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  • Archive for January, 2010

    Posted by Lexington Green on 20th January 2010 (All posts by )

    brown = change

    Posted in Elections, Politics | 5 Comments »

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 20th January 2010 (All posts by )

    Posted in Humor, Politics, USA, Video | 3 Comments »

    Posted by Lexington Green on 19th January 2010 (All posts by )

    Scott Brown

    Posted in Elections, Politics | 10 Comments »

    Clausewitz, Zen Master

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 19th January 2010 (All posts by )

    GONG!!!

    — GONG!!! —

    Per Lex’s request:

    The crude definition of a Zen koan is a non-rational assertion that, when meditated upon, can shock the non-rational mind into higher states of consciousness and insight. A famous example is:

    Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?

    — GONG!!! —

    Jon Sumida argues Clausewitz may have been providing his own heavy duty Zen: Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs | 3 Comments »

    The Superstition Known as Economic Forecasting and the Trophy Wife Metric

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 18th January 2010 (All posts by )

    Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (KJV):

    10. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.

    11. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

    12. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

    If an economic forecaster found himself plying his trade in ancient Israel, it wouldn’t be long before an outraged community dragged him kicking and hollering to the outskirts of the village and stoned him to death.

    Especially if they followed his investment advice.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Predictions | 10 Comments »

    Brown as Warning

    Posted by Ginny on 18th January 2010 (All posts by )

    Looking back, I realize I didn’t begin with the positive, and I agree with Kennedy there appears to be plenty of positive: Brown, even under fire, remains honest, with a sense of humor and the apparent self-confidence and humility that comes with such humor, and he also appears, well, hot.

    He’s helped though by a pent-up irritation: policies we thought unwise have deteriorated into policies we find foolish, the unseemly has slid into the mire of outright bribery, the short-sighted has so dominated that disaster lurks. On a not unrelated note, attitudes that rankled those of us in fly-over territory have become pervasive and bizarre. They are not the attitudes of those with a sense of humor nor apparent self-confidence, and, especially, without humility. (Arrogance is not self-confidence.)

    Even citizens of a state that seemed to give pre-Revolutionary respect to family succession appear annoyed a candidate disses their sports heroes, shrinks from handshaking and winter politicking, and seems appalled by pick-ups. (Whatever Marie Antoinette actually said or actually meant, the inappropriateness of her response defined her – and beheaded her – even when such kingly rights were more widely accepted).

    My husband’s uncle, far into retirement and deep into Texas, has proclaimed that he intends for the first time in years to “pull an all-nighter” – to see Brown triumph, he hopes. And, in the tradition of these parts, Ray Stevens disses Obamacare.

    Posted in Elections, Human Behavior, Humor | 3 Comments »

    What can Brown do for You?

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 18th January 2010 (All posts by )

    FedUp

    Big day tomorrow in Massachusettes.

    Posted in Elections, Humor, Politics | Comments Off on What can Brown do for You?

    Of Writing and Work

    Posted by David Foster on 18th January 2010 (All posts by )

    Bob O’Hara kindly e-mailed me a link to this interesting post at Anecdotal Evidence. The blogger observes that:

    As a newspaper reporter I learned that two subjects might open the mouths and memories of recalcitrant interviewees – their families and work. People love talking about what they do – bragging and complaining — especially when they’re good at it and enjoy the work. Work is central to most of our lives.

    …and wonders why there is such an “absence of work” in contemporary literature. He cites two theories: Alain de Botton’s view that “technology has alienated most of us, including writers and other artists, from the means of production,” and Frank Wilson’s assertion that “What this really is about is the extent to which art has become divorced from life as it actually lived by most people.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Business | 25 Comments »

    Oh The Geese!

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 17th January 2010 (All posts by )

    Goose On Ice Floe

    Oh no… the ice is breaking up… these non-native Canadian Geese, which don’t even bother to migrate but just hang out fat and happy… they could maybe be extinct in our lifetime (uh, probably not by a long shot).

    Posted in Humor | 4 Comments »

    We Are Wrong on Rate of Return

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 17th January 2010 (All posts by )

    In this article titled “Why Many Investors Keep Fooling Themselves” by Jason Zweig from the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Zweig does an excellent job of explaining why individuals assume that they will receive a rate of return that is too high, which means that either they are not saving enough to meet their goals or that they are taking too much risk of running out of money.

    This post describes what the rate of return means in practical terms, and why it is important.

    One of the core elements of investing is the assumed “rate of return”. Along with your base investment (or amount that you are periodically adding, say annually), your time frame (number of years out you want to go), the “rate of return” is the percentage variable used to determine whether you will have enough to retire and / or meet your needs for a specific goal (such as will you have enough funded to send your child to college).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Investment Journal, Markets and Trading | 6 Comments »

    [photo:] Cornucopia

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th January 2010 (All posts by )

    it's free!

    Chicagoboyz enjoy the bounty of socialized medicine.

    Posted in Humor, Medicine, Photos | 4 Comments »

    The Uncle of Science

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 16th January 2010 (All posts by )

    The King and the CrookHow do you make a tired and aging political system supple and flexible enough to adapt to a changing world? A recent Wired Magazine article offers this:

    [M]ost scientific change isn’t abrupt and dramatic; revolutions are rare. Instead, the epiphanies of modern science tend to be subtle and obscure and often come from researchers safely ensconced on the inside. “These aren’t Einstein figures, working from the outside,” [Kevin] Dunbar says. “These are the guys with big NIH grants.”

    While the scientific process is typically seen as a lonely pursuit — researchers solve problems by themselves — Dunbar found that most new scientific ideas emerged from lab meetings, those weekly sessions in which people publicly present their data. Interestingly, the most important element of the lab meeting wasn’t the presentation — it was the debate that followed. Dunbar observed that the skeptical (and sometimes heated) questions asked during a group session frequently triggered breakthroughs, as the scientists were forced to reconsider data they’d previously ignored. The new theory was a product of spontaneous conversation, not solitude; a single bracing query was enough to turn scientists into temporary outsiders, able to look anew at their own work.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Elections, Human Behavior | 3 Comments »

    Book Review: Defying Hitler, by Sebastian Haffner–Part II

    Posted by David Foster on 14th January 2010 (All posts by )

    Defying Hitler: A Memoir

    This is a two-post book review; the first part is here and ended with Haffner’s initial reaction to the naming of Hitler as Chancellor:

    I do not know what the general reaction was. For about a minute, mine was completely correct: icy horror…for a moment I physically sensed the man’s odour of blood and filth, the nauseating approach of a man-eating animal–its foul, sharp claws in my face.

    But that evening, after discussing the situation with his father, he felt better about the future. Hitler, after all, had not been elected dictator: he was merely head of a coalition government and indeed had sworn an oath to the Weimar constitution.

    We agreed that (the new government) had a good chance of doing a lot of damage, but not of surviving for very long: a deeply reactionary government, with Hitler as its mouthpiece…Even with the Nazis it would not have a majority in the Reichstag…Foreign policy would probably be a matter of banging the table. There might be an attempt to rearm. That would automatically add the outside world to the 60 percent of the home population who were against the Government…No, all things considered, this government was not a cause for alarm.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Germany, History | 7 Comments »

    America: Your Arteries Are Hardening

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 14th January 2010 (All posts by )

    At least ossification isn’t the end of the world. If you’re suffering a case of ossification, you’re at least moving at a rapid enough pace to avoid fossilization. However, even if you’re escaping terminal mineral seepage that can turn your bones to stones, ossification is still a serious problem. Reaction time is glacial. Adaption is stunted and malformed. You are the living definition of the slow animal at the back of the herd that is little better than wolf-bait.

    America suffers from systemic ossification. Its ability to learn from its experiences is broken. Potential reactions and adaptations are muted, mis-aimed, and skim the surface of deeper pathologies. Symptoms receive morphine for the pain instead of the sharp medicine that would cure the patient. Ideas and actions follow well worn ruts. Using grandfather’s wooden club to beat on your obnoxious neighbor is preferred to building your own club from space age materials.

    Why does a formerly healthy system break down and why does it resist all attempts to heal it, especially the most sweeping endeavors?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Politics | 10 Comments »

    Calling for Volunteers for Scott Brown Legal Team

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th January 2010 (All posts by )

    I was one of many people who just got an email from Dan Winslow, Chief Legal Counsel for the Scott Brown for U.S. Senate Committee. Dan writes:

    Next week, Massachusetts’s citizens will head to the polls to vote in a historical election. Close elections draw intense scrutiny, and ensuring the accuracy and credibility of the process is crucial. For that reason, the Scott Brown campaign is assembling a volunteer team to ensure that every legally cast ballot is accurately counted. The citizens of Massachusetts deserve a fair and honest election.

    He concludes: “Please do not wait, Election Day is January 19th!”

    Go to this link to join up.

    I will add a few comments.

    There will be attempted vote fraud by some Democrats in the Brown/Coakley Senate race. There is a lot at stake. A defeat which takes away Ted Kennedy’s old seat, and loses their super-majority, will be a humiliation and a political disaster for the Democrats. They will have every incentive to use all means available to them to prevent that defeat.

    If you are lawyer who can volunteer in Massachusetts on January 19, go to the link and sign up now, or please forward this link if you know a lawyer who lives in Massachusetts or can be there on election day.

    I have worked as a poll watcher in the Chicago area several times. As a Republican in a majority Democratic precinct, I have been treated with very cold courtesy, and some snide remarks, but only rarely with outright hostility. I have never seen any vote fraud, and I do not think there was any. My presence may have deterred any attempted fraud. I will never know. I do know I helped to insure at least one honest polling place on election day, and that is good enough.

    The point here is not partisanship. The point here is that we do not live in Albania, or the Congo, or Red China. We supposedly live in a democracy where the citizens vote, and their votes are counted fairly.

    Democracy only works if the integrity of the system is insured. And that only happens if there are people from both parties posted in every polling place. An honest system is an American value, not just a Republican value.

    In a close, and important, election like this one, the incentives to cheat, by the incumbent party in particular, are very high. It need not come from the candidates or their staffs. Some areas have almost a tradition of cheating, in both parties, where others are squeaky clean. It can occur spontaneously at the bottom rung. Precinct captains are judged on how well they got the vote out. Their political future turns on winning their precinct for the Party’s candidate, and getting their own voters out and to the polls. The incentive to corruption and electioneering, and voter intimidation, are permanent features. Corruption in the system is a permanent challenge that can only be minimized and never eliminated.

    Ensuring an honest election is labor intensive. You need mobs for jobs on the day.

    I cannot be in Massachusetts on election day. But if you can help out on January 19, please do so.

    Posted in Elections, Politics | 14 Comments »

    Kind of Spooky

    Posted by David Foster on 13th January 2010 (All posts by )

    CNN:

    James Cameron’s completely immersive spectacle “Avatar” may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.

    According to the article, there have been more than 1000 posts to a forum for people trying to cope from the depression they experienced after seeing this film..and not being able to stay within it permanantly.

    (Via Neptunus Lex, who says: “Some folks don’t get the point. You have to come home when it’s over.)

    When I saw this story, I immediately thought of the old Chinese opium dens…which were largely inhabited by people whose lives were so miserable that their desire to disappear in dreams was entirely understandable.

    But what misery or bleakness are the would-be permanant habitués of the Avatar den seeking to escape?

    Posted in Civil Society, Film, Human Behavior | 27 Comments »

    America: You Need a Policy Chimp

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 12th January 2010 (All posts by )

    America needs a Policy Chimp. To qualifychimp-9090 as a Policy Chimp, an individual:

    1. Should be perceived as completely nuts.
    2. Should lack self-awareness or a sense of irony.
    3. Should randomly spout threats.
    4. Should be given to verbal flamboyance of the most extreme kind.
    5. Should lack a sense of humor.
    6. Should have a Chuck Schumer-like attraction to cameras.
    7. Should be able to easily scare foreigners and local intelligentsia.
    8. Should have a direct thought-to-mouth interface for maximum performance.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous, Politics, Rhetoric, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Morning Snack

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 12th January 2010 (All posts by )

    morning snack 001

    ChicagoBoyz need to feed their bodies and their brains.

    Posted in Photos | 18 Comments »

    Gary Death Countdown II

    Posted by TM Lutas on 11th January 2010 (All posts by )

    The original Gary Death Countdown can be found here.

    Some residents of Gary, Indiana are impatient for the death clock to count down to 2012 and have asked the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board to not wait so long. The Miller Citizen’s Corp President Douglas Grimes said it straight out:

    The board must insist that the city explore Chapter 9 bankruptcy, receivership and other options which could allow the city to reset its compass and move forward

    Chapter 9 bankruptcy is not a liquidation but a reorganization under the federal bankruptcy code. To do it now would be admitting that the DUAB process is a farce that will not lead to a Gary government that can live within its means. An early bankruptcy is a vote of no confidence in the political tadalafiltablets class of the city and the ability of the DUAB to do its job helping that political class change the way the city does business.

    Bankruptcy would help the city get out from under its $34 million (or more) in obligations beyond the structural imbalances imposed by the tax caps. It wouldn’t help with the imbalances themselves. For that, the DUAB process would need to work its way through to a successful conclusion or Gary’s elected officeholders need to be replaced by a state appointed receiver and committee that would be willing to make the changes needed and given the powers necessary to negotiate the pay reductions needed to bring expenditures in line with revenues.

    Posted in Urban Issues | Comments Off on Gary Death Countdown II

    Book Review: Defying Hitler, by Sebastian Haffner

    Posted by David Foster on 11th January 2010 (All posts by )

    Defying Hitler: A Memoir

    How does an advanced and civilized nation turn into a pack of hunting hounds directed against humans? Sebastian Haffner addresses the question in this memoir, which describes his own experiences and observations from early childhood until his departure from Germany in 1939. It is an important document–not only for the light it sheds on this particular and dreadful era in history, but also for its more general analysis of the factors leading to totalitarianism and of life under a totalitarian state. It is also a very personal and human book, with vivid portraits of Haffner’s parents, his friends, and the women he loved. Because of its importance and the fact that it is relatively little-read in the United States (Amazon ranking 108654–I picked up my copy at the Gatwick airport), I’m reviewing it here at considerable length.

    The title (probably not chosen by the author himself) is perhaps unfortunate. Haffner was not a member of an organization dedicated to overthrowing the Nazi state, along the lines of a Hans Oster or a Sophie Scholl. His defiance, rather, was on a personal level–keeping his mind free of Nazi ideology, avoiding participation in Nazi crimes, and helping victims of the regime where possible. Even this level of defiance required considerable courage–more than most people are capable of. As Haffner summarizes life under a totalitarian regime:

    With fearful menace the state demands that the individual give up his friends, abandon his lovers, renounce his beliefs and assume new, prescribed ones. He must use a new form of greeting, eat and drink in ways he does not fancy, employ his leisure in occupations he abhors, make himself available for activities he despises, and deny his past and his individuality. For all this, he must constantly express extreme enthusiasm and gratitude.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Germany, History | 5 Comments »

    Extremely Cool

    Posted by David Foster on 11th January 2010 (All posts by )

    Here’s an interactive map that displays geographical patterns for the 50 most popular movies chosen by Netflix customers. From the New York Times, of all places.

    Posted in Film, Tech | 2 Comments »

    Innovation of Institutional Cultures

    Posted by Zenpundit on 11th January 2010 (All posts by )

    John Hagel is in a small category of thinkers who manage to routinely be thinking ahead of the curve ( he calls his blog, where he features longer but more infrequent posts than is typical, Edge Perspectives). I want to draw attention to the core conclusion of his latest:
    Challenging Mindsets: From Reverse Innovation to Innovation Blowback

    Innovation blowbackFive years ago, John Seely Brown and I wrote an article for the McKinsey Quarterly entitled “Innovation Blowback: Disruptive Management Practices from Asia.” In that article, we described a series of innovations emerging in Asia that were much more fundamental than isolated product or service innovations. We drew attention to a different form of innovation – institutional innovation. In arenas as diverse as motorcycles, apparel, turbine engines and consumer electronics, we detected a much more disruptive form of innovation.In these very diverse industries, we saw entrepreneurs re-thinking institutional arrangements across very large numbers of enterprises, offering all participants an opportunity to learn faster and innovate more effectively by working together. While Western companies were lured into various forms of financial leverage, these entrepreneurs were developing sophisticated approaches to capability leverage in scalable business networks that could generate not just one product innovation, but an accelerating stream of product and service innovations.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, Human Behavior, Management, Markets and Trading, Predictions, Society, USA | 3 Comments »

    Not Exactly Warming Up

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 10th January 2010 (All posts by )

    Check out this photo from BBC news of a “Frozen Britain”. It is damn cold in the states here, too. Al Gore – maybe I am missing something? Or should I go through the emails from those researchers trying to hide all of their data again…

    Posted in Humor | 12 Comments »

    Statistical Tie in Massachusetts?

    Posted by Lexington Green on 10th January 2010 (All posts by )

    Democrat pollsters PPP show Scott Brown one point ahead of Martha Coakley in the race for the now dead Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat.

    As Michael Barone puts it: Wow.

    This is still a long shot, but not, apparently, a forlorn hope.

    (There is also a poll from the Boston Globe showing Coakley 15 points ahead. I believe the Globe, about anything, about as much as I believe the North Korean Communist Party’s official pronouncements. Rasmussen had Coakley ahead by 9 points on January 5, 2009, and there is no way she has picked up six points since then.)

    I liked Brown’s TV ad, showing JFK’s tax cut message. Nicely done.

    The fact that this race is even close shows that the Obama / Reid / Pelosi leadership is failing miserably for the Democrats.

    I was in Massachusetts in 1980 when the state confounded everyone by voting for Reagan. I am hoping it surprises everyone again.

    UPDATE: A friend wrote, expressing concern about vote fraud in this race. While I don’t discount this entirely, this was my response:

    I am not so sure about massive fraud. Massachusetts is a funny
    place. It is very liberal, but it has very civic minded populace, and
    blatant Chicago style crooked elections don’t really happen there. I
    grew up there and got to compare it to Chicago. Chicago does not come
    off favorably. The race will also be closely scrutinized. I am not
    sure how much of an issue that will be. If it was Illinois, you could
    count on it.

    UPDATE II: A friend out in Mass tells me she is seeing people holding signs for Brown, not seeing that for Coakley, and also way more Brown yard signs. This seems to show the energy level is with Brown, which is consistent with other things I am reading. She also pointed out something about Brown that I hadn’t thought of: He is like Obama seemed to be in 2008: “He’s also likable, handsome and different than usual.” Yes. Right. Obama ran against the status quo, and won. Brown is running against the status quo. He’ll probably lose, but he is making a real race out of it.

    Funny. Brown as Obama 2.0 — returned to Earth as a Conservative.

    Also: Good to see people sending money Brown’s way. The last few days will matter a lot, and money talks.

    Posted in Politics, Polls | 8 Comments »

    Buying CDs Through A Brokerage

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 9th January 2010 (All posts by )

    Recently I covered iBonds, which are a government bond that you can purchase online that provides assurance against increases in inflation and other tax benefits. The amount you can purchase is limited, however, to $5000 / year, and you can’t redeem them for 12 months, which makes them unsuitable as a short-term cash vehicle.

    Certificates of Deposit (CDs) Through a Brokerage:

    If you are looking for a practical way to earn interest income with the minimum risk possible than certificates of deposit are a good alternative. When I was growing up you had to physically go to a bank and set up a CD, and then you had to retain paperwork for each instrument. In addition, you wanted to disburse your funds among a number of banks to get around FDIC limits, as well. Finally, the CDs were not easily redeemed, although you could redeem them in some circumstances depending on the issue with a penalty on interest.

    Today – all of above disadvantages and inconveniences with certificates of deposits have been eliminated. You can buy CDs online (I used to go through a voice broker, but last time the guy showed me how to do it myself, online, so now I will just purchase them that way), they are integrated with your brokerage statement so there is no additional paperwork (on issuance, or at year end for taxes) beyond what you already receive, and also there is a “secondary” market when you can re-sell your CD if you need the proceeds sooner. There is no “guarantee” that you will be able to sell your CD at the price you want, but since a CD is a simple commodity with a rate, timing payment frequency, and a duration, I’d expect that you’d be able to sell it for something very close to the market price and receive not only your cash back but essentially be made whole on your interest. However, the overall interest rate market may have changed which would mean that your CD would be worth “more” or “less” if you had to sell it – longer dated CDs that I purchased a couple of years ago are now selling for more than 100 cents on the dollar (say 102) but that would only come into play if I decided to sell them prior to their redemption date, which I don’t plan to do.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Investment Journal | 4 Comments »