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  • Archive for March, 2009

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th March 2009 (All posts by )

    three feet

    Not even Chicagoboyz understand women.

    Posted in Humor, Photos | Comments Off on

    Our Voluntary Tax System

    Posted by Ginny on 23rd March 2009 (All posts by )

    I’ve never been a big anti-tax person in the personal sense. I recognize lower taxes are more likely to stimulate both economic growth and personal responsibility. But when one of the paychecks in your family comes from a Land Grant university position and the other from a college supported by regional and state taxes, it is unbecoming to complain too much. Nonetheless, this Reid discussion is irritating. Of course, it was sent me by my brother who has been responsible for creating far more jobs in his lifetime than our household’s academic posts have.

    What world do these people live in?

    Posted in Politics, Taxes | 5 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 22nd March 2009 (All posts by )

    Pakistan is 173 million people, 100 nuclear weapons, an army bigger than the U.S. Army, and al-Qaeda headquarters sitting right there in the two-thirds of the country that the government doesn’t control. The Pakistani military and police and intelligence service don’t follow the civilian government; they are essentially a rogue state within a state. We’re now reaching the point where within one to six months we could see the collapse of the Pakistani state, also because of the global financial crisis, which just exacerbates all these problems. . . . The collapse of Pakistan, al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons, an extremist takeover — that would dwarf everything we’ve seen in the war on terror today.

    David Kilcullen

    Posted in International Affairs, Military Affairs, Terrorism, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Energy “Plan” – No New Transmission

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 22nd March 2009 (All posts by )

    DECEPTION

    The energy industry in the US is complicated and when I write posts I like to provide a decent amount of background for my thesis that we are allowing our energy infrastructure to deteriorate and not doing anything constructive about the situation. One critical element of this is that the greens and left-leaning individuals, who decry “old school” solutions like building new coal plants and promote complicated and unproven alternatives to these known, sensible and cost-effective solutions – are being disingenuous when they counter propose their “solutions”, because in the end they don’t want to do anything constructive at all to re mediate and solve the issues. This opinion article, in the New York Times, neatly encapsulates their duplicity by clearly stating that they don’t WANT to solve the transmission problem, even if someone could wind their way through the rats nest of financing, legal issues, and permitting. Thus it represents an important piece of evidence as a “confession” of their duplicity.

    BACKGROUND

    The energy infrastructure of the United States consists of three main components:

    – Generation (nuclear, coal, gas, hydro, and other)
    – Transmission (the lines that connect power stations to cities, and the utilities to each other)
    – Distribution (the local electric lines, customer meter, trucks, etc…)

    In general, the US has failed to invest in generation and transmission assets over the last 25 years or so. “Base load” generation primarily consists of 1) coal plants (no one is building new ones because of environmental legislation) 2) hydroelectric plants (no one is damming rivers due to the Sierra Club) 3) nuclear plant (they are far too expensive, regulation is uncertain, and Three Mile Island hasn’t gone away). There have been some “peaker” plants running natural gas (more expensive) and some minor “renewable” projects but generally we have just been “running in place” with regards to capacity and utilizing up all the “reserve” capacity that had been built up in previous years, as evidenced by blackouts in places like California.

    Transmission consists of the long high voltage lines that crisscross the country. While some of these lines have been rebuilt and capacity upgraded, generally we have NOT built new transmission lines. Transmission lines that cross the country or long distances require permitting and siting and can take decades to build, if you can stomach the endless rounds of negotiating with all parties along the way and an ever changing morass of regulatory issues. Even after a line is permitted and built, the courts can stop them from functioning, such as a famous undersea transmission cable in the East that cost hundreds of millions to build.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation | 13 Comments »

    Indoctrination at U-Delaware

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd March 2009 (All posts by )

    Here’s a video, made by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, about the indoctrination programs that have been implemented at the University of Delaware as part of their Residence Life program:

    Part One

    Part Two

    Watching this, I was reminded if a German folk song that dates from the early Middle Ages: Die Gedanken sind frei. This translates as “the thoughts are free”…in one of the many versions of the song, it is “only the thoughts are free.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Education | 5 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd March 2009 (All posts by )

    beer cooler dog

    Chicagoboyz believe in the innate wisdom of animals.

    Posted in Humor, Photos | Comments Off on

    Clausewitz, “On War” Book VI: The Shadow of the East

    Posted by Zenpundit on 21st March 2009 (All posts by )

    Book VI of On War is about von Clausewitz’s assertion of the pivotal role of defense in war. And so it is. To me however, the passages were echoes of Napoleon’s folly of invading Russia, vast and terrible, and the enduring lessons that von Clausewitz managed to distill from the frozen wasteland of the endless steppe. “The People’s War” rose in Spain against King Joseph Bonaparte and French occupation; led by juntas, the campesinos fought French soldiers with merciless savagery but it was waging war in Russia that had reduced Napoleon Bonaparte from a European Emperor, down again to a mere upstart Corsican general. A parvenu brigand on a continental scale.

    No wonder Carl von Clausewitz was in awe of defense.

    “If defense is the stronger form of war, yet has a negative object, it follows that it should be used only so long as weakness compels, and be abandoned as soon as we are strong enough to to pursue a positive object. When one has used defensive measures successfully, a more favorable balance of strength is usually created; thus the natural course in war is to begin defensively and end in attacking”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 16 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War: Finis

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 21st March 2009 (All posts by )

    Of what worth is the unfinished scribblings of an out of favor subject of the feeblest autocracy in the whole Concert of Europe, a middling officer who was lightly regarded in his own time and lightly regarded by most of his immediate successors?

    Everything and nothing.

    Clausewitz stands alone, the only epochal thinker on war. He is the Newton and Darwin of war, all in one, but he lacks successors. Where he went, no one has followed or passed him by. He said let their be light and there was light, but of a peculiarly refracted sort. Even the most incisive of Clausewitz’s Prussian students, the elder Moltke, missed the whole war is the continuation of political intercourse by other means thing and insisted upon political outcomes that derived from purely military considerations. When war broke out, the politicians should take some time off and let the soldiers run things. Once they have achieved victory, then the politicians can take the hand off and run with the ball. Moltke, tired of Bismarck’s interference in what he saw as his domain, insisted on Alsace-Lorraine as a military buffer against the Third Republic and ended up waving a permanent red flag in front of the Gallic bull.

    Clausewitz is also a parochial figure of his own time, with his own country to defend, his own axe to grind, his own issues, and his own petty grievances. Two stars shine in his firmament: Frederick II and Buonaparte. While Clausewitz often strikes observers as a worshipper of Buonaparte, to whom Clausewitz refers as the “God of War”, I would peg him as a devotee of the Frederican cult. Given Clausewitz’s strong bias towards defense (compare Books VI and VII), his numerous references to Frederick’s exploits during the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War, and his belief that war was the continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means, his large though not uncritical admiration for Old Fritz becomes clear. Frederick represented the ultimate subordination of war to the political: Frederick’s mind put his political interests ahead of his military pursuits. Policy and strategy, since one thought followed another, were in perfect agreement. Frederick was the ultimate practitioner of the strategic defensive: he knew his limits and adhered to them with an iron will. Clausewitz, like many contemporary Prussians, was looking for a system that would produce a Frederick when it could only produce a succession of second-class Frederick Williams. His commander-in-chief participating in cabinet meetings was the best analogue he could find to the absence.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 4 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War: Some Final Comments

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 21st March 2009 (All posts by )

    There is a huge amount of secondary material about On War. Many books, often by very competent scholars, and an enormous number of articles, all offer us shortcuts into Clausewitz’s thought.

    I decided to read none of it. I did not care very much, for now, about Clausewitz scholarship, and I did not care if I replowed already well-plowed ground. To the extent I got any “new” insight from On War, it was inevitably something that is “old” in terms of the voluminous critical writing. Someone else certainly thought of it first.

    But, for me, the point was not to engage in some kind of academic exercise. I am not an academic, I do not have academic colleagues, I do not publish scholarship about military matters, I do not have classes either as a teacher or student. I have no need to be “up to date” or “cutting edge” about Clausewitz.

    Instead, I am simply an amateur who is a lifelong student of military history and military affairs, and a citizen who prefers to have some understanding of the world and the threats our country faces, and how we might deal with those threats.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 4 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book VIII: Politics Can Be Murder

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 21st March 2009 (All posts by )

    The Division of Power

    The German word politik, as used by Clausewitz, can mean both politics and policy. The two words were used interchangeably by Michael Howard and Peter Paret in translating On War depending upon how they interpreted Clausewitz’s meaning in a particular passage. This can serve to remind us that both policy and politics play a role in launching and waging war. While much of On War deals with policy, the rational planning of how to use x resources to achieve y goals, much of Book VIII deals with politics. What is politics? James Burnham ponders this in The Machiavellians:

    What are we talking about when we talk politics? Many, to judge by what they write, seem to think we are talking about man’s search for the ideally good society, or his mutual organization for the maximum social welfare, or his natural aspiration for peace and harmony, or something equally removed from the world as it is and has been. Machiavelli understood politics as primarily the study of the struggles for power among men. By so marking its field, we are assured that there is being discussed something that exists, not something spun out of idealist’s dreams, or nightmares. If our interest is in man as he is on this earth, so far as we can learn from the facts of history and experience, we must conclude that he has no natural aspiration for peace or harmony, he does not form states in order to achieve an ideally good society, nor does he accept mutual organization is to secure the maximum social welfare. But men, and groups of men, do, by various means, struggle among themselves for relative increases in power and privilege. In the course of these struggles and as part of them, governments are established and overthrown, laws passed and violated, wars fought and won and lost. A definition is arbitrary, true enough, but Machiavelli’s implied definition of the field of politics as the struggle for power is at least insurance against nonsense.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 1 Comment »

    WSJ Opinion Article on Illinois Taxes

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 21st March 2009 (All posts by )

    The WSJ recently wrote an opinion piece on the Illinois tax increases which I wrote about here called “The Taxing Illini”. From the article:

    This is a state that does almost everything wrong economically. It is not a right-to-work state and is thus heavily unionized, repelling new business investment. It has the fifth highest minimum wage among the states, the fifth most trial-lawyer friendly legal code, the sixth highest workers’ compensation costs, and the 11th highest property taxes. It has one of the highest inheritance taxes, at 16%, so retirees flee to states with no death tax, such as Florida and Arizona. A rare Illinois advantage has been its relatively low income-tax rate, but that will shrink or vanish under Mr. Quinn’s increase.

    The sad part about this article is that they failed to mention that Illinois has pretty much the highest sales tax rate of any state in the country, and in Cook County the rate is higher than 10% with relatively few exemptions. I guess they just ran out of bad things to say about the state, or figured that the “slaughter rule” was in effect, kind of like in that recent WBC game featuring the USA team.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Humor, Taxes | 1 Comment »

    Business Idea?

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 21st March 2009 (All posts by )


    I was out walking in the River North area last night when I came upon a bona-fide white Bentley with this sign on the side.

    If anyone wants to call the number and hear the “plan” and post it up as a comment that would be interesting.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Humor | 1 Comment »

    Unexpected Flying Objects

    Posted by Shannon Love on 21st March 2009 (All posts by )

    So, I’m standing in my front yard just now when I hear a really loud aircraft drone. I look up and it’s a freaking B-17! It was just flying along majestically at 300-500 feet. Gape jawed, I just stood there watching it drone out of sight, wondering where the hell it came from.

    Turned out it was this B-17 that was in town for an exhibition. *Sigh* I never seem to find out about these things too until to late but I do have a knack for spotting odd aircraft at odd times. A couple of years ago I was just outside the small town of Lampases, Tx, a hundred mile from anywhere, when I looked up and saw a Mig-15 with Soviet markings zipping along at less than 200ft. Back in the early ’90s, I was walking out of a mall when I looked up and saw a V-22 Osprey shoot overhead. At the time, there were only two prototypes in existence. 

    The B-17 seems to capture the imagination of a lot of aviation buffs as few other aircraft do. For example, few seem to feel the same way about the B-17’s contemporary, the B-24 Liberator. In addition to the romance of its wartime service, there seems to be something aesthetically appealing about the aircraft itself although I doubt anyone could articulate exactly what that might be.

    It sure did look pretty, flying by.  

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 3 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st March 2009 (All posts by )

    IN THE WEST, we are used to thinking that Israel cannot survive without the help of Europe and the United States. Tonight I say to you: Maybe we should start wondering whether we in Europe and the United States can survive if we allow the terrorists to succeed in Israel.
    Rupert Murdoch
     
    In this new century, the “West” is no longer a matter of geography. The West is defined by societies committed to freedom and democracy. That at least is how the terrorists see it. And if we are serious about meeting this challenge, we would expand the only military alliance committed to the defense of the West to include those on the front lines of this war. That means bringing countries such as Israel into NATO.
     
    My friends, I do not pretend to have all the answers to Gaza this evening. But I do know this: The free world makes a terrible mistake if we deceive ourselves into thinking this is not our fight.

    Rupert Murdoch (via American Digest)

    Posted in Israel, National Security, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    And Then There’s Inflation

    Posted by Ginny on 21st March 2009 (All posts by )

    I don’t understand the big issues of economics, so perhaps this is a naive post. And a naive question, perhaps: Isn’t inflation the inevitable result of these policies? Doesn’t that discourage productivity? Besides enabling bad behavior, dissing good, abrogating contracts, and taking property (Kelo), how is the government ensuring a strong economy down the road? As someone who is regularly paying down a mortgage – hoping to pay it off in 5 rather than the original 30 years – I’ve been wondering if that, too, isn’t a chump’s act. Projected inflation is, of course, a good deal higher than the interest. Everyone seems agreed that dollars in, say, 2013, will be worth less than in 2009. Why, then, should we pay it off in 2009 dollars?

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 11 Comments »

    More on the Bonus Issue

    Posted by David Foster on 21st March 2009 (All posts by )

    Powerline:

    Wells Fargo didn’t want any TARP money, but the government forced it to take more than $5 billion worth, so Wells Fargo employees who receive bonuses would be subject to Pelosi’s proposed tax. Say you’re a teller at a Wells Fargo branch in Minnesota and you’re married to a lawyer who makes $250,000 this year. You get a $10,000 bonus for your good work during 2008. The government steals it all (90 percent federal plus 8.5 percent state plus, unless it’s included in the 90 percent, 3 percent Medicare). That is simply insane.

    If the Pelosi bill is actually enacted into law (which I still think is doubtful) and upheld by the courts, there is no limit to the arbitrary power of Congress. In that event, we have no property rights and there is no Constitution–no equal protection clause, no due process clause, no impairment of contracts clause, no bill of attainder/ex post facto law clause.

    See my previous post here.

    Posted in Business, Politics | 10 Comments »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book VII: Counting Coup

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 20th March 2009 (All posts by )

    Book VII can be summarized as, “Offense is hard. Defense is strong. Culminating point of victory. Move along.” DEFENSE! DEFENSE! Clausewitz cheers. Offense. offense. Clausewitz grudgingly mutters. I lost count of the number of times Clausewitz says, in effect, “I could say something really insightful about offense here but I already said it about defense in Book VI. Go re-read Book VI. Now.” Take this bronx cheer for example:

    It is thus defense itself that weakens attack. Far from this being idle sophistry, we consider it to be the greatest disadvantage of the attack that one is eventually left in a most awkward defensive position.

    That’s right. The most damning thing about offense is that it’s poor defense. Turns the old adage about the best defense being a good offense on its head. If we follow John Sumida’s argument, this is the main thesis of On War: defense rules; offense is lame.

    However, there are a few interesting nuggets here and there in the otherwise sparse landscape of Book VII. The one that stuck was Clausewitz’s discussion of waging offense for “the sake of trophies, or possibly simply of honor, and at times merely to satisfy a general’s ambition”: Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 7 Comments »

    Why Did the GSEs Cause Problems Only Now?

    Posted by Shannon Love on 20th March 2009 (All posts by )

    A lot of people arguing against my thesis that the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) lie at the heart of the residential mortgage problem ask the obvious question: If the GSEs cause problems, why are we only seeing a problem now? Why didn’t we see problems a long time ago?

    Try this analogy on for size: It has been snowing on the mountain for years, yet we’ve never had an avalanche. It must be caused by something else. Carl’s yodeling must have angered the mountain spirits. 

    Look at this graph from Ginnie Mae itself of the buildup of the value of mortgages guaranteed by Ginnie Mae. (Ginnie Mae is a behind-the-scenes GSE that is explicitly backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.) 


    See the avalanche building?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 22 Comments »

    Clausewitz “On War”: Final Thoughts

    Posted by Mathew Borton on 20th March 2009 (All posts by )

    This is the first time I have read Clausewitz. The experience has changed and expanded my understanding of conflict and warfare. I am certain it will influence the remainder of my academic and professional career.

    As a Marine NCO, I was at the lowest possible layer of leadership that Clausewitz discusses. The majority of the decisions I was expected to make were operational, and therefore tactical. I was given instruction in the strategic realm only as an overview, and was expected to be concerned with the how, and not worry about the why. Hindsight, combined with insight gained from Clausewitz allows me to broaden the view and (in some cases anyway) see the strategic value in the tasks that a young Corporal grumbled over. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 1 Comment »

    The Worlds of Benjamin Franklin & Franklin Raines

    Posted by Ginny on 20th March 2009 (All posts by )

    At some point we are likely to go back to looking at the world as we did a few generations back – the virtues of the 1950’s or the renunciatory sense of duty of the nineteenth century. If the Romantics & the French Revolution saw a response in the stiff upper lip, perhaps the disasters of today will bring back that same resolute look – perhaps instead of Sean Penn we will admire laconic heroes like Gary Cooper and self-deprecating ones like Jimmy Stewart. And if we do, perhaps we will value Benjamin Franklin’s advice and have little longing for Franklin Raines’ raincoat – value more what’s in our chests than covers our backs.

    Perhaps the current economic crisis will force a re-examination of the assumptions Shannon describes so well. Each semester I ask my students to briefly discuss a variety of passages from early writers. One of my favorites is Benjamin Franklin’s argument against debt, that it tempts man to lie, that it undermines his freedom. Indeed, as he says, it is hard for an empty bag to stand upright. I like it because it counters D. H. Lawrence’s attack in an understated way. Franklin’s is not a romantic sense of self but a belief that protecting our essence, who we are, is important. His sense that the practical, the worldly & mundane, is an important factor seems much more interesting than the sex & melodrama of Lawrence’s dark passions.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society | Comments Off on The Worlds of Benjamin Franklin & Franklin Raines

    Gutter Ball

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 20th March 2009 (All posts by )

    So read the headline on the Fox News website when I woke up this morning.

    Leno complimented Obama on the score, but the president quipped, “It was like the Special Olympics or something,” which prompted laughter from the audience.

    Really?  The President of the United States said that?

    I guess he did.

    Frankly, I am disgusted and saddened.  And I will be sending a donation to the local Special Olympics people today.  All of the howls about how Bush couldn’t form a sentence ring pretty hollow when you hear things like this.  I can only assume there is more to come.

    Posted in Politics | 10 Comments »

    The Political-Corporate-Financial Complex

    Posted by Shannon Love on 19th March 2009 (All posts by )

    Eisenhower famously coined the term “Military-Industrial” complex to describe the way that large military budgets drove rent-seeking behavior in defense contractors. He warned that the economic interest of defense contractors and of those who prospered when they prospered, including politicians, would distort military priorities. 

    The same thing happened with the GSEs and the financial industry. From a Paul A. Gigot editorial dated July 23, 2008:

    Fannie Mae and Mr. Mozilo [of CountryWide] weren’t competitors; they were partners. Fannie helped to make Countrywide as profitable as it once was by buying its mortgages in bulk. Mr. Raines — following predecessor Jim Johnson — and Mr. Mozilo made each other rich.

    This partnership had predictable consequences.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Politics | 4 Comments »

    Clausewitz, “On War,” Returning To That Business About the Continuation of Policy

    Posted by Cheryl Rofer on 19th March 2009 (All posts by )

    Clausewitz says

    war is nothing but the continuation of policy with other means.

    He also says that this is the central point of On War. But what does he mean by it? Is it a precept? An observation? A recommendation for a successful war?

    In Clausewitz’s time, the objective was usually control of territory, incorporating it into one’s own country or to be used as a bargaining chip. That object is not unknown today, but perceptions play a part that was inconceivable in Clausewitz’s time.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 1 Comment »

    AIG Bonuses

    Posted by David Foster on 19th March 2009 (All posts by )

    Anyone want to talk about the AIG bonus situation?

    A few thoughts to start things off:

    1)Clearly, AIG has been terribly mismanaged. And the U.S. financial sector as a whole has become too large, in terms of its total size–including employment and employee compensation–relative to the economy as a whole.

    2)The fact that a company has been mismanaged does not necessarily imply that everyone in it has done a bad job. Almost certainly, there are people in the bonus pool at AIG who have successfully achieved their individual goals, regardless of the failures of top management.

    3)Bonus plans, in my experience, generally have two components: success of the individual in meeting his own goals, and overall success of the business. (“Business” does not necessarily mean the corporation as a whole–for example, an engineering manager at GE Transportation might be bonused based more on the results of the Transportation business than the whole company.) In general, it makes sense for the proportion of the bonus tied to overall business results to go up with the individual’s organizational level. It appears that there wasn’t much tie to the overall results for the people in the AIG pool being discussed.

    4)Bonus plans are usually a part of an individual’s compensation package and, as such, are legally enforceable contracts. I believe that in some states, failure by a company to pay compensation that is owed can result in additional damages, above and beyond the payments themselves.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Politics | 22 Comments »

    The GSEs’ Special Status

    Posted by Shannon Love on 19th March 2009 (All posts by )

    This post is mostly for reference so I can link to it in further posts. Below is a section from a Congressional Budget Office report issued May 2003 when the Bush administration was trying to allow the SEC to regulate Freddie Mac, Fannie May and the Federal Home Loan Banks (collectively, the government sponsored enterprises or GSEs). It nicely summarizes the special status of the GSEs and explains how the market reacted to their special status. (Scroll down to the section, The Benefits of GSE Status.)

    Current law treats the GSEs as instrumentalities of the federal government, rather than as fully private entities. As a consequence, they are afforded exemptions from many taxes, fees, and regulations; and for many purposes, their securities are treated as government securities.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 1 Comment »