets are good in and of themselves. Restricting speculation when prices are unusually high or low is like restricting unpopular speech: there’s generally an expedient argument for it, and it’s generally a bad idea because the long-term harm it does far outweighs any short-term benefits.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Markets and Trading | 8 Comments »

    Getting Warm

    Posted by David Foster on 13th June 2008 (All posts by )

    …a good time to spare an appreciative thought for Willis Carrier.

    Enjoy it while you can.

    The Democratic Party, egged on by the mainstream media and by its own “progressive” wing, has demonstrated considerable hostility toward energy production in any practical form. And activists of many types have shown great skill in using the legal and regulatory systems to delay energy-related projects…for years, and sometimes for decades.

    If we have an Obama presidency and a Democratic sweep of the House and Senate, I think it is likely that in 10 years, the number of people who can afford air conditioning will be much smaller than it is at present.

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, History, Tech | 19 Comments »

    Ireland votes No to the Lisbon Treaty

    Posted by Helen on 13th June 2008 (All posts by )

    This is big for us on this side of the Pond. Ireland is the only member state of the European Union that has had a referendum on the Constitution for Europe Mark II, known as the Lisbon Treaty. In the other states, governments and legislatures ratified with no reference to whether people want to have this far-reaching and complex document imposed on them. The reason for that is simple – just as two years ago in France and the Netherlands, so this year in Ireland, when the people are given a chance to vote on a further step towards the creation of an integrated European state, they tend to say no.

    We are still waiting for the official result but the government has conceded and the spin has begun. We shall hear a great deal about people not really voting against the Lisbon Treaty but on many other subjects. Whenever people vote the “wrong” way, they apparently do not intend to do so; they are merely misguided or have misunderstood the subject.

    The big question is what will happen now. According to EU rules every treaty has to be ratified by every signatory state. Clearly Ireland will not be able to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Strictly speaking that should mean the end of it and the still incomplete ratifications, such as the British one (the Bill is still in the House of Lords, waiting for the Third Reading) should now stop. The EU may decide to make some cosmetic changes and insist that Ireland vote again. This has been done before but not recently, as it is becoming a high-risk game. Or there may be a Declaration that gives Ireland a special status at the level of the Nice Treaty that the country finally agreed to after two referendums, the second one conducted in a very dodgy fashion. That, one must assume, is legally challengeable as it breaks the EU’s own rules. So we wait.

    Pleased though we are, it has to be said that this is not the end, or the beginning of the end or, even, the end of the beginning (to misquote Churchill’s famous pronouncement). There is a long way to go before we can restore any semblance of democracy to European countries.

    Posted in Europe | 22 Comments »

    The Great Flood of ’08, Continued…

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

    Here in Southern Wisconsin we received an unbelievably large amount of rain yesterday, that did nothing but make lives more miserable for residents in this area.

    I am fortunate that I didn’t receive any more water in my basement, nor did I get water at my place of business.  From what I have seen driving around here, Madison got off pretty well so far (knock on wood).  The only thing that may affect us is that we are partially isolated now.  The interstates running north (90) and east (94) are closed due to water overtopping the bridges.  This will affect my business slightly, as I have freight coming from Milwaukee today that I don’t think will make it.  Speaking of business…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Environment, Personal Narrative | 4 Comments »

    Singing W’s Praises

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th June 2008 (All posts by )

    Steve H. is in great form with his latest post. I mostly agree with him. Bush screwed a lot of things up, wouldn’t fire incompetents and can’t communicate worth a damn. But on the main issue of our day he showed vision, courage and resolve at a time when anything less would have been disastrous. I doubt that either Gore, Kerry or Bill Clinton would have done nearly as well, and I suspect that Bush will eventually be seen by Americans in a much more positive light than is currently the case.

    UPDATE: Ginny points out Glenn and Helen’s interview with Doug Feith, which is probably worth listening to.

    UPDATE 2: A commenter points out The Diplomad’s excellent post on this topic. I read it several days ago, it probably influenced me and I should have credited it.

    Posted in History, Politics, Predictions, USA, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    The Desert’s Quiet, and Cleveland’s Cold

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th June 2008 (All posts by )

    The wonderful Emmylou Harris does a great version of Pancho and Lefty, one of my all-time top ten.

    Townes van Zandt wrote it.

    Townes did a nice version, too:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Music, USA, Video | 4 Comments »

    The Royal Navy

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 11th June 2008 (All posts by )

    One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes has George getting into a fight with a clown who doesn’t remember “Bozo” the clown, his favorite. The clown shoots back at George, saying:

    “You’re living in the past, man!”

    I had the same sentiment while reading my favorite magazine, “Strategy and Tactics“. This magazine covers military history and related articles from ancient times to the present day. Besides having great articles, the magazine also has very few advertisements, which means that it is quick and to the point. While we don’t shill for anyone at the blog, we do promote what we like, and every year I buy a subscription for myself, Dan and now Gerry on the blog (Gerry – if I never told you that, this is the reason for that yellow package you receive monthly).

    The article I immediately jump to is called “The First Arms race: German-British Naval Rivalry and the Opening of the Great War.” This article covers the fascinating time from the 1890’s until the early years of WW1 when Germany attempted to build an ocean going fleet that could challenge Britain. The box on the upper left is a brief biography of Tirpitz, the “mastermind” of German naval power. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Military Affairs | 4 Comments »

    Book Review – The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy

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

    I have mentioned several times that the books that I have been reading about WW2 are no longer ones that, as Lex Green so aptly put it, have the usual arrows pointing toward the Volga, Normandy and Berlin. Most books that I have been reading are very narrowly focused and are about a single phase of the war, such as a person, place, weapon, or similar items. Reading books that specialize in certain aspects on a very minute level is helping me put together the larger events in a much more interesting way. Reading about Barbarossa is one thing, but reading about the partisan resistance, or the role of animals in that operation is quite another.

    Along these lines, I have just finished up a book by Adam Tooze called The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy. This book is about WW2 from an economic point of view. The book doesn’t really talk about generalship, tank tactics, or anything else military except in economic terms.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Germany, History, Military Affairs, Uncategorized, USA | 48 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th June 2008 (All posts by )

    Americans have had it so good, for so long, that they seem to have forgotten what government’s heavy hand does to living standards and economic growth. But the same technological innovation that is causing all this dislocation and anxiety has also created an information network that is as near to real-time as the world has ever experienced.
     
    For example, President Bush put steel tariffs in place in March 2002. Less than two years later, in December 2003, he rescinded them. This is something most politicians don’t do. But because the tariffs caused such a sharp rise in the price of steel, small and mid-size businesses complained loudly. The unintended consequences became visible to most Americans very quickly.
     
    Decades ago the feedback mechanism was slow. The unintended consequences of the New Deal took too long to show up in the economy. As a result, by the time the pain was publicized, the connection to misguided government policy could not be made. Today, in the midst of Internet Time, this is no longer a problem. So, despite protestations from staff at the White House, most people understand that food riots in foreign lands and higher prices at U.S. grocery stores are linked to ethanol subsidies in the U.S., which have sent shock waves through the global system.
     
    This is the good news. Policy mistakes will be ferreted out very quickly. As a result, any politician who attempts to change things will be blamed for the unintended consequences right away.
     
    Both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama view the world from a legislative perspective. Like the populists before them, they seem to believe that government can fix problems in the economy. They seem to believe that what the world needs is a change in the way government attacks problems and fixes the anxiety of voters. This command-and-control approach, however, forces a misallocation of resources. And in Internet Time this will become visible in almost real-time, creating real political pain for the new president.
     
    In contrast to what some people seem to believe, having the government take over the health-care system is not change. It’s just a culmination of previous moves by government. And the areas with the worst problems today are areas that have the most government interference – education, health care and energy.
     
    The best course of action is to allow a free-market economy to reallocate resources to the place of highest returns. In the midst of all the natural change, the last thing the U.S. economy needs is more government involvement, whether it’s called change or not.

    Brian Wesbury

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, Human Behavior, Internet, Markets and Trading, Political Philosophy, Politics, Quotations, Rhetoric, Society, USA | 5 Comments »

    The Great Flood of ’08

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 10th June 2008 (All posts by )

    Click any photo to enlarge.

    Water, water everywhere.

    After smashing the record for snowfall due to Gorebal Warming, we have had record rains this Spring due to Gorebal Warming. Many of you may have seen the footage by now of a couple of houses floating down the Wisconsin River. I even saw that footage on Fox News last night; it is on an endless loop on our local media.

    To create that footage, Lake Delton overflowed its banks, took out a road and incredibly created its own new river. The ENTIRE lake drained out into the Wisconsin River. It was a spectacular sight.

    Six hundred million gallons of water came out of the lake and into the river forty feet below in TWO HOURS, claiming the homes. If you had plans on catching the famous Tommy Bartlett show in the near future, you may consider changing your itinerary as it is pretty difficult to water ski on a lake bottom.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Environment, Personal Narrative | 11 Comments »

    Bear Economics

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 9th June 2008 (All posts by )

    Dan is usually up on these things and he emails me as soon as it comes across the wires… another arrest of Cedric Benson, the Chicago Bears running back. He was arrested for drinking while boating and later, for drinking and driving. He just got released, so at least this soap opera is over.

    On this blog, at least, Cedric is also known for other things – such as being a lousy running back on the Bears, a player who did nothing in the Super Bowl, and usually drops as soon as being hit, and can’t seem to find the hole or outrun the secondary. These attributes, bad as they are, are even worse since the Bears are traditionally a running team and have little else to fall back upon on offense (remember, Hester is on special teams and not proven as a receiver).

    All of these items, however, are done to death everywhere else, and one thing about this blog is that we at least try to have a fresh angle on something or just leave it alone entirely. What really interests me, however, is the economics of the deal.

    Recently I wrote about REM – the band (not sleeping), and how they stopped noodling around and actually decided to put out an album people would want to listen to – which just happened to be coincidentally linked to the fact that their guaranteed contract expired and going forward they would have to earn their lavish rock star lifestyles.

    The question is – did the nature of Cedric’s contract encourage his lackadaisical attitude towards playing and his stupid off field behavior? I can’t seem to find the details of his contract but it was for $35 million, with a significant portion guaranteed. It was a five year contract, and he “played” for three years. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Sports | 1 Comment »

    Too Much Fun

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 9th June 2008 (All posts by )

    LGF is having way too much fun finding crazies in Barack Obama’s blog community. It looks like it was inspired by Daily Kos’s community of like-minded progressives, where everyone gets his own little sublease to part of the real estate. The problem is that Obama’s campaign has attracted all kinds of crazies. The people running and moderating the little bloglets are way out of their depth; they don’t catch some of the real poisonous things until Charles or one of his lizard minions finds it and publicizes it. Shortly after, the offending blog is removed and the archives are deleted.

    Maybe it’s unfair to judge a candidate by his supporters. If it were just one or two, I might go along with that. In this case, though, there is a whole ward of drooling loonies who think Obama is their kind of guy, and Obama’s campaign furnishes them with a soapbox and a microphone.

    Posted in Blogging, Politics | 9 Comments »