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  • Archive for August, 2009

    Not Holding My Breath

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 11th August 2009 (All posts by )

    The headline reads “Global pressure builds for UN action to free Suu Kyi”.

    Because, as we all know from past experience, the UN is just sooo effective at getting oppressive regimes to start making nice.

    Posted in United Nations | 4 Comments »

    The Singularity

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th August 2009 (All posts by )

    NO

    Posted in Humor, Photos | 1 Comment »

    230 mpg?

    Posted by David Foster on 11th August 2009 (All posts by )

    General Motors has announced that the Chevy Volt will get 230 mpg for city driving, and probably around 100 mpg for combined city/highway driving.

    The Volt obtains this performance, of course, through its use of a battery recharged from the grid. “230 mpg” means “230 miles per gallon of gasoline,” and ignores the coal or natural gas which in most cases will supply the recharging. The Electricity Fairy has not been coming around a lot lately.

    A proper metric for a vehicle such as the Volt depends on what factors the buyer really cares about…

    If your main concern is “energy independence,” then “miles per gallon of gasoline” is probably a reasonable criterion.

    If your main concern is operating cost, then you need “total cost per mile,” based on a combination of gasoline cost and electricity cost.

    If you worry that the world is going to run out of energy, you should be looking at “BTUs per mile.”

    And if you really believe CO2 is going to destroy us all, then the metric you should care about is “CO2 emissions per mile.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Energy & Power Generation, Media, Transportation | 9 Comments »

    “[T]here is … a real difference between having something rationed by a process and having it rationed by a person.”

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 11th August 2009 (All posts by )

    If you design a formula to deny granny a pacemaker, knowing that this is the intent of the formula, then you’ve killed granny just as surely as if you’d ordered the doctor to do it directly. That’s the intuition behind the conservative resistance to switching from price rationing to fiat rationing. Using the government’s coercive power to decide the price of something, or who ought to get it, is qualitatively different from the same outcome arising out of voluntary actions in the marketplace. Even if you don’t share the value judgement, it’s not irrational, except in the sense that all human decisions have an element of intuition and emotion baked into them.

    Megan McArdle

    UPDATE:

    Wow. Megan McArdle’s next post on this topic is even better:

    I have voiced my various practical objections to the particular options on the table at various moments. But the main thing is that I don’t want to give the government a greater role in health care markets. Nay, not even if all the other countries . . . well, all the cool countries, anyway . . . are doing it. To the liberals proclaiming that, unlike those of us in the conservative or libertarian camps, they are practical people just seeking the best way to make us all better off, I say: I think your utilitarian calculus is badly wrong.

    Most definitely, RTWT.

    Posted in Quotations | 35 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th August 2009 (All posts by )

    Chet Richards, in a comment on this thread at Belmont Club:

    For an economics professor, Gregory Clark has a very poor grasp of U.S. economic history. The real question is: what have we lost through our current redistributionist (i.e. socialist) policies?
     
    LBJ instituted the “Great Society” as a redistributionist scheme. I well remember that at the time critics were saying that LBJ’s program was grossly underfunded and that it would have a very negative impact on the US economy. LBJ not only publicly admitted that the critics were right, he even openly gloated that future generations would just have to live with the consequences. On top of LBJ’s ego we had to suffer from the adoption of the “Limits to Growth” policy that was enacted in the early 70’s by liberal neoluddites – including Nelson Rockefeller’s gang (and Richard Nixon). This policy choked off growth during the 1970’s by doubling the Capital Gains Tax.
     
    So what have we lost? The long term economic growth of the US from its founding to 1970 was 4.5% through thick and thin. Growth losses during recessions and depressions were compensated by growth overshoots during the recovery period. Since the population was also growing, the per capita growth rate works out to about 3.5%. In 1970 the long term per capita growth rate dropped to 1.5% and has remained at that level ever since. (These days an annual total GDP growth of 4% is regarded as phenomenally good!)
     
    Working the numbers for the period from 1969 to 2009 we have a per capita GDP growth of 4x with a 3.5% per capita growth rate. With the true per capita growth rate of 1.5% the per capita growth during this period was actually 1.8x. If we had not had LBJ and “Limits to Growth” our per capita economy would now be about 2.2x larger than it currently is. Factoring in the population growth gives us about the same ratio.
     
    Conclusions: 1) Almost all of us have suffered a profound loss of the prosperity that should have been ours. 2) Revenues to the Government would have been substantially larger than they currently are – and taxes would have been much lower. 3) Inflation would have been much lower – which means our savings would not have been eaten away (and taxed) by inflation. 4) Current policies to expand redistribution are going to create even more loss of wealth and increase in poverty.
     
    Shed a tear, folks, for what might have been, and what we likely will still lose.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, History, Leftism, Quotations, Taxes, USA | 23 Comments »

    Poorly Thought-Out Marketing Slogan

    Posted by Shannon Love on 10th August 2009 (All posts by )

    My son is watching TV and he sees an add in Microsoft’s new marketing campaign. Their slogan?

    Windows: Life Without Walls

    My son quipped, “If you don’t have any walls, why do you need windows?”

    It’s the kind of joke that writes itself. Did no one at Microsoft or their ad agency think of this pun or the impression it creates? Seems to me like an unforced error.

    Posted in Advertising, Business | 8 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 10th August 2009 (All posts by )

    The only universal medicine (Marxists) have for social evils—State ownership of the means of production—is not only perfectly compatible with all the disasters of the capitalist world—with exploitation, imperialism, pollution, misery, economic waste, national hatred and national oppression, but it adds to them a series of disasters of its own: inefficiency, lack of economic incentives and above all the unrestricted rule of the omnipresent bureaucracy, a concentration of power never before known in human history.

    Leszek Kolakowski

    (Apply it to the current “healthcare debate”, which I put in quotes since one side is desperate to avoid a debate. The shoe fits.)

    Posted in Quotations | 3 Comments »

    How the Apple Tablet Could Save Computing

    Posted by Shannon Love on 9th August 2009 (All posts by )

    Popular Science bitches and moans about how the rumored Apple Tablet could ruin computing. [h/t Instapundit]

    The Apple Tablet is rumored to be a cross between a laptop and an iPhone. The iPhone isn’t really a cell phone, rather, it is a handheld computer employing a touch interface with a cell phone built-in. It uses a slimmed down version of Apple’s MacOS X operating system that Apple uses on all its computers. This makes it easy to make an actual laptop-like device that uses the iPhone’s operating system complete with the special cell-phone associated attributes of the handheld.

    In PopSci’s thinking, this is a problem because the iPhone’s default setup only allows people to use software written by independent developers but approved by Apple installed exclusively by being downloaded from Apple’s App Store. According to PopSci, this is bad because if this model spreads to all computers, people wouldn’t have the same level of flexibility to run any software they please on the new type of computer as they do on current ones.

    PopSci needs to rethink that because without a new business model to pay for the creation and distribution of software, there won’t be any software for people to run. You can’t make money anymore writing and selling software using the current business models. PopSci isn’t saving freedom for end users, they’re killing it. Apple is saving the freedom of end users by making it possible for software developers who aren’t giant corporations to make a living at writing software.

    The iPhone and its App store recently convinced me to return to writing software directly for end users and I am far from alone in doing so. The iPhone app store has ignited a renaissance in software development and PopSci shouldn’t be trying to abort that. We don’t need a software Bonfire of the Vanities.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Internet, Tech | 40 Comments »

    Two Cycling Books – A Dog In A Hat and Bobke 2

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 9th August 2009 (All posts by )

    Over my vacation I brought two books along and completed them both. My only problem was that I completed both books on the first two days of my vacation, leaving me to get some supplementary reading material on the vacation.

    The first book I read was “A Dog In A Hat” by Joe Parkin. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is the story of Joe Parkin, who at an early age leaves the USA and moves to Belgium to be a professional bicycle rider.

    From the descriptions Parkin provides, professional bicycle riding is to the Belgians and Euros like professional football is in the USA. And I mean American football. Members of cycling teams in Europe have trading cards and fan clubs.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Sports | Comments Off on Two Cycling Books – A Dog In A Hat and Bobke 2

    Early Notice: Thomas E. Ricks at the Pritzker Military Library on September 10, 2009.

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 9th August 2009 (All posts by )

    Thomas E. Ricks will be in Chicago at the Pritzker Military Library to discuss this most recent book The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008. The event will be free and open to the public.

    Ricks is the author of the widely-acclaimed book Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, e.g. this review.

    Ricks is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

    Ricks has a blog, The Best Defense.

    I hope to read The Gamble before the date, and I plan to attend the event.

    I hope the weather is better than the downpour on the night that David Kilcullen spoke at the PML.

    Posted in Announcements, Book Notes, Military Affairs | 5 Comments »

    Mini-Book Review — McDougall – Born to Run

    Posted by James McCormick on 8th August 2009 (All posts by )

    McDougall, Christopher, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (2009, 287pp.)

    I’m a miserable runner, and apart from a brief time in graduate school, I haven’t run since high school. Walking has been my exercise alternative. Nonetheless, a childhood spent in the Boy Scouts and a youth spent doing prehistoric archaeology have given me an abiding interest in the discipline of hunting, especially the role of dogs in human culture and the tradition of persistence hunting practiced by the !Kung bushmen. In Born to Run, magazine writer McDougall has managed to bring together a tale of endurance running, sports capitalism, evolutionary biology, and Mexican ethnography to create a compelling reading experience. Maybe, just maybe, it’s an insight into who we were.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Sports | 2 Comments »

    Everybody wants to go to heaven,

    Posted by Ginny on 8th August 2009 (All posts by )

    But none of us want to go now.

    A mean conservative Newt Gingrich argues: “we need a new federal resolve to truly defeat Alzheimer’s. As America’s largest generation ages, we have no time to lose.” On the empathic left Ezekial Emanuel (brother of the gentle soul, Emanual): “Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, USA | 7 Comments »

    Epic Kludges Plus Jury Rigs

    Posted by Shannon Love on 8th August 2009 (All posts by )

    Humorous site of the day: There, I Fixed It

    I’m afraid half the stuff I cobble together could easily end up on the site. Still, you have to admire people’s ingenuity if not their risk assessment skills.

    Posted in Humor, Tech | 2 Comments »

    2009 Lollapalooza Day One

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 8th August 2009 (All posts by )

    Lollapalooza Day One was quite muddy and cold, which is going to be quite a change from the other days since it is supposed to be extremely hot (for the first time this year in Chicago). The festival attracts over 225,000 people over three days, and it seemed very full, but not too crowed.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Music | Comments Off on 2009 Lollapalooza Day One

    (More) Wants vs. Needs

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 7th August 2009 (All posts by )

    At various points on this blog I have pointed out the gap between “wants” vs. “needs”. Since I live in River North there is a huge array of cooking and kitchen stores nearby, with an unimaginable line up of gadgets, tiles, and equipment.

    At the complete other end of the spectrum, I was recently at my parent’s house when I noted this pot on the stove. This is the same pot that all of my meals were cooked from growing up, and it is going strong today! In fact, I wasn’t the oldest in my family, so it turns out that this pot is over FIFTY years old!

    There was no reason to get rid of this pot, nor of any of the others in the set, so they just kept soldiering on, year after year. While not pretty nor trendy, the pots were FUNCTIONAL and frankly indestructible.

    It is interesting to think of how much of our economy is spent on functionally unnecessary items. This photo, below… shows the “wants” side of the equation. I don’t even know how to explain it, seems to be some sort of furniture mosaic of likely high cost (if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it).

    Our wants have become unhinged from our needs to an extreme extent. At least in my little neighborhood…

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Human Behavior, Humor | 14 Comments »

    Historians in denial

    Posted by Helen on 6th August 2009 (All posts by )

    Tomorrow I shall go to London Library and collect my reserved copy of “The Forsaken” by Tim Tzouliadis, the tragic story of American workers who went to the “new paradise”, that is the Soviet Union in the early thirties and what happened to them. (Hint: it is not very pleasant.) After that, I shall have to read “Spies”, the latest in the revelations about the far-reaching Communist network in the United States of the thirties and forties. I have already read with great glee the revelations about I. F. Stone.

    It would be awfully nice if at some point we could have a few revelations of that kind here and not have to rely on the Americans to give us the information. But what with our libel laws and paranoid secrecy, which makes it impossible to get hold of important documents, I cannot see that happening any time soon.

    Meanwhile, I have re-read “In Denial” by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr about historians trying to wish away documents and evidence about Communism and its agents. Not only re-read but wrote about it on the Conservative History Journal blog. I’ll be glad to hear American reactions.

    Posted in Academia, Anti-Americanism, History, Leftism | 8 Comments »

    The New “Nomenklatura”

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 5th August 2009 (All posts by )

    Recently in Illinois a scandal broke out regarding preferential admissions at Illinois public universities, notably the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Politicians were forwarding lists of applicants (who otherwise would not have been allowed to attend because they lacked the requisite credentials) and these “connected” applicants were accepted ahead of more qualified but “unconnected” residents.

    The scandal has now moved on to other educational institutions, notably the “magnet” high schools such as this Walter Payton High School on Wells street in the River North area of Chicago (it is actually halfway between River North and Old Town). Here is a link to a Chicago Tribune article on the subject. Here is a more recent article… now the Federal authorities are getting involved.

    The real issue, however, aren’t the specific instances of corruption. The broader picture is what our country will look like in the future as the government controls more institutions due to economic failure (car manufactures like GM, financial institutions like Citicorp, AIG and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) or due to encroaching powers (perhaps the entire medical industry).
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 9 Comments »

    Big Wheel Cease from Turnin’

    Posted by David Foster on 4th August 2009 (All posts by )

    deltaqueen1

    The steamboat Delta Queen is a well-known and much-loved vessel. Built in 1926, she is 285 feet long, with a steel hull, powered by two steam engines of 2000HP each. She was originally used for passenger service between San Francisco and Sacramento. After being refurbished in 1945, she began service on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, and has operated in that role ever since. Thousands of Americans have enjoyed river cruising on the Delta Queen.

    Not any more, though. Delta Queen made her last passenger voyage in 2008, and is now tied up as a hotel in Chattanooga. The end of passenger service is not due to any structural or mechanical problems with the vessel, nor is it due to the difficult economy. Rather, the demise of the Delta Queen says a great deal–not much of it very encouraging–about the political and cultural environment now existing in this country.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Political Philosophy, Politics, Transportation, USA | 20 Comments »

    Art in Motion

    Posted by Ginny on 3rd August 2009 (All posts by )

    A&L links to Kseniya Simonova – Sand Animation (Україна має талант / Ukraine’s Got Talent). A&L’s tag is “WWII as experienced in the Soviet Ukraine.” This is moving – even to someone like me, who doesn’t understand the words.

    Perhaps I should rethink my satire of my friend who is addicted to American Idol. It’s an open market – and it has, like all open markets, found some real winners. Besides, there’s something flyover about its egalitarian approach. And something even nicer – national identity rah rah along with a kind of generousity of spirit that gives the whole world art.

    I’m looking forward to learning from the many on this blog who are not monolingual.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Russia | 8 Comments »

    “alias johnny stiletto”

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd August 2009 (All posts by )

    An attractive personal photo site.

    Posted in Photos | 4 Comments »

    The Medium, The Message, & President Micheletti

    Posted by Ginny on 1st August 2009 (All posts by )

    Our need for understanding has not disappeared if our appetite for the press has. PJTV may be a new medium; its message: “Honduran President Micheletti on Hugo Chavez, Cocaine & American Media” may be new as well. Accessible, quickly put up, quickly listened to: this is the old way on steroids. But the argument Micheletti makes is simply an old way – to “respect the laws of my country” – that speaks of restraint and proportion. Laws are not uniformly good, of course, but we’ve seen the patterns before and we recognize the threats Micheletti describes. Leaders who want to abrogate laws limiting their own powers are seldom in the right.

    Texas is at least well represented by Cornyn. Texans, for all the talk by others of our cowboy ignorance, are aware of our southern border. Note Cornyn’s conclusion, which is gratitude for a medium that even covers Micheletti, even tries to find out what happened. The interview with a representative from our State Department is not designed to make us feel grown ups are in charge, but rather the kind of boozy judgements in a frat on Saturday night – I don’t know much about the details, but I sure know about my position.

    Perhaps if Texas could develop its own foreign policy, it might be more sensible – imagine our spot on the map at the end of this report.

    Posted in Americas, International Affairs, The Press | 4 Comments »

    Mini-Book Review: Stanton — Horse Soldiers

    Posted by James McCormick on 1st August 2009 (All posts by )

    Stanton, Doug, Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan, 2009, 393 pp.

    “Horse Soldiers” is a straight-forward account of the CIA/Special Forces (SF) efforts in Afghanistan from October through November 2001, culminating in the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif to the forces of the Northern Alliance, and the prisoner revolt at nearby Qala-i-Janghi fortress. The latter led to the death of Mike Spann (CIA paramilitary officer) and the discovery and capture of John Walker Lindh (“American Taliban”).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Middle East, Military Affairs | 1 Comment »

    Government Incentives

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 1st August 2009 (All posts by )

    When I review tax programs, whether they are for local, state, or federal governments, there are two critical criteria:

    – Effectiveness – does the tax program raise the revenue in a manner that is cost-effective and have the lowest level of harm and distortion to the overall economy?
    – Incentives – if the tax program is designed to promote a certain type of activity or “deter” a different type of activity, do the incentives actually drive the behavior that the law is intended to achieve?

    I thought about the “incentives” element of the program as my parents rushed out to take advantage of the “cash for clunkers” program which provides a credit (on the spot, to the dealer) for turning in cars that basically get less than 18 mpg and purchasing a new car off the dealer lot. This program has their own website (where they unhelpfully refer to the program as “Cars” or “Car Allowance Rebate System” rather than the far more effective “cash for clunkers”). My father’s car barely made the cut because it was right around 18 mpg and they have been clarifying the program and making him sign form after form (to prove that he has owned it for several years, that he had it scrapped, etc…) but generally this program was a “shining star” of an incentive because 1) the government wanted him to go out and buy a new car off a dealer’s lot right now 2) they wanted to make sure that his old 18 mpg car was taken off the road 3) they wanted to make sure that he actually owned the car and didn’t just swap it with someone else to get the $4500 in trade in when the car was only worth maybe $1000. All of these criteria were met, in this case.

    While the FDIC isn’t a tax program, the agency that guarantees deposits at insured banks (with your tax dollars) also provides incentives. I was involved in the early 1990’s when the Resolution Trust Corporation was created by our Federal government in order to take control of insolvent banks (basically banks that made dud loans, generally for property) and pay back depositors. I was on one of the teams that would go into banks right at the time they were being shut down and secure the cash and assets as a lowly auditor. We weren’t exactly the CIA – we sat in cars outside the bank and everyone knew it was coming and the staff were generally very polite – but that was where I frequently heard the phrase

    Heads – I win, Tails – the FDIC loses

    By this phrase they exactly summed up the banking game at the time – make a lot of big and risky loans with “guaranteed” customer deposits, and if it goes well and the loans are repaid, you make a bunch of money. If the loans go sour, oh well, you just walk away and leave the FDIC holding the bag.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Taxes | 9 Comments »