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  • Archive for August, 2010

    Afghanistan 2050: Effects of the US Conflict

    Posted by Mathew Borton on 12th August 2010 (All posts by )

    American forces withdrew at the end of 2015, leaving only a token force for training oversight. A short bloody civil war ensued with a faction of the Islamic extremists affiliated with the original Taliban quickly retaking the government. They consolidated their power over the next five years, bringing isolated tribal groups under control with an extreme interpretation of sharì’a law. Afghans see this turn of events not as a return to a life of repression, or even a triumph for Islam, but as a victory over another in a series of invading states and the triumph of nationalists over subjugation to a foreign nation under the regime of a puppet government. The current government was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2035, however the United States has only limited diplomatic relations to this day.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050 | Comments Off on Afghanistan 2050: Effects of the US Conflict

    Frustration, Apathy, and Futility

    Posted by Fringe on 12th August 2010 (All posts by )

    Are the real reasons that great powers quit Afghanistan.

    This is an especially hard, but important lesson to learn. Like many lessons of military history, it is best learned vicariously.

    The current US situation in Afghanistan sheds a bright light on the Soviet experience, and transforms a different narrative from implausible to obvious.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050 | 2 Comments »

    Dr. Steven Metz on Afghanistan: “…America’s Afghanistan strategy, with its flawed assumptions, is badly out of balance.”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th August 2010 (All posts by )

    [The following is the contribution to our Roundtable discussion by Dr. Steven Metz, of the Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College. Dr. Metz is the author of Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy. ChicagoBoyz thanks Dr. Metz for his participation. ]

    I’m currently reading Andrew Bacevich’s new book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. He contends that at the end of Vietnam, there was a moment when the United States could have veered away from the “Washington rules” which had developed since the 1940s–militarism, the definition of instability anywhere as a threat to American security, a poor understanding of non-Western cultures, and so forth. But it didn’t.

    I truly believe that Afghanistan, coming on the heels of Iraq, will provide another such moment. And I hope we take it.

    Current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is, I believe, built on strawmen and flawed assumptions. Both the Bush and Obama strategies assume that al Qaeda needs state support or sanctuary. That, after all, is the fundamental rationale for continued American involvement in Afghanistan. But throughout the “war on terror,” no one has made a persuasive case that the September 11 attacks would not have happened had al Qaeda not had bases in Afghanistan. While it may take meetings and phone calls to plot terrorism, these can be done from nearly anywhere. Al Qaeda’s Afghanistan sanctuary was a convenience, not a necessity. Destroying the sanctuary has not stopped bin Laden and his henchmen from plotting new attacks.

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    Posted in Afghanistan 2050, Book Notes | Comments Off on Dr. Steven Metz on Afghanistan: “…America’s Afghanistan strategy, with its flawed assumptions, is badly out of balance.”

    Afghanistan 2050: A Travel Guide

    Posted by James C. Bennett on 12th August 2010 (All posts by )

    Southwest China: Lhasa to Kabul (Rough Planet TravelWikiTI, 2050 edition)

    It is possible to fly on the Lhasa-Kabul leg of the journey, although expensive, but to fly would be to miss the wonderment of taking what is perhaps the most exciting train ride left on the planet – the Lhasa-Kabul Express. Not only is the scenery fantastic, and unviewable by any other means, and the engineering of the Karakoram Tunnel and the amazing bridges leading up to its portals a modern Wonder of the World, but the sociological aspect of the ride is unbeatable. Hard class, although not recommended for the novice rough traveler, has all the excitement of the wagon trains and emigrant ships of the Nineteenth Century, packed with a nation on the move, as migrants from the more northern and eastern parts of China come to try their luck in the Southwest. Soft class is more advisable, and from your comfortable sleeping compartment you can sip tea or maotai and watching the pageant of timeless, yet changing China unfold past your wide plate-glass window. We watched in fascination as other emigrant trains passed in the opposite direction, taking migrants also on the move, in this case members of Southwest China’s colorful national minorities headed toward the Voluntary Resettlements in the less crowded lands of the Tibetan Plateau. A nation on the move! Our guide and translator, the ever-helpful Miss Chen, explained that the armed guards on the train were there to protect the voluntary settlers from the occasional bands of bandits that still remain from the Times of Troubles before Southwest China was restored to its rightful historical status as part of the Chinese nation. Similarly, the many long eastbound freight trains of minerals speak to the massive economic development that has transformed Southwest China since the end of the Time of Troubles and reunification.

    Arrival in storied Kabul was exciting, but, on walkabout, the first impression of the city was a bit of a letdown. So much of it has been rebuilt since the Times of Troubles that it now for the most part resembles any other Chinese city, and the crowds on the busy streets generally have the faces you would see in Shanghai, Beijing, or Lhasa. Indeed, if you are looking for the famous veiled faces or turban-clad national minorities, you must go to the Minorities Quarter, where several blocks have been restored in the traditional minority style – even a mosque! (Although the call to prayer was merely an automatic sound file played by a helpful policeman-guide.) Ironically, you will see more Tibetans on the streets than Pashtuns, since many Tibetans have taken advantage of the lower altitudes and cheap housing available in Kabul these days. It is easier to get good Tibetan momo dumplings now in Kabul than the traditional lamb and rice dishes associated with the area, although a convincing version of the latter can be found at the restaurant of the Kabul Sheraton. However, as a consolation, the conventional Chinese food is ubiquitous and good; we especially grew fond of the barbecued pork buns sold by street vendors on almost every corner.

    The Minorities Quarter is also recommended for finding those unique local arts and crafts, which have been carefully preserved by the Ministry of Chinese Minority Cultures. One novel gift is the replica firearms (non-working, of course) made in the traditional manner by local gunsmiths, several dozen of whom still work in the Minorities Quarter. The more expensive versions are purported to have been fabricated from the remains of Soviet and western armored vehicles destroyed in the Times of Troubles, although such claims may be taken with a grain of salt — or two! Authentic minority dancing shows are put on several times daily, see the Ministry site for times.

    Travel outside of Kabul is limited and inadvisable, both because modern infrastructure is still under construction, and because police permits for such travel are still difficult to obtain, due to some remaining bandit activity. We did make a visit by air to Khandahar, which has been rebuilt along similar lines to Kabul, but frankly less interesting, with no Minorities Quarter or handicraft shops. The guide was proud to show us the new pork packing plant in central Khandahar, on the site of the former mosque, but frankly, if you’ve seen one light industrial facility, you’ve seen them all. The air trip to see the restored Bamyan Buddhas (see below) is also said to be worthwhile; no special permit is needed if you fly.

    One word of caution to travelers – it is easy to offend local sensibilities by discussing politics and repeating ill-informed stories spread by Sinophobic elements in those few irresponsible nations that still unfortunately permit such gossip. All responsible academic experts now agree that Southwest China has always been part of China, and its national minorities have always been part of the greater Chinese family. The Bamyan Buddhas, destroyed by Sinophobic separatists and now carefully restored, demonstrate the influence of Chinese Buddhist missionaries and the ties that have always existed between the various parts of China. Separatist activity has virtually ceased, outside of a few exile organizations, and, just as with the Tibetan region, over time the natural mixing of population and the acceptance of reunification by the world community has laid separatist fantasies to rest. Be particularly aware that the use of the former purported name for the Far Southwestern Region (“A*********n”) is considered Sinophobic.

    For return travel, we would suggest air travel back to central China for those who can afford it, and a ride back on the train for those on a more limited budget. Air links to the east and west are few and permits for travel on them are generally restricted to government officials on priority business. It is possible to travel by bus east to Quetta or west to Herat, and thence onward to other Indian or Iranian destinations. However, visas and travel permits are difficult to obtain and the trips themselves, over not-yet-improved roads, are tedious. If you do wish to pursue this option, the Imperial Iranian consulate is on Sun Yixian Avenue, and the Union of India consulate is on May Fourth Boulevard. Be aware that dosimeters must be worn on bus travel through (or more accurately, around) Quetta and other Reconstruction Zones, by order of the Indian Military Administrator.

    The authors would like to acknowledge the generous grant of the Southwest China Development Railway Authority that underwrote the research for this article.

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050 | 7 Comments »

    Afghanistan 2050: The Game-Changer

    Posted by Cheryl Rofer on 12th August 2010 (All posts by )

    The Afghanistan War, 2001 – 2011
    The Pakistan floods of August 2010 were the turning point. Very quietly, South Africa’s Ambassador Abdul S. Minty detached himself from an International Atomic Energy Agency delegation visiting Israel to deliver a letter from Nelson Mandela to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Appendix XIX; reproduced at the end of this post). The letter urged Netanyahu to lead an effort to bring aid to Pakistan. The stated purpose was to improve Israel’s image in the world and its relations with Turkey in particular, but Mandela’s intention also was to distract Netanyahu and Israel more generally from its fixation on Iran’s nuclear program.

    Pakistan, as a central player in the Afghan war, was focused largely on its perceived enemy, India, in the same way that Israel was focused on Iran. India focused on China and Pakistan, and Iran on Israel. At the time of the floods, India and Iran were developing an allliance relative to Afghanistan which would have made Pakistan feel boxed in.

    It might have been expected that Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and Pakistan would have led the way to a settlement. But these two-party grudge matches, state weakness, and rivalries of the various parties with the United States made it difficult to forge the multilateral relations that would prove necessary for peace. The Mandela letter changed that.

    Netanyahu began talks immediately with Turkey and Russia to provide aid to Pakistan. Within a week, the first shipments and military helicopters began to arrive. Meanwhile, the United States was diverting some of its military equipment from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Netanyahu then took a risk and sent Tzipi Livni as a special envoy to China and India. China was already providing aid to Pakistan, but Livni’s purpose was to prepare China’s leaders for India’s entry into the aid program. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States volunteered their help. India brought Iran into the relief effort.

    Pakistan’s government, preoccupied with the floods, severed relations with the Taliban. After the emergency had been dealt with and the situation in Pakistan stabilized, the helpers realized that their former enemies could be worked with. The United States and Russia immediately called a conference of the neighbors, plus Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, which resulted in the Treaty of Isfahan in late 2011, ending the hostilities in Afghanistan and assigning Iran, Pakistan, and India major roles in stabilizing the country. Continuing talks resulted in a settlement between Pakistan and India on Jammu and Kashmir.


    The Treaty of Ashkabat, which makes southwestern Asia into a nuclear-weapons-free zone, is expected to come into force in 2054. Israel is already converting its complex at Dimona to an IAEA fuel production center. Iran has sent its fissionable materials to the IAEA’s Angarsk nuclear fuel production complex. Both internationally-run complexes will convert the materials to fuel for reactors in the region. Negotiations are beginning on a Southwest Asia free-trade zone; Dubai is leading the first round.

    from Southwest Asia’s Remarkable Century, 1940-2050; Svetlana M. Alekseeva, Lev D. Cohen, Courtney R. Manning, and Bashir R. Asad, Chapter 26.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050 | 3 Comments »

    Changing Prices

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 11th August 2010 (All posts by )

    I was doing some work in my basement when I came across the following, tucked away out of sight behind a girder.


    It is an old grocery flyer from a nearby store. How old is it?


    Okay, so it lists the prices from 1979. But how do those prices stack up against the cost of similar items that can be found on the shelves today?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Economics & Finance, History, Personal Finance | 38 Comments »

    Dancing on the Ruins

    Posted by David Foster on 10th August 2010 (All posts by )

    The phrase “dam busters” originally applied to RAF flyers who attacked German hydroelectric dams during WWII. Now, the term is being applied to individuals who advocate the destruction of American dams, for what they claim are environmental reasons.

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    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Tech, USA | 10 Comments »

    The Like, He’s Not A Boy (2010)

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

    I am liking The Like. (This song, anyway.) Way cool how these girls are acting out something like the Mod era fantasia of my youthful dreams.
    Also, it is indeed most odd that this video is set in a law library! I must sadly report that few if any actual law libraries feature cute girls in vintage mod clothing go-go dancing, which is really a shame.
    (Still, as cute as it is, this is a pastiche. The songs from the actual era 1965-66 are infinitely better than this. This is an era of cultural decline.)

    Posted in Music, Video | 13 Comments »

    Afghanistan 2050: The Future’s Just Not That Into You

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 10th August 2010 (All posts by )

    EEvn beefoor thu 80 Yeerz ‘ Woor ended, selfkonfidenz fyuuld bii FIL luld 3 Reepublik intuu unuthr rownd uv intrvenshnz, thoo theez reemaand dwoorft bii thu intrvenshnz uv thu preeceedng rownd. Startng with Grenaadu (BR43), this finl rownd inkluuded intrventshnz in thu fyuuchr KPS (SAU (BR46-BR37), Gron Kooloombeeu (BR37), Ispanyoolu (BR32)) az wel az owtsiid it (EEtheeoopeeu (BR35-BR34, BR25-BR15), Srveeu (BR31-BR14), Midl EEzt (BR43-BR44, BR36-BR15), sentrl Wrld IIland (BR25-BR14)). Az 2 Reepublikz‘ fiinl intrvenshnz ended aftr 2 Korekshn, 3 Reepublikz‘ fiinl intrvenshnz ended aftr 3 Korekshn. Thu xpeereeunz uv theez intrvenshnz, howevr, led tuu frthr deevelopmentz in popuulaashn kontrool and roobotikz.

    –  Birth and Deth uv 3 Republiks, R21


    [Legacy encoding: Even before the Eighty Years’ War ended, self-confidence fueled by FIL lulled the Third Republic into another round of interventions, though these remained dwarfed by the interventions of the preceding round. Starting with Grenada (BR43), this final round included interventions in the future CPZ  (CAU (BR46-BR37, Gran Colombia (BR37), Hispaniola (BR32)) as well as outside it (Ethiopia (BR35-BR34 and BR25-BR15), Servia (BR31-BR14), the Middle East (BR43-BR44, BR36-BR15), central World Island (BR25-BR14)). As the Second Republic’s final interventions ended after the Second Correction, the Third Republic’s final interventions ended after the Third Correction. The experience of these interventions, however, led to further developments in population control and robotics.


    Birth and Death of Three Republics, R21]

    On the outbreak of the War with Spain, Commodore Dewey and the American Consul at Singapore had helped a Philippine leader, Emilio Aguinaldo, return to Luzon to lead a revolt against the Spanish authority. Aguinaldo succeeded so well that he and his forces were besieging Manila when American troops occupied the city.


    The Filipinos wanted independence, not merely a transfer of sovereignty to a new foreign master. When it became obvious that the United States intended to impose its own authority, Aguinaldo and his forces raised anew the standards of revolt on February 4, 1899. So stubbornly did the Filipinos fight that McKinley eventually had to send some 70,000 troops to the islands, and before “pacification” was completed, American commanders had resorted to the same primitive tactics that the Spanish had unsuccessfully employed in Cuba. Aguinaldo’s capture on March 23, 1901 signaled the end of resistance and the beginning of a long era of peaceful development of the islands.


    American Epoch: A History of the United States Since the 1890’s
    Volume I 1897-1920
    Arthur S. Link with the collaboration of William B. Catton

    This third excerpt is from a college textbook my dad used in college in the mid-1960’s. It was written about 50 years after the Philippine Insurrection by the leading authority of the time on noted war criminal Thomas Woodrow Wilson in collaboration with the son of another famous historian who himself was a college professor. The war they were writing about was the largest foreign insurgency the U.S. Army faced between Wounded Knee and Vietnam. It lasted, with varying degrees of intensity, from June 2, 1899 to June 15, 1913, at fourteen years one of the longest wars ever fought by the United States. 4,165 Americans lost their lives, mostly from disease, and another 3,000 were wounded. About 2000 native Filipino auxiliaries were also killed. About 34,000 to 1 million Filipino citizens were killed along with 12,000 to 20,000 insurgents.

    Estimates vary.

    And yet it merited only a few paragraphs fifty years later. Today, it’s forgotten in the United States.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050 | 6 Comments »

    Afghanistan in 2050: The Long Type of Time

    Posted by Daniel Abbott on 10th August 2010 (All posts by )

    The American victory in Afghanistan would be short lived, owing to the efforts of the progressives. The stable, secure, and democratic Afghanistan inaugurated by President Obama was soon undermined by activists to his left. The Karzai government was unable to acquire the weapon systems that it needed to defend itself, and was soon swept away in all but name. To this day, the Afghanistan War is a lesson of the hollowness of military victory when the enemy has already infiltrated the nation’s capital.
    The Story of the United States, 1776-2026, Beck Academic Books.
    American imperialism ran aground in Afghanistan, like it ran aground in Vietnam two generations before. Attempts by the globo-capitalists in the Obama Administration to subjugate the Afghan people quickly backfired, as popular movements swept across the countryside. Of course, given Afghanistan’s unique history, many of these movements garbed themselves in the robe of the religion that is native to the region. The enormous might of the military-industrial complex was once again unable to overcome the will of the people– both American and Afghani — for peace.
    The American People: Triumphs and Tragedies, the Yearly Kos Press.
    The Shanghai Economic Friendship Association was first formed as the Shanghai Five in 1996, as a way for China build friendships with our neighbors. The group was renamed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization after Uzbekistan joined, though Uzbekistan would not be the last new member! Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan also soon wished to join, and the Shanghai Economic Friendship Association was born. The SEFA is now an “economic, monetary, and political union,” in which all members work together to harmonize their economics while avoiding conflict or misunderstandings. Peace-keepers from SEFA have proven critical for the prevention of conflict in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and other countries.
    Asia: A Political Geography, Peking University Press.
    “…we stayed a long, long time
    to see you
    to meet you
    to see you
    at last.”
    – Sufjan Stevens, In the Devil’s Territory

    There are several types of time. There is a short time, where events will begin after some action. In a short time, a man might buy a lottery ticket, and discovery that he is now rich. There is a medium time, where events will begin after a series of actions. A might cut up our credit cards, as a solution to his lottery addiction that will last a medium-amount of time, until he changes his mind and applies for new cards. There is a long time, in which a man’s medium time patterns keep repeating until something fundamentally changes. And there is a long, long time, after which it feels like the world has ended.

    It is human nature to want all good things to being in a short time, and for bad things not till happen until a long, long time. In general, a more intelligent man will think more about what is good for a long time than a medium time, and a less intelligent man will think about what is good for a short time than a medium time.

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    Posted in Afghanistan 2050 | Comments Off on Afghanistan in 2050: The Long Type of Time

    It isn’t easy being right all the time

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 10th August 2010 (All posts by )

    Dear Conservative/Libertarian Center-rightists,

    I’ve been enjoying posting about swapping all income taxes for either one big, or a series of small, consumption taxes.

    One of the most powerful arguments in my favor is the exceedingly strong likelihood that if we fail to bargain now (next 2-4 years), we will lose the entire battle and end up with ALL the taxes, and no reform of our obscene welfare system.

    I’m proven right again, of course, by Republicans.

    Voinovich calls for gas-tax hike.

    Bargain now, while we are strengthening, or lose it all later.  For God’s sake conservatives, stop playing “not to lose” in a battle already lost.  Your only choice is to play to win.

    Posted in Taxes | 4 Comments »

    Save the Frogs! Burn Coal!

    Posted by Shannon Love on 10th August 2010 (All posts by )

    OMG! All the little froggies are dying world wide! It’s all caused by evil, greedy humans destroying habitat, the ozone layer and causing climate change! Oh, wait, they’re dying because of fungus plague spread by migrating waterfowl? Never mind, stop shooting the 3rd world charcoal makers. Turns out they’re not to blame…this time… we’ll get them on something else next month.

    Still we need to do something for the little froggies! After all, how do we know that some obscure amphibian species in an isolated valley somewhere isn’t the linchpin species for the entire planetary ecosystem? Frankly, the biosphere is so incredibly fragile that it’s amazing it’s survived 3.5 billion years at all. Obviously, we need to completely reengineer the planetary economy based on the pronouncements of the heartthrob of the poli-sci department or everything, everywhere will die!

    Hmmm, what kind of environmental conditions do amphibians like? Oh, yeah, they like it warmer and wetter. How could we make things warmer and wetter everywhere? Wait, don’t most of the absolutely-proven-without-a-doubt-just-because-climatologists-are-so-confident-they-don’t-actually-have-to-test-computer-models-against-real-world-observations computer models predict that increasing CO2 concentrations will lead to significantly warmer and wetter conditions virtually everywhere?

    That’s it! To save the froggies all we have to do is increase our CO2 output. With hard work and massive government regulation and subsidies we could turn the whole planet into a froggy-friendly swamp within a few decades.

    Write your elected representative and demand we spend hundreds of billions every year burning every carbon containing compound on the planet. If you don’t, it means you’re an ignorant racist who hates absolutely every living thing everywhere!

    Posted in Environment | 4 Comments »

    Rare Earths

    Posted by David Foster on 10th August 2010 (All posts by )

    The rare earths are a collection of 17 elements in the periodic table: lanthanum, cerium, and erbium, to name a few. These materials play an important and increasing role in electrical and electronic devices, including batteries and magnets (which are used in electric motors and geherators.) Considerable concern has been raised lately about the concentration of rare-earths production in Chinese hands: see for example today’s Business Insider post, which deals with the Chinese government’s push for consolidation of that country’s rare-earths industry into a smaller number of companies. See also this post regarding dependency of key U.S. military systems on rare earths.

    I’m interested in discussing rare earths from two standpoints: overall U.S. economic and security policy, and investment opportunities/risks.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, China, Economics & Finance, Tech, USA | 2 Comments »

    Busting the Hiroshima Narrative

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 10th August 2010 (All posts by )

    Richard Fernandez, AKA blogger Wretchard the Cat, has a post on Pajamas Media titled The Foundations of Our World on the modern politically correct myths surrounding Hiroshima — America was the original “nuclear sinner” and war criminal while Japan was “innocent victim” — that have become “The Narrative” that the Ruling classes promulgate through the Western education establishment and main stream media.

    Just because this is “The Narrative” does not make it the objective truth. There is still a lot of historical information still being unearthed about that era. Information highly destructive of the politically correct narrative in the form of the unearthed history of the Japanese chemical warfare program.

    The bottom line up front is that Hiroshima was a center of chemical weapons production for the Japanese and the weapons produced there were used in against Chinese, British and American troops in World War Two.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, History, Japan, Military Affairs, Okinawa 65, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    Fly Like An Eagle…

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th August 2010 (All posts by )


    (Via Neptunus Lex.)

    Posted in Diversions, Video | Comments Off on Fly Like An Eagle…

    Lollapalooza 2010 – Soundgarden

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

    Lollapalooza day three was HOT. In Chicago it doesn’t get hot like Florida but with humidity and direct sunlight it was enough to wipe out most of the crowd. The guy in the upper left had a lot of gas left in his tank, though. On the upper right, a view looking north with the Lolla icon. Lower left, a view of Wolfmother, which played to an emptied-out south half, and Cypress Hill, who had the whole crowd engulfed in a cloud of smoke of the non-traditional variety.

    But for me the whole show was about SOUNDGARDEN. I never saw them while they were in their prime during the grunge days but they re-united for Lollapalooza and frankly the pre-concert vibes from critics weren’t that great. But Soundgarden silenced the critics – Chris Cornell’s voice was absolutely awesome – and they bludgeoned the crowd with a hammering set of their classics.

    Upper left – I got up front and to the right of the stage (conveniently near liquor, to boot) and this is from later in the night before it got pitch black. Upper right – the view looking north with spotlights in the background. Lower left – a view of the show early on. Middle right – as the night ended, the inevitable ambulance rides off. Lower right – the crowd cheering early on for Soundgarden.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Music, Photos | 5 Comments »

    The Exit Strategy Fantasy

    Posted by Fringe on 9th August 2010 (All posts by )

    In October of 2001, it was abundantly clear to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their NATO counterparts that the internationally-unrecognized Taliban rulers of Afghanistan would continue to collude with and protect their Al-Qaeda guests/enforcers, rather than comply with strongly worded requests to arrest and hand over Al-Qaeda’s leadership.  Invasion was widely acknowledged as the only option that would allow for the US and its allies to kill or capture Al-Qaeda’s leadership, destroy their training bases and cadre, and gather intelligence sufficient to allow them to shut down Al-Qaeda’s worldwide web of terrorists.  Everyone involved in planning and conducting these operations understood that the Taliban regime would be destroyed, and likely replaced with a coalition government centered on the Northern Alliance.  The plan was simple: go in, kill & capture, follow-on intelligence and stabilization operations as required, and exit. At the time, only a few foresaw that this approach was doomed from the outset, and would waste huge quantities of gold, blood, and national will over the next decade.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050 | 3 Comments »

    America in Afghanistan: Looking Back From 2050

    Posted by Lexington Green on 9th August 2010 (All posts by )

    … the iconic image is the woman weeping, the left side of her face blistered from the fireball, in front of the toppled Jinnah monument. The stereoimage was taken on Dog Day 2 (May 23, 2018), and is now seen as the symbol of The Wrong Turn. … However, even most historians forget that the Dog Days led initially to an outpouring of fear, record-breaking mass demonstrations, and public demands for action. There was a moment of hope, and a brief halt before the collapse. The IR2F2 (International Relief and Recovery Force-and-Fund), emergency relief measures established in the panicked atmosphere of the Mombasa Summit, seemed to be working by the Winter of 2018-19. Commenters and politicians at the time genuinely believed that the disaster was now over. But the “Irty-Firty” period was a bitterly brief Indian Summer for the Pre-WT world. Rat Day (June 1, 2020) put an end to those illusory hopes, and ushered in the TT Era (variously Time of Troubles or Terrible Twenties).
    … It is impossible to ever know the total number of lives lost, but world population certainly fell by over two billion by 2029. … The stereoimage of the first Chinese Pope, John Paul IV, embracing Zeng Hongzhang, Chairman of the New Righteousness United Evangelical Churches of China, both barefoot and clad in a plain brown robes, at the convening of the Pilgrimage Out of Darkness in New Beijing (November 2029), is the popular symbol of the beginning of the New Sanity Era. …
    … With the universal re-accession of all American States, Territories, Free Zones, Free Cities and New Hansa Zones to the Restored Old Constitution, all are now signatories to the Anglosphere Network Commonwealth Heritage Association Pact of 2041. ANCHA brought an end to the unpopular legal prohibition of all positive depiction of the American military. The roaring public demand for TI (total immersion) products based on US military history continues unabated … .
    … Despite being a footnote in terms of substantive historical impact, any American history covering the Dog Days will necessarily cover the heroic ordeal of the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Most students will have made a fictionalized version of this journey themselves via the popular Total-Immersion Epic Himalayan Anabasis. Despite having “personally” made this fighting retreat, most students other than Expert Level History certificate applicants will have no idea what the 22,000 American and Allied troops were trying to accomplish there in the first place … .

    … It is now estimated that World GDP reached pre-WT levels in the first quarter of 2037, which few would have believed possible as late as 2029 … .

    from the TI Learning/Study BookStereoVid-Set, A History of the United States of America: Rise, Greatness, Dissolution and Rebirth (Teachers Guide) (2051)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050 | 6 Comments »

    How Politicians and Regulators Caused the Sub-Prime Financial Crisis of 2007 and the Subsequent Crash of the Global Financial System in 2008, and Likely Will Again

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 9th August 2010 (All posts by )

    This is a summary of a working paper available at the links for which comments are welcome. (A later post on related topics appears here.)

    Download the paper (1 MB pdf).

    That the US financial system crashed and almost collapsed in 2008, causing a globally systemic financial crisis and precipitating a global recession is accepted fact. That US sub-prime lending funded the excess housing demand leading to a bubble in housing prices is also generally accepted. That extremely imprudent risks funded with unprecedented levels of financial leverage caused the failures that precipitated the global systemic crash is a central theme in most explanations. All of the various economic theories of why this happened, from the technicalities of security design (Gorton, 2009) to the failure of capitalism (Stiglitz, 2010) can be reduced to two competing hypotheses: a failure of market discipline or a failure of regulation and politics.

    While still sifting through the wreckage and rebuilding the economy in mid July, 2010, the Congress passed the 2,315 page Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 to prevent a reoccurrence of this disaster. The disagreement in the debates regarding the appropriate policy prescription reflected the lack of a consensus on which of these two competing hypotheses to accept. The risk was that, following the precedent established in the Great Depression, politicians will blame markets and use the crisis to implement pre-collapse financial reform agendas and settle other old political scores. By having done just that, this Act  worsens future systemic risk.

    That there was little or no market discipline is obvious. Contrary to the deregulation myths, regulation and politics had long since replaced market discipline in US home mortgage markets. Regulators didn’t just fail systemically to mitigate excessive risk and leverage, they induced it. This didn’t reflect a lack of regulatory authority or zeal, as politicians openly encouraged it.

    The politically populist credit allocation goals that promoted risky mortgage lending, whether or not morally justifiable, are fundamentally in conflict with prudential regulation. The system of “pay-to-play” politically powerful government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) was a systemic disaster waiting to happen. The recent advent of the private securitization system built upon a foundation of risk-based capital rules and delegation of risk evaluation to private credit rating agencies and run by politically powerful too-big-to-fail (TBTF) government insured commercial banks and implicitly backed TBTF investment banks was a new disaster ripe to happen. Easy money and liquidity policies by the central bank in the wake of a global savings glut fueled a competition for borrowers between these two systems that populist credit policies steered to increasingly less-qualified home buyers. This combination created a perfect storm that produced a tsunami wave of sub-prime lending, transforming the housing boom of the first half decade to a highly speculative bubble. The bubble burst in mid-2007 and the wave crashed on US shores in the fall of 2008, reverberating throughout global financial markets and leaving economic wreckage in its wake. 

    By the time the financial system finally collapsed bailouts and fiscal stimulus were likely necessary even as they risked permanently convincing markets that future policy will provide a safety net for even more risk and more leverage. Given this diagnosis, how to impose market and regulatory discipline before moral hazard behavior develops is the most important and problematic challenge of systemic financial reform.

    The public policy prescription is simple and straightforward. Prudential regulation remains necessary so long as government sponsored deposit insurance is maintained, which seems inevitable. Prospectively the traditional regulatory challenge of promoting market competition and discipline while safeguarding safety and soundness remains paramount. But the prudential regulation of commercial banks needs to be de-politicized and re-invigorated, with greater reliance on market discipline where public regulation is most likely to fail due to inherent incentive conflicts. This means sound credit underwriting and more capital, including closing the off balance sheet loopholes typically employed by big banks and eliminating the incentives for regulatory arbitrage. Universal banking should remain, but divested of hedge fund and proprietary trading activity. In addition, firms that are “too big to fail” (TBTF) are probably too big to be effectively controlled by regulators and should either be broken up or otherwise prevented from engaging in risky financial activities by reducing or eliminating their political activities.

    Most importantly, the two main sources of TBTF systemic risk and subsequent direct government bailout cost, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, no longer serve any essential market purpose. The excess investor demand for fixed income securities backed by fixed rate mortgages that fueled their early growth is long gone and now easily met by Ginnie Mae and Federal Home Loan Bank securities alone, as fixed nominal life and pension contracts have largely been replaced by performance and indexed plans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be unambiguously and expeditiously liquidated subsequent to implementing an adequate transition plan for mortgage markets.

    Download the paper (1 MB pdf).


    Kevin Villani is former SVP/acting CFO and Chief Economist at Freddie Mac and Deputy Assistant Secretary and Chief Economist at HUD, as well as a former economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. He was the first Wells Fargo Chaired Professor of Finance and Real Estate at USC. He has spent the past 25 years in the private sector, mostly at financial service firms involved in securitization. He is currently a consultant residing in La Jolla, Ca. He may be reached at kvillani at san dot rr dot com.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Markets and Trading, Politics, Public Finance, Real Estate, Urban Issues | 17 Comments »

    Instapundit’s “Save The Country” Challenge

    Posted by TM Lutas on 9th August 2010 (All posts by )

    Instapundit’s got a great challenge for his readers:

    Staggering deficits. Exploding national debt. Grossly underfunded public pensions. Aging populace. Social Security on track for insolvency. Investors running for precious metals. Higher education bubble. Stagnant economy. Massive new government healthcare program. Words like “unsustainable” in CBO reports.

    I have racked my brain and debated with anyone who was willing. I can’t come up with a way out of this that doesn’t involve printing vast amounts of cash, double-digit inflation and interest rates, and the end of the dollar as a global currency because we “soft default” trillions of the national debt. What productive capacity we have left would be gutted by the tax increases needed to honestly pay what we are going to owe. And the people we owe (China, seniors, public pensioners, etc) aren’t going to just write off the debt like a bank short-selling a beach house.

    So my challenge to your readers is this: “How do we get out of this WITHOUT printing money?”

    Too much national debt can be cured by more national income (GDP). If we had an economy that was four times our present size, the current level of spending would be sustainable. While it’s unrealistic to fix it all through economic growth, we certainly can make it better so that the necessary spending cuts don’t bite so hard or have to come so fast.

    We need to identify and reduce our outflow and maximize economic growth. If we do this better than any other 1st world nation, we remain the world’s premier flight to quality country and we will have the money needed to get our fiscal house in order. Our interest rates will stay low because all the rich members of the rest of the 1st world will want to continue to park a good chunk of their money with us.

    The top priority is to understand that we’re in this mess because collectively we’re misinformed. The wrong amount of money’s being created, spent, and it’s being spent on the wrong things. The next big priority to realize is that nobody knows the answers and that nobody, individually, will ever know the answers. We have a great system for relatively efficiently getting the answers. They emerge from the interplay of the free market. This system is currently working sub-par because we’ve used the law in complex ways that nobody understands to “tweak” things and the system’s gotten away from anybody’s control.

    The people of the USA need to (yes, starting with me) take inventory of all the institutions that they’re supposed to be overseeing and start taking the job seriously.
    1. Undo the tweaks (and yes, this one line could be expanded out to book length)
    2. Create a fair deal for everybody instead of special deals for the politically connected
    3. Promote entrepreneurship by getting out of the way
    4. Pursue public sector productivity. It will never match private sector productivity but we certainly can do better.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Politics | 46 Comments »

    Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Saving Hirohito’s Phony Baloney Job

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 9th August 2010 (All posts by )

    On August 6th, the Enola Gay took off for Hiroshima.

    On August 9th, Bockscar took off for Nagasaki.

    Bockscar Crew Photo

    They both delivered the psychological blows to the Japanese leadership necessary to allowed them to surrender.

    It took;

    1) Two Atom bomb strikes, and

    2) The destruction of the Imperial Japanese Manchurian Army by the Soviets (See August Storm: Soviet Tactical and Operational Combat in Manchuria, 1945 and August Storm: Soviet 1945 Strategic Offensive in Manchuria, by David Glantz.),

    to shock the IJA generals into inaction for long enough so Emperor Hirohito could surrender to the Allies over the armed objections of IJA junior officers.

    Lacking either of those factors, and America would have had to conduct a genocial campaign of extermination against the Japanese people.

    Point in fact, the USAAF has already destroyed more urban space and killed more Japanese in the Tokyo firebombings than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. The USAAF was also starving the Japanese people via it’s aerial B-29 mining campaign and was set to go after Japan’s railroads, which would have destroyed remaining Japanese urban food distribution.

    Yet the IJA was still raring to fight on.

    The Japanese military had in all but name turned into a death cult that was set to consume millions.

    The Japanese Emperor Hirohito knew from his viewing of the aftermath of the B-29 firbombing raid of Tokyo that if he allowed the irrational Samurai death cult military leaders running his government to fight to the end, the Japanese people would turn against the institution of the emperor.

    Too paraphrase Mel Brooks in the movie “Blazing Saddles,” our air power made the continuation of the war “a threat to his phony baloney job.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Japan, Military Affairs, National Security, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    VAT Tax Redux, New Proposal, and Barone’s piece in SF Examiner

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 8th August 2010 (All posts by )

    This lonnnnng post was prompted by an email linking Michael Barone’s latest SF Examiner piece, which asks Republicans “Now what?” after assuming some strong gains in November.  I have a few ideas on the “now what?” question, and I can’t think of a better place to post them than on this excellent blog.

    First, I can’t thank you all enough for the excellent commentary and critiques on my recent “Swapping a VAT for failing income tax is Good Policy” post a week or so ago.  I’ve commented on many of your ideas, and I think you’ve changed my mind on a thing or two, which you will notice below.

    I wanted to follow up that post with another proposal that fixes the primary problem with going to consumption taxes, which is their impact on the working poor and middle class. One benefit of a consumption-based tax regime is that it captures money from every transaction, making every one a part of the solution to our fiscal mess.  It is also far more stable than a highly skewed progressive system that only taxes the rich. (Social Security notwithstanding)

    The most difficult political and policy problem preventing the adoption of a consumption based tax system is that it places a “burden” on the working poor and middle class. (burden being interpreted both in policy and political terms)

    Simply put, in a consumption tax system, the lower end of the earning spectrum pays a much greater share of their income in taxes than the rich.  Many will argue that this is “unfair.”  Leaving that argument aside, it is fair to say that this problem MUST be resolved before any politician is going to risk moving the entire system away from income taxes.

    I propose such a solution in this post, beginning with my answer to Barone’s “Now What?”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Health Care | 17 Comments »

    Afghanistan 2050

    Posted by Lexington Green on 8th August 2010 (All posts by )


    Our Roundtable discussion, looking back on the American involvement in Afghanistan from the perspective of 2050, begins this week.

    We have a distinguished group of contributors, who will be posting during this week and next week.

    Stand by.

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050 | Comments Off on Afghanistan 2050

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 8th August 2010 (All posts by )

    The war of Independence was virtually a second English civil war. The ruin of the American cause would have been also the ruin of the constitutional cause in England; and a patriotic Englishman may revere the memory of Patrick Henry and George Washington not less justly than the patriotic American. Burke’s attitude in this great contest is that part of his history about the majestic and noble wisdom of which there can be least dispute.

    John Morley‘s life of Edmund Burke (1879)

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Conservatism, History, North America, Politics, Quotations, USA | 3 Comments »

    Lollapalooza 2010

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 8th August 2010 (All posts by )

    Lollapalooza 2010 is being held in Grant Park in Chicago. The music festival goes for three days on a Friday – Sunday and I bought a 3 day wrist band which lets me come and go during the weekend.

    On the first day the crowd seemed large, as you can see in these photos. The upper left is the mid-day crowd on Friday watching the Black Keys, on the north end. The lower right shows the crowd facing south just past Buckingham Fountain, which is the center. Lady Gaga played a strange show, dropping more f-bombs than Snoop did last year, but she was certainly trying hard and wearing virtually nothing for half the show and brought fireworks for the finale. On the lower right is Perry’s, where the crowd dances into the night.

    There weren’t a lot of bands that I was into the second day. I wasn’t going to attend at all but the weather was nice so I decided to go over and watch the crowd and have a few beers. In the upper right you can see Kuma’s Corner, where they had HUGE hamburgers that you have to see to believe. If you go to the restaurant in Chicago you have to stand in line for hours to get them – it is a heavy metal shop as you can see they have the Iron Maiden and Judas Priest burgers. On the upper right there was a see-saw that generated enough power to make sno-cones. On the lower left you can see some of the very strangely dressed people as they went to Lolla to make a statement. And on the lower right some very pro-dope fans from Canada during Metric.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Music, Photos | 3 Comments »