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  • Archive for December, 2008

    Happy New Year

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st December 2008 (All posts by )

    Best wishes to Chicagoboyz contributors and readers for 2009.

    holiday lights

    Posted in Holidays, Photos | 3 Comments »

    Diplomacy and Terrorism

    Posted by Shannon Love on 30th December 2008 (All posts by )

    David Bernstein quotes Glenn Greenwald as saying:

    Terrorism ends when the causes of it are addressed, typically via diplomatic means.

    Greenwald has a point. After all we all remember how successfully we used diplomacy to bring an end to causes of terrorism back in….

    …well, I mean sometime we must have…

    …nope, on second thought, diplomacy has never brought an end to terrorism. 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Israel, Terrorism | 22 Comments »

    The Vile Cynthia McKinney

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th December 2008 (All posts by )

    Traveling to Gaza in a stunt to aid Hamas, she complains because the Israeli navy damaged her boat. I would suggest that she got off lightly.

    The activists, organized by the Free Gaza Group, said their 66-foot yacht called “SS Dignity” would defy an Israeli blockade of Gaza and ferry 16 activists and three tons of Cypriot-donated supplies. The supplies are intended to help treat the wounded from Israeli bombings against targets in Gaza, in retaliation for rocket fire aimed at civilians in southern Israeli towns.

    She cared not at all when Hamas thugs were daily bombarding Israeli towns in an attempt to kill as many Jews as possible. Only when Israel defended itself was her sense of justice aroused.

    Daily life near Gaza:

    Moshe Turgeman spent a lot of time in Gaza before the intifada. Not only did he serve in the Israeli army there, but he used to get drinks and hang out in area frequently. “There are good people in Gaza ,” he tells me. Hearing this is rather remarkable because in August 2006, Moshe’s house took a direct hit from a Qassam rocket launched from Gaza . He managed to get his kids to safety but he was injured in the attack. I ask Moshe what life is like in Sderot today. “It’s not life,” he responds. His children are scared, he fears going outside and his disability has made it impossible to work. There were times, Moshe says, when he thought the warning siren was broken because it sounded non-stop for hours. “Forty-eight Qassams fell in a single day,” he says. “The scariest thing is that sometimes they fall without an alert—at any moment.” Moshe knows of what he speaks. One day he was ironing a shirt on the upper floor of his modest apartment. In an instant, a rocket fell meters from him and shrapnel nearly pierced his heart. He shows me the jagged hole in the window next to which he was standing during the attack. “It’s not life” he repeats.

    The Commentary article from which the above quote is taken is worth reading in full.

    Posted in Israel, Middle East, Terrorism, War and Peace | 27 Comments »

    “Uncertainty Management”

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th December 2008 (All posts by )

    A discussion about the financial crisis, Wall Street, management and accountability at Neptunus Lex. The initial post is merely the starting point for some insightful comments by readers. Worth reading in full.

    There seems to be a trend toward diminished accountability for top members of our political and business elites. People who should resign don’t. Leaders who should fire those people don’t. The military still seems pretty good (perhaps it’s no accident that the discussion I linked is on a blog written and frequented by military people). Accountability standards in small business and many professions, where failure tends to be immediate and personal, still seem OK. But things appear to be on the decline in big institutions and government. I don’t know if that’s because government has grown so big and intrusive that it drags down standards everywhere, or because our society has deteriorated, or both. It’s a bad trend either way.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Management, Markets and Trading, Society | 3 Comments »

    Bored and Crocheting

    Posted by Shannon Love on 29th December 2008 (All posts by )

    Now for something more than a little strange…


    The work of German artist Patricia Waller who seems to combine true skill at crochet with seriously warped imagination.

    I do find it interesting how we attach certain concepts to a particular medium and find it jarring when we see other concepts rendered in that medium. 

    For example, crocheted, pink, S&M gear.

    Posted in Arts & Letters | Comments Off on Bored and Crocheting

    Driving School!

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th December 2008 (All posts by )

    SurvivorsGraduates are sent for advanced training

    Posted in Humor, Video | 2 Comments »

    Oster, Stauffenberg, and Valkyrie

    Posted by David Foster on 29th December 2008 (All posts by )

    I haven’t yet seen “Valkyrie,” but I’m pretty familiar with the relevant history, and will be interested to see how accurately it is reflected in the film.

    It appears that–as is the case with almost all writing/video dealing with the German military conspiracy against Hitler–the film is strongly focused on the activities of Colonel Count Stauffenberg. It’s easy to see why filmmakers would want to emphasize Stauffenberg’s role and story–with his aristocratic lineage, his good looks, his attractive wife, and his love of poetry (he was a devotee of Stefan George), the man makes a fine dramatic hero. Stauffenberg was a complex individual and a man of many quirks, some of them likeable–like his habit of lying on the rug with his wife and reading English novels together, each waiting for the other to finish the page–and some not so likeable, like his tendency to lose his temper if his boots weren’t lined up precisely by his adjutant. One can see why he would be attractive to writers and movie-makers.


    There were quite a few German officers involved in the plot against Hitler, and some of them committed themselves much earlier than Stauffenberg did. Hans Oster, in particular, could reasonably be considered as the driving force behind the whole enterprise. It’s interesting to note that no one playing the Oster role shows up in the cast list for “Valkyrie”–there may be legitimate dramatic reasons for this, but I hope that the movie at least gives credit in some form to Oster’s very important role.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe, Film, Germany, War and Peace | 33 Comments »

    Incoming Links to this Blog (and Other Feeds)

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th December 2008 (All posts by )

    In the list of feeds near the top of the right sidebar, I’ve added a link to a Google feed that displays links from other blogs to this blog. This feed seems like an improvement over trackback links on individual posts, which are a spam magnet. (And I removed the link to the feed from the Chicago Boyz Forum, which is currently inactive.)

    Please note also that each post on this blog displays, at the top of the list of comments, a link to a comments feed for that particular post. There used to be a link in the blog’s upper-right sidebar to a feed that displayed all comments from the blog, but I removed it because I thought it encouraged trolling. I don’t know if this was the right thing to do.

    Is the current array of feeds optimal or could it be improved? I welcome suggestions.

    Posted in Announcements | Comments Off on Incoming Links to this Blog (and Other Feeds)

    Obama’s Keynesian Error

    Posted by Shannon Love on 29th December 2008 (All posts by )

    Obama wants to spend tax money to “create” jobs in the sagging economy. [h/t Instapundit] He is clearly working from a Keynesian model in which government borrows saved money and hires unemployed people to do make-work. The employed people spend the saved money and the economy revives.

    Seems like a good idea except that Keynes was wrong.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 9 Comments »

    Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 28th December 2008 (All posts by )

    For the past few days, Israel has been conducting military operations against terrorist targets inside Gaza. This is in response to Hamas launching repeated rocket attacks against Israeli civilian targets.

    Although very interesting, events are still unfolding so I don’t want to discuss the current chapter of Israeli-Hamas conflict right now. But I thought you might be interested to know that Egyptian border guards have reportedly opened fire on Palestinians that have broken through the border defenses between Gaza and Egypt. (Hat tip to Glenn.)

    No deaths have been reported, which indicates to me that the Egyptians really aren’t trying that hard to reseal the border. But I note with a great deal of Schadenfreude that the Egyptians probably wish they had built something like the Israeli security fence. You know, the same barrier that was condemned by Egypt back when construction was beginning.

    Will Egypt begin building a similar barrier along their 9 mile border with Gaza? To be frank, I really doubt the Egyptians have the kind of money it would take to construct something as effective. But I think they will start to do what they can to beef up what they have.

    The world press wasn’t very sympathetic to Israel when they started to build their security barrier. What do you want to bet that they won’t bother to report any activity by Egypt to seal their own border with Gaza?

    Posted in Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, Predictions, Terrorism | 5 Comments »

    Excellent “Best of” List from The Middle Stage

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 28th December 2008 (All posts by )

    One of my favorite blogs is The Middle Stage, written by Chandrahas Choudhury.

    Chandrahas writes about literature as well as history, fiction and nonfiction, and very frequently alerts me to books I have never heard of, but which I wish I had time to read. In particular, he writes about Indian history, a vast subject I want to know more about.

    His list of best nonfiction for 2008 contains several which might interest the ChicagoBoyz team, and our readers.

    I would particularly like to hear about what others think about his choices related to India.

    Cross-posted on Antilibrary.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Book Notes | 1 Comment »

    Pigging Out, Wisconsin Edition

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 28th December 2008 (All posts by )

    A few days ago James Rummel put up a post about the expanding feral pig population. In his post he had a link to a map that showed where the populations of the feral pigs were. I wondered why there were none reported in Wisconsin, and others raised questions about the map.

    I would have to now agree with those who said that it was a reporting issue – looks we have them in Wisconsin after all. Here is a page from the Wisconsin DNR site from January of ’08. Seems they are indeed all over the state.

    The position of the Wisconsin DNR seems to be the same as the DNR in Ohio – they want them dead, anytime, anywhere, anyhow. All you need is a small game license and the permission of the land owner to harvest as many of them as you want. If you are a land owner you can harvest them no questions asked.

    This is a very good page from the Wisconsin DNR website that describes feral pigs, how they live, breed and feed. Amazing creatures, as they eat just about anything they can get their snouts on. I am sure they are tasty as well, and I just may need to gear up to find out someday.

    Don’t forget, if you have photos of wildlife in urban or suburban settings, Jonathan is looking for those and you can find his new blog on the subject here.

    Posted in Environment, North America | 6 Comments »

    Nice Holiday Podcast

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 27th December 2008 (All posts by )

    Right here. Lots of old fashioned and offbeat stuff.

    (From Kim Shattuck of the Muffs.)

    Posted in Music | Comments Off on Nice Holiday Podcast

    Hedge Fund Blues

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 27th December 2008 (All posts by )

    Barrons\' Hedge Funds

    The hedge fund industry is coming under close scrutiny for a variety of reasons. In fact, it seems like that bad news doesn’t stop.

    – Madoff runs a giant Ponzi scheme that claims up to $50 billion in losses. The exact amounts will be different because some of the “losses” represent paper profits on statements that he sent to customers that were phantom but assuredly they are large and painful
    – Worse than this scheme was the fact that so many “fund of funds” or hedge funds that are comprised of investments in other hedge funds charged a big fee for the right to invest in this fund in the first place. Gulp
    – Many funds that claimed they were “hedged” against market moves (where the “hedge” in hedge funds comes from) most assuredly were not; large losses of 40% or more are common in the listings, and some very big names have been seriously bruised

    More subtle than these obvious issues are the fact that these hedge funds often have “high water” provisions. Funds typically make money by charging an annual fee of 2% a year and 20% of profits. However, if the fund declines in value, the hedge fund can’t charge the 20% fee on profits until after the old “high water” mark in value is reached. Thus if your fund was down 25% this year, you have to gain 33% before you can start earning your 20% cut again. On top of the “high water” issue, if your asset base drops 40% (remember those losses, above) then you are only making 2% on 60% of your former assets.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Investment Journal | 7 Comments »

    Pigging Out

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 26th December 2008 (All posts by )

    Dan from Madison recently wrote a post discussing how wild predators, once unknown in cities and towns, are now making their homes in urban areas.

    The subject that seemed to interest most people was how feral hog populations are also spreading. They are dangerous and destructive animals, and I firmly believe that keeping their numbers down is a matter of public safety.

    The Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Study has a fascinating map available on their website. It shows the areas of the country where feral swine populations exist.

    The map by itself doesn’t show how quickly the animals have spread, but you can get an idea of that by taking a look at these three earlier maps.

    Notice, if you will, that California had only minor infestations of feral swine back in 1988. By 2004, however, wild pigs could be found all throughout the state. I think this is due to how hunting is generally perceived there. Although necessary for wildlife habitat preservation and the continued health of game animal populations, it appears to me that the activity is denounced by most people living in California as a terrible and savage practice.

    My home state of Ohio has a page devoted to wild boar, along with a detailed map showing the distribution of wild swine in the state. It is legal to harvest wild boar year round here, either by a landowner on their own property or by someone with any valid hunting license. Purchase a license to hunt pheasant and come home with a few hundred pounds of pork. Num num!

    Although I have eaten my fill of various cuts from wild boar many times, I have never tried bacon made from a feral pig. I think that will be my next hunting project.

    (Don’t forget that photos of wildlife observed in urban settings can be found at Subdivision Wildlife, and they are now accepting your personal photos.)

    Posted in Diversions, Environment, Urban Issues | 21 Comments »

    Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 24th December 2008 (All posts by )

    Merry Christmas to all!

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Holidays, Music, Video | Comments Off on Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

    Merry Christmas!

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th December 2008 (All posts by )

    All best wishes to my Christian friends for a peaceful and rewarding Holiday. Joyeux Navidad!

    secret Santa

    Chicagoboyz aren’t sure what’s going on here but we’d like to get in on it.

    Posted in Christianity, Holidays, Photos | 3 Comments »

    New-Age Earmarks

    Posted by David Foster on 24th December 2008 (All posts by )

    Yesterday, Joe Biden was holding forth on how the Obama administration will ensure that earmarks are kept out of the various economic-stimulus bills that the administration will be introducing.

    It’s actually possible that he means what he says, as far as the traditional kind of earmark goes–that is, a provision for specific spending, in a specific geographical area, at the behest of a particular Congressman.

    But in a broader sense, much of the economic policy of the incoming Obama administration seems to be centered around earmarks, albeit earmarks of a different kind. Instead of Congressional-district-based earmarks, we will have SIC-code-based earmarks (SIC code=standard industrial classification), providing benefits to particular industries, and reverse-bill-of-attainder earmarks, directed in favor of particular named companies or small groups of companies.

    Traditional earmarks tended to politicize certain kinds of businesses, such as local construction companies. The new-age earmarks will tend to politicize all types of business, throughout the entire national economy. Your business success if you are an executive or business owner–your employment if you are a worker–your returns on investment if you are a shareholder or bondholder–will increasingly depend on the political rather than the business astuteness of company management.

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Political Philosophy, Politics | 5 Comments »

    Hannuka, An American Holiday

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd December 2008 (All posts by )

    Hannuka lights

    Posted in Holidays, Photos | 1 Comment »

    Stella by starlight, and not a dream

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 23rd December 2008 (All posts by )

    Posted in Music, Video | 1 Comment »

    The Other Half of the Battle

    Posted by Shannon Love on 23rd December 2008 (All posts by )

    Courtesy of Snorg Tees

    Posted in History, Humor | 3 Comments »

    Frozen Vortex

    Posted by Shannon Love on 23rd December 2008 (All posts by )

    Check out this bizarre natural phenomenon. Make sure to play the movie. 

    Stable vortexes form at the ends of bends in rivers as the water that accelerates on the outside of a bend collides with the slower-moving water that traversed the inside of the bend. The velocity sheer produces a vortex. Apparently, an ice pan formed in the center of the stable vortex and then slowly grew until it reached the turbulent edge of the vortex. The turbulence at the edge prevented ice from forming leaving a lubricating liquid layer that lets the ice pan rotate in the vortex. 


    Posted in Environment, Science | 6 Comments »

    Municipal Bonds… and Illinois

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd December 2008 (All posts by )

    Illinois Bond Sale


    A difficulty with finance is that statistics are all backwards-looking. For instance, there were umpteen articles about how stocks “return x% over y number of years” or that “residential real estate is a solid investment based on returns in area x over y number of years”. We all know how those assumptions turned out.

    While research is useful and assumptions need to be made, a crucial error that has lead to much of our financial malaise is due to retaining assumptions too long rather than chucking them aside when the underlying facts on the ground change. You also need to be aware of shifts in sentiment and try to anticipate what is going to happen next.

    Specifically, municipal bonds have historically had a low default rate, less than 1%. And when they do default, investors generally have a relatively high “recovery percentage” (as opposed to Lehman when creditors received 7 cents on every dollar owed). Many investors view them as almost as safe as the debt of the Federal government. Municipal bonds are (generally) tax-free, so a municipal bond can have a lower debt coupon and still attract as many investors as a tax-adjusted amount from a corporate bond sale. I am generally speaking of general obligation debt, not the revenue bonds that might be tied to corporations or other initiatives (these carry a higher coupon and default rate).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Investment Journal | 2 Comments »

    Happy Channukah

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd December 2008 (All posts by )


    UPDATE: This is a nice column about Channukah (via Ron).

    UPDATE 2: Yes, the spelling. I have no idea what is correct. Until recently I would have said it doesn’t matter, but now we have search engines, so maybe it does.

    Posted in Holidays, Photos | 4 Comments »

    I Am Afraid I Might Be Related to These People

    Posted by Shannon Love on 22nd December 2008 (All posts by )

    Posted in Holidays, Video | 5 Comments »