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  • Archive for December, 2010

    At the turn of another year…

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 31st December 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    Lyon-Griswold brawl

    Reps. Roger Griswold of Connecticut and Matthew Lyon of Vermont practice politics by means of hickory stick and tongs in Congress Hall, 1798

    It’s always interesting to watch the way one thing morphs into another, and von Clausewitz’ formulation that war is “a mere continuation of politics by other means” is instructively illustrated in the gallery of a dozen photos on the CBS News site titled Best Parliamentary Brawls of 2010.

    Ukraine, Indonesia, Italy, S Korea, Nigeria, Taiwan, Turkey… that’s a pretty fair slice of gepopolitics!

    Happy New Year!

    image above from the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

    Posted in Diversions, History, Humor, Military Affairs, Politics | 2 Comments »

    Happy New Year

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 31st December 2010 (All posts by )

    2010 has been an unusually exciting year. The political world experienced an earthquake. I got play a very small part in it, and I am glad I did. Perhaps this earthquake will do nothing except break some windows. Or maybe it well set the whole course of our history in a new direction. Too early to say. Thanks be to God, we do have elections here in the good old USA, and they are not merely window dressing. It is easy to be cynical, but it is still true that our fate resides in our own hands to a far greater degree than most people in most places and times could have claimed. I will offer the opinion that the creative powers of the American people, and people throughout the world, have barely been tapped, and that our greatest days lie ahead of us. Fingers crossed.

    It was a year of many good posts on this blog, from our brilliant and eclectic mix of contributors. What exactly joins us is not perfectly clear, but I think it is a general agreement on principles of political and economic freedom, and a love for the fruits of that freedom, including good books, for history and its lessons and pleasures, for forceful but civil disagreement and debate, for clear thinking and facts and evidence, for music and food and liquor, and for the excitement and energy which a free and enterprising people enjoy.

    As the years go by I find that I am increasingly pleased and proud to be associated with this blog. I told Jonathan some months ago that it occurred to me that even if I did not post on it, ChicagoBoyz would be one of my favorite blogs. Life is full of good fortune, and this is just one example.

    Onward to a new decade, a new year, and what promises to be an interesting and possibly momentous time in our history. We will have much to write about and argue about in 2011.

    Godspeed and dread nought!

    Forward the Anglosphere!

    God bless America!

    Happy New Year!

    Posted in Holidays | 9 Comments »

    A Baghdad DoubleTake and other matters

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 31st December 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    Zenpundit recently posted a video of a terrific hour-plus-long speech by Doug Hofstadter – one of the best videos I’ve ever taken the time to watch – in which Hofstadter, the guy who brought us Godel Escher Bach and much more, talked about analogy and suggested that it’s at the very core of human cognition.

    I posted a poem and some comments in response — they got a bit mangled in terms of formatting, which may be fixed by the time you read this – and Zen then posed a question:

    Charles – there’s a large portion of visual imagery in the passage you cite: do you think the incorporation of imagery (thus activating a powerful region of the brain) enhances or distorts the underlying conceptual connection in an analogical construction?

    That’s what set me off this time…


    I think of a poem as a braiding of three strands: a strand of sound or music, a strand of image, and a strand of meaning. For convenience, I’ll usually include a fourth – wit – but it’s actually more like a pearl that can be threaded on the strand of meaning.

    From my POV, the poem is thus essentially a screenplay for the mind’s eye – and if a poem begins with strong music, at the very least I’d like it to end with strong music, if it starts with wit or wordplay, I’d like it to end with that too, and if it has imagery, I’d like the images to unspool in a way not unlike the images in a movie…

    When I’m reading poems by others, and particularly if I’m teaching a poetry class, I’ll sometimes notice a sudden disjunction in one of the three strands. If it’s clearly for effect, all’s well and good – but if it’s unconscious, unintended, it will always reveal an aspect of the poem that hasn’t been worked through yet, and applying conscious attention to it will result in the emergence of new material from the unconscious store that enriches the final product. Sometimes, that kind of attention reaches something that was psychologically difficult, a disjunction in soul if you like – and the result of moving through it to the finished poem can be very much like a breakthrough insight in therapy.

    But “poetry is not a hospital” – if Apollinaire didn’t say that, and I used to think he did, I shall.


    From my POV, therefore, there are analogies of sound, analogies of meaning, and analogies of image. There’s an analogy of sound between tomb and womb – we call it rhyme. There’s certainly an analogy of meaning – whence we come at birth, whither we go at death. And if you like, there’s an analogy of image – when I think of the “twinning” of those two words, I see life itself as running across a brief stretch of grass between two caves…

    When as here, the analogy runs across all three braids, you have a very powerful “conceit” or poetic device.

    The graphic match, together with sonic rhyme, between the visuals of a hotel room fan and the rotors of a helicopter at the beginning of Apocalypse Now parallels the sense of explosive heat and frustrated inaction of Captain Willard trapped in Saigon with the sense of freedom and clarity he feels when sent on mission up-river – again, an analogy in three strands.


    But analogy can also cut across the senses in a different way. Here’s Hermann Hesse‘s view of the Glass Bead Game:

    Throughout its history the Game was closely allied with music, and usually proceeded according to musical or mathematical rules. One theme, two themes, or three themes were stated, elaborated, varied, and underwent a development quite similar to that of the theme in a Bach fugue or a concerto movement . A Game, for example, might start from a given astronomical configuration, or from the actual theme of a Bach fugue, or from a sentence out of Leibniz or the Upanishads, and from this theme, depending on the intentions and talents of the player, it could either further explore and elaborate the initial motif or else enrich its expressiveness by allusions to kindred concepts.
    Beginners learned how to establish parallels, by means of the Game’s symbols, between a piece of classical music and the formula for some law of nature. Experts and Masters of the Game freely wove the initial theme into unlimited combination.

    That’s analogy cutting across disciplines, and across sensory modalities too.

    There was a period of about a dozen years when I almost completely stopped writing poetry, and concentrated on devising a variant on Hesse’s game that would be playable on a napkin in a café – conceiving of it as an art that would combine tight form (think: sonnet, sonata) with the entire spectrum or palette of human thought, visual, verbal, numerical, aural.

    Hesse again:

    The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colors on his palette. All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number. Theoretically this instrument is capable of reproducing in the Game the entire intellectual content of the universe.

    And that was written before the world wide web allowed us to mingle visual, verbal, numerical and aural elements so directly in a single presentation.

    You can imagine how delighted I was, therefore, to stumble upon Sven Birkerts‘ writing:

    There are tremendous opportunities, and we are probably on the brink of the birth of whole new genres of art which will work through electronic systems. These genres will likely be multi-media in ways we can’t imagine. Digitalization, the idea that the same string of digits can bring image, music, or text, is a huge revolution in and of itself. When artists begin to grasp the creative possibilities of works that are neither literary, visual, or musical, but exist using all three forms in a synthetic collage fashion, an enormous artistic boom will occur.

    That’s what the HipBone Games were all about…


    That’s what I was reaching for, back in the days before I even called my games the HipBone Games — when they were still TenStones Games played on a board whose geometry I borrowed from the Sephirotic Tree – when I played TS Eliot‘s poem, The dove descending, in juxtaposition to Vaughan Williams‘ piece for violin and orchestra, The lark ascending

    …matching music with poem, descent with ascent, dove with lark, and the natural world of the English countryside with the “wrought” world of Eliot’s London in the pentecostal Blitz.

    I don’t think Stephen or I had web browsers at the time – we played that game using AOL’s early texting function, so the music was entirely in the mind…

    And I still think of that game as one of the loveliest expressions of the “hipbone” art.

    Hesse’s game really is, for me, the continuation of poetry by other means…


    But then it turns out that analogy is an incredibly powerful aspect of human thought – and one that, IMO, we haven’t explored very deeply, perhaps precisely because it jumps silos and disciplinary boundaries, and creates fresh insight

    …which is pretty much as Doug Hofstadter was suggesting in that video Zen posted.

    And so this fundamentally analogical frame of mind — which I had developed in a poetic and aesthetic context and applied to the symbolism so dear to the poets, cultural anthropologists, analytical psychologists, and comparative theologians and the like — turned out to be highly applicable and seen as highly creative when applied to real world issues, when I got a job for a couple of years at a small think-tank just outside DC.

    Because if linear causality is the warp of the weave of the world, acausal patterning is its woof (or weft) – and frankly, our current techno-civilization is hopelessly warped in the direction of warp, and has very little understanding of woof, of weft, of pattern — of what can only be learned from analogy.


    Not that there doesn’t have to be enormous care taken to avoid over-reading parallels. But consider the immediacy of the impact of this DoubleQuote, which I composed in 2003:

    QUOBaghdad 1917 2003

    Eh, Zen?

    Santayana echoes Marx refracts Hegel:

    Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

    Seen from another angle: history has rhymes to match its reasons

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Diversions, History, Iraq, Music, Personal Narrative, Philosophy, Poetry | Comments Off on A Baghdad DoubleTake and other matters

    Anatomy of an Trinitarian OODA Wave

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 31st December 2010 (All posts by )

    The anatomy of a trinitarian OODA wave:

    Trinitarian OODA Wave
    Trinitarian OODA Wave
    1. New information is observed.
      Stage 1
      Stage 1
    2. This new information is funneled into the input end of a bow tie architecture.
      Stage 2
      Stage 2
    3. To orient is to throw away. New information is compressed into a tacit orientation that draws on primordial (even blind) natural forces like culture, genes, and previous experience. The compressive pressure of these forces, expressed in a cycle of analysis and synthesis, tear new information down to its basic symbolic representation and reassemble it as a simplified storyline. Their particular configuration of orientation is the tacit component of purpose.
      Stage 3
      Stage 3

      Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Human Behavior, National Security | Comments Off on Anatomy of an Trinitarian OODA Wave

    Warriors of the Spirit

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 31st December 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    It’s a very different approach…

    I’ve been preparing to write up some of the episodes that represent how warm and close relations between Muslims and Christians can at times be – the meeting of St Francis with the Sultan Malik al-Kamil, the period of considerable tolerance and artistic flourishing under Umayyad rule in Cordoba – and I have to say I’m getting very impatient to see this film:

    film poster for "Of Gods and Men"

    If you would like to understand why the Qur’an (5:82) says:

    The nearest to the faithful are those who say “We are Christians. That is because there are priests and monks among them and because they are free of pride.”

    May I recommend you either read John Kiser’s The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith. Love and Terror in Algeria — or, when it opens in your part of the world, go see Of Gods and Men. Or both.

    Wishing us all peace in the new year, decade, century…

    Posted in Christianity, Film, France, History, Human Behavior, Islam, Middle East, Morality and Philosphy, Religion, Terrorism | Comments Off on Warriors of the Spirit

    What is the best book you read in 2010?

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 30th December 2010 (All posts by )


    We are a bookish bunch around here, and I always like to hear what other people are reading and liking.

    So, as 2010 ticks away to its conclusion, I open the floor to answers to this question. I note that it does not have to be something published this year, just the best book you read this year, no matter how old it is. I would rather have you say a few words about the best one, hard as it may be to pick, than just list a bunch of good ones. Discipline, my dears: Choose. Just. One. Then, say why it was so good.

    (I had an earlier post saying that Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday may be the best book I have ever read, and I posted it on January 2, 2010. So, maybe that counts. But I started reading it Christmas day, 2009, so I am going to count that one as a 2009 book.)

    This year, I have read many good ones. In fact, this year I read some of the best books of my life, focusing on Victorian war memoirs and travel memoirs, and I have mentioned a few here on ChicagoBoyz. But, I will pick just one:

    The Story of a Soldier’s Life (1903), by Field Marshal The Rt. Hon. Sir Garnet Joseph Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley, KP, GCB, OM, GCMG, VD, PC.

    Volume I

    Volume II

    Wolseley was the most distinguished British soldier in the later decades of Victoria’s reign. He is a clear, vigorous, honest writer. He is an acute observer, and he makes strong and blunt judgments. He describes the effect of wounds with clinical accuracy. His career beggars belief. In the book he describes fighting against bandits in Burmah, the long hard fight in the Crimea, a shipwreck on the way to China, turned around to fight in India during the Sepoy Rebellion, on to China during the Second Opium War and the destruction of the Summer Palace, observing the Tai Ping army, over to North America to observe the Confederate Army and meet General Lee, up into Canada, through pristine wilderness, to put down Riel’s rebellion, some time at the War Office, then organizing and leading the campaign against one of the many “races of virile savages” on the edges of British power, the Ashantee. Wolseley never got to a volume three, which would have included helping to finish off the Zulus and conquering the Sudan. There are books it is hard to put down. This one was so exciting that I could barely remain seated while I read it. To read it is to live for a while in a very different world, with a hard-edged moral code, with a man who speaks English very clearly, but who thinks and says things that we would not think or say today.

    For example, I discussed Wolseley’s views on race to a friend this way:

    The idea that “racism” is a unitary phenomenon is seriously wrong. To select a paired set of example. Hitler was a racist. So, in a way, was Garnet Wolseley, a Victorian officer whose memoirs I recently read. But they were “racist” in totally different ways. Hitler was an ideological fanatic, impervious to evidence, hating a “Jew” that mostly existed in his imagination. Wolseley was an extremely practical man who had limited resources with which to conquer and hold vast territories and populations under the potitical control of his government. Hitler made up a fantasy world based on racial myths. Wolseley observed that certain groups had certain characteristics, as a general matter, and he took those facts into account just like terrain, weather, and weaponry and other practical considerations. He did not have the luxury of living in a make-believe world where everyone was exactly the same, or where one group was generically superior. Hitler told himself a self-congratulatory and flattering story about his own group, which led him to make incredibly impractical decisions. Wolseley looked just as hard at his own group, the English, and saw its strengths and weaknesses. He admired and extolled the former, but admitted and tried to work around the latter. He treated these facts about his own people with the same cold practicality that he treated all practical questions. To celebrate “culture” when it suits us or pleases us or flatters us, but to deny its reality and force when it does not, is ultimately dishonest. We need to understand people in the past as they understood themselves, not merely as chess pieces in our current struggles.

    Another example is his belief in the moral value of war, as a strengthener and purifier of the nation. Yet another is his unabashed belief that force can and should be used for national greatness and prestige, without any further moral considerations. These are ideas that virtually no one in America or Britain would expound today, certainly not someone who is one of the most influential figures in the government and in the public eye.

    Wolseley did not live to see World War I, and the catastrophic losses it caused, and the great disillusionment that followed it. He did expect some great national struggle, perhaps against the Germans, perhaps the Americans, and he expected it to be very hard fought.

    To spend several hours in the company of this forthright, unsentimenatal Victorian officer is to understand those times in a way that no amount of third-person history can possibly convey. That is the great value of going back to these memoirs.

    Highest possible recommendation.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Military Affairs | 12 Comments »

    It Is All Market Timing

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 30th December 2010 (All posts by )

    When I first started in investing one of the cardinal rules (for the general public) was “don’t try to time the market”. From a practical perspective this meant that you were supposed to continue putting money in the market whether it went up or down and then hold for the long term.

    Everyone knew that the market does move in cycles, such as the giant bust at the time of the great depression in the 20’s and the 30’s when stocks crashed, wiping out many investors. Another classic example is the Japanese stock market which peaked in 1989 at around 39,000 before falling to a low of 7000 in 2009, over 80% below its high (today it is around 10,000). Even the most cursory review of the chart shows that if you sold at the peak and / or bought at the trough (this hasn’t worked yet in Japan because the market hasn’t moved back up yet) you’d make a tremendous amount of money; but the popular wisdom is that it was “too hard” for an individual investor to determine when to enter and exit the market so don’t try at all.

    To some extent “re-balancing” is a form of market timing, because as stocks rise in value if you practice the model you are supposed to sell off some stocks and buy bonds (or whatever else is in your portfolio, could be commodities or real estate) which accomplishes much of what market timing is supposed to do. Re-balancing is more complex because it involves multiple asset classes which each have their own valuations but you could say that re-balancing is at least a “cousin” of market timing.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Investment Journal | 4 Comments »

    Holiday Warning!

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th December 2010 (All posts by )

    Do not leave that box of Frango Mints on the modem.
    mint melt

    Posted in Announcements, Holidays, Humor, Photos | 5 Comments »

    A DoubleQuote for InfoCult

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 29th December 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Infocult ]

    InfoCult is my friend Bryan Alexander‘s fine blog, with a house specialty of the gothic in everyday life and media. I put this DoubleQuote together for Bryan as a sort of Addams Family greeting for Christmas:

    two Christmas quotes about hell fire and vampires

    Posted in Religion, Rhetoric | 1 Comment »

    Happy 100th Birthday to Ronald Coase

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 29th December 2010 (All posts by )

    Coase 100

    Ronald Coase.

    The Nature of the Firm

    The Problem of Social Cost

    Nobel Prize lecture


    The Ronald Coase Institute

    More links here

    Posted in Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 6 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 28th December 2010 (All posts by )

    [T]he Federal Reserve System has recapitalized major U.S. banks by paying interest on bank reserves and by keeping an unusually high interest rate spread, which allows banks to borrow short from Treasury at near-zero rates and invest in other higher-yielding assets and earn back lots of money rather quickly. In essence, we’re allowing banks to earn their way back by arbitraging interest rate spreads against the U.S. government. This is rarely called a bailout and it doesn’t count as a normal budget item, but it is a bailout nonetheless. This type of implicit bailout brings high social costs by slowing down economic recovery (the interest rate spreads require tight monetary policy) and by redistributing income from the Treasury to the major banks.

    Tyler Cowen, The Inequality that Matters

    (He ends with a very disappointing, hands-thrown-up-in-the-air conclusion. I do not believe we are as bereft of policy options as he suggests. Possibly more on this later from me.)


    NRO: One thing that matters to you and a lot of disciples of Austrian economics is inflation. Some think it’s necessary and good because, with sticky prices, it helps to stimulate growth. Can you explain your problems with steady inflation?
    PAUL: It’s the worst thing any government could deliberately do. It’s counterfeit. It means some people will benefit at the expense of others. People who saved money and are living off their savings get cheated. It’s a moral issue: They might make 1 percent on their certificates of deposit, and they can’t live on that. And the government practically gives the money to the banks and then they turn it over and buy Treasury bills and bonds and make 3 or 4 percent. So they make billions of dollars after having just been rescued from their bankruptcy.

    Ron Paul, interviewed in NRO.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, USA | 18 Comments »

    RIP – Denis Dutton

    Posted by Ginny on 28th December 2010 (All posts by )

    A&L is clothed in black. Denis Dutton did much to make the blogosphere a better and more thoughtful place. Obits here and here. The Art Instinct site blog; a presentation. Authors on Google gives us a sense of his own vision — one implied by A&L’s subtle and evenhanded framing. The Chronicle’s blog appreciation and comments. D. G. Myers gives a more heart-felt and warmly written obit. And at National Review.

    Posted in Academia, Obits | 2 Comments »

    Quotes of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th December 2010 (All posts by )

    Victor Davis Hanson (at around 14:00):

    What Thomas Friedman would need to do is get on a bicycle and go across rural China, and then compare that with biking across Nebraska, and see which society is more resilient and stable.


    Ann Althouse:

    Well, you will pull the plug on grandma, but only after grandma has signed the document the doctor explained to her long before she got into the situation she’s in now, back when it seemed like autonomy and control.

    “Using unwanted procedures in terminal illness is a form of assault,” [said Dr. Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service].

    The question is what do patients want and how what they want will be determined. It seems to me that the effort is to get people to commit in advance to death-hastening choices, by getting everyone to sign these documents. Now, all the new regulation seems to do is to authorize Medicare reimbursements for the time health care professionals spend counseling patients about the value and importance of signing the document. It’s hard to see what’s wrong with that. If treatments are covered but advice about forgoing treatment is not covered, then there’s an incentive to do expensive things.

    In a recent study of 3,700 people near the end of life, Dr. Maria J. Silveira of the University of Michigan found that many had “treatable, life-threatening conditions” but lacked decision-making capacity in their final days. With the new Medicare coverage, doctors can learn a patient’s wishes before a crisis occurs.

    Treatable? You have a condition that can be treated, but you can’t think well enough anymore to decide whether you’d prefer to die? If you’ve signed the document, the answer is you’d rather let the condition kill you, because you allowed the doctors to “learn [your] wishes before” this “crisis” occurred. You didn’t know what the crisis would be or how you would feel when it happened, but you had “wishes” then and these will be taken as your “wishes” now.

    (Many of the comments are also worth reading, particularly the one by Bender at 10:21 AM on 12/26/10 and the one by Ann Althouse at 2:21 PM on 12/26/10.)


    Oleg Atbashian:

    * Why do those who object to tampering with the environment approve of tampering with the economy? Isn’t the economy also a fragile ecosystem where a sudden change can trigger a devastating chain reaction?
    * Isn’t the latest economic crisis such a chain reaction?
    * Aren’t most of today’s social ills the result of tampering with social ecosystems?
    * Why is bioengineering bad, but social engineering good?


    Posted in Big Government, China, Civil Society, Health Care, Leftism, Medicine, Quotations | 6 Comments »

    Something New or Deja Vu?

    Posted by onparkstreet on 27th December 2010 (All posts by )


    Despite tensions, Turkish diplomats are keen to point out when they started their trilateral meetings the then leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan would not even talk to one another. On Thursday night the Afghan and Pakistan presidents dined together.

    “Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan summit in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 24, 2010. ” – VOA (via Small Wars Journal)

    “Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

    I send you this personal message because I want you to know about my decision to extend military aid to Pakistan before it is public knowledge and also because I want you to know directly from me that this step does not in any way affect the friendship we feel for India. Quite the contrary. We will continually strive to strengthen the warm and enduring friendship between our two countries.

    Our two Governments have agreed that our desires for peace are in accord. It has also been understood that if our interpretation of existing circumstances and our belief in how to achieve our goals differ, it is the right and duty of sovereign nations to make their own decisions. Having studied long and carefully the problem of opposing possible aggression in the Middle East, I believe that consultation between Pakistan and Turkey about security problems will serve the interests not only of Pakistan and Turkey but also of the whole free world. Improvement in Pakistan’s defensive capability will also serve these interests and it is for this reason that our aid will be given. This Government’s views on this subject are elaborated in a public statement I will release, a copy of which Ambassador Allen will give you.

    What we are proposing to do, and what Pakistan is agreeing to, is not directed in any way against India. And I am confirming publicly that if our aid to any country, including Pakistan, is misused and directed against another in aggression I will undertake immediately, in accordance with my constitutional authority, appropriate action both within and without the UN to thwart such aggression. I believe that the Pakistan-Turkey collaboration agreement which is being discussed is sound evidence of the defensive purposes which both countries have in mind.

    I know that you and your Government are keenly aware of the need for economic progress as a prime requisite for stability and strength. This Government has extended assistance to India in recognition of this fact, and I am recommending to Congress a continuation of economic and technical aid for this reason. We also believe it in the interest of the free world that India have a strong military defense capability and have admired the effective way your Government has administered your military establishment. If your Government should conclude that circumstances require military aid of a type contemplated by our mutual security legislation, please be assured that your request would receive my most sympathetic consideration.

    I regret that there has been such widespread and unfounded speculation on this subject. Now that the facts are known, I hope that the real import of our decision will be understood.

    With best wishes,



    Letter to Prime Minister Nehru of India Concerning U.S. Military Aid to Pakistan. February 25, 1954

    Long term strategy-wise, the American foreign policy establishment appears to get “stuck” in habits and patterns and grooves and constituencies and conventional wisdoms and all of that. I suppose that’s life in a big old messy democracy, eh? Or is it possible to do better? (By the way, this is not “blame America” time here at ChicagoBoyz. India, Pakistan, America, Turkey – what have you – all have “agency” and are responsible for individual national actions.)

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Arts & Letters, India, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Public Finance, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    My Top Posts of 2010

    Posted by David Foster on 27th December 2010 (All posts by )

    I did several posts over the last year that I un-humbly think were particularly significant, and link them below for any potentially-interested readers who missed them the first time around.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Book Notes, Business, Germany, History, Leftism, Management, Music, Tech, USA | 4 Comments »

    North Korea, Juche and “sacred war”

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 27th December 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    Okay, I am now clear that the correct translation of the Korean phrase that has sometimes been rendered “holy war” in recent news reports is in fact “sacred war”.

    I’d been wondering just what an atheist state was doing threatening “holy” or “sacred” war…


    Juche is the state philosophy of North Korea, and is considered to be the 10th largest religion in the world by the portal, ranking above Judaism, Baha’i, Jainism and Shinto. It developed out of Marxist-Leninism and has more recently incorporated Confucian elements.

    Sunny Lee, writing in a 2007 article in Asia Times titled God forbid, religion in North Korea?, quotes Han Sung-joo, a former South Korean foreign minister, as saying “There is a deification and a religious emotional element [in juche] in the North. The twinned photos of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are everywhere. Every speech says Kim Il-sung is still alive. I think if I stayed another two weeks, I might even see Kim Il-sung. The country worships someone who is deceased, as if he were alive.”

    One Christian site goes so far as to call Juche a “counterfeit Christianity:

    Recognizing the power of Christianity, Kim wanted it to be directed at himself. So he took Christianity, removed God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, set up himself, his wife and son as the new trinity, and called it Juche. At its core, Juche is a counterfeit Christianity that is deathly afraid of true version, and rightfully so.

    I suppose a close comparison here would be with the cult which Robert Jay Lifton described in Revolutionary immortality: Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese cultural revolution.


    In On Juche in Our Revolution, vol II (published in English, 1977), Kim Il Sung writes:

    No military threat of the US imperialists, however, can frighten the Korean people. If, in the end, the US Imperialists and their stooges unleash a new war against the DPRK, in defiance of our people’s patient efforts to prevent a war and maintain peace and the unanimous condemnation of the peace-loving people of the world, the Korean people will rise as one in a sacred war to safeguard their beloved country and the revolutionary gains. They will completely annihilate the aggressors.

    So the “sacred war” phrasing has been around for a while.

    I hope to learn more — these in the meantime are some clues to be going on with…

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Christianity, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Philosophy, Religion, Rhetoric | 8 Comments »

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 25th December 2010 (All posts by )

    tree presents

    Posted in Holidays, Photos | 2 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th December 2010 (All posts by )

    Feliz Navidad


    Posted in Holidays, Photos | Comments Off on

    Christmas wishes

    Posted by Helen on 24th December 2010 (All posts by )

    I am kind of old-fashioned and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. It is Christmas Day here but not on the other side of the Pond yet. I hope all good things people hope for will come true next year. Well, most of them, anyway, since it is never a good idea to have everything you wish for.

    Posted in Holidays | 3 Comments »

    Follow-up: Martyrdom, messianism and Julian Assange

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 24th December 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    This is a follow-up to my earlier post on Zenpundit and ChicagoBoyz, picking up on some comments made on both sites, explaining my own interests, and taking the inquiry a little further.

    On Zenpundit, Larry said, “Your need to destroy Assange is getting embarrassing. Why not make lemonaid?” and JN Kish, “The real story here should be about the data – and who is helping Assange – not Assange himself.” Meanwhile on ChicagoBoyz, a certain Gerald Attrick commented, “Ah, but as we say in in art crit: Deal with the Art and not the Man…”

    To Larry I would say, I think that my post WikiLeaks: Counterpoint at the State Department? — in which I point up the irony inherent in the same State Department spokesman celebrating World Press Freedom Day and chiding Assange for “providing a targeting list to a group like al-Qaida” on the same day — could as easily be read as pro-Assange as today’s post, Martyrdom, messianism and Julian Assange can be read as calling for his destruction.

    More generally, it seems to me that there are a whole lot of stories to be told here: the ones I wish to tell are those where I have a reasonably informed “nose” for relevant detail, and which tend to be overlooked by others — and thus have the potential to blindside us.


    My own main interest is in tracking religious, mythic and apocalyptic themes in contemporary affairs, where they are all too easily overlooked, misunderstood or dismissed. Thus I have posted on Tracking the Mahdi on WikiLeaks, and added related material in section 1 of my post today.

    I am also interested in concept mapping, games and creative thinking — interests which led me to post WikiLeaks: Critical Foreign Dependencies and The WikiLeaks paradox, and more lightheartedly to take an amused sideways glance at WikiLeaks in The power of network visualization.

    And I certainly find Assange himself an interesting figure, and have done what I can to illuminate his background in mythology, religion and games in Wikileaks and the Search for a Cryptographic Mythology, again in Update: Wikileaks and Cryptographic Mythology and (again light-heartedly) in A DoubleQuote for Anders.


    Let me be more explicit: I have no wish to lionize Assange, nor to feed him to the lions — I would like to understand him a little better.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Human Behavior, International Affairs, Internet, Iran, National Security, Religion, Society | 2 Comments »

    Christmas Eve

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 24th December 2010 (All posts by )

    Fr. Frederick W. Faber is a spiritual writer who is little-known these days. His style is old-fashioned, but the substance is usually very sound. I found out about him by buying two of his books a thrift store years ago. His book Bethlahem (1860) is now instantly available to us all via the wonders of Google Books. One of my favorite passages talks about the response of the world to appearance of Jesus. He asks us first to imagine the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem:

    The twilight deepens. Mary and Joseph descend the hill. They find the cave, a stable-cave, a sort of grotto … a poor couple from Nazareth have sought refuge with the ox and ass in the stable. What is about to happen there? It must be differently described, according to the points of view from which we consider it. Angels would say that some of God’s eternal decrees were on the eve of being accomplished in the most divine and beautiful of ways, and that the invisible King was about to come forth and take visible possession of a kingdom, not narrower than a universe, with such pomp as the spiritual and godlike angels most affect. The magistrate in Bethlehem would say, that, at the time of the census, a pauper child had been added to the population by a houseless couple who had come from Nazareth, noting perhaps that the couple were of good family but fallen into poverty. This would be the way in which the world would register the advent of its Maker. It is a consistent world, only an unteachable one. It has learnt nothing by experience. It registers Him in the same manner this very day.

    Fr. Faber then goes around the world and imagines what state it is in on the night of Christ’s birth. I like best his depiction of the Roman Empire, which reminds me of our own times:

    Let us go forth upon the slopes, and watch the night darkening, and think of the great earth that lies both near and far away from this new and obscure sanctuary, which God is about to hallow with such an authentic consecration. Much of earth is occupied with Roman business. Couriers are hastening to and fro upon the highways of the empire. The affairs of the vast colonies are giving employment and concern to many statesmen and governors. The great city of Rome itself is the centre of an intellectual and practical activity, which makes itself felt at the furthest extremities of the empire. Upon some minds, and especially those of a more philosophical cast, the growth of moral corruption, and other grave social questions, are weighing heavily. There are lawyers also intent upon their pleadings. Huge armies, which are republics of themselves, are fast rising to be the lawless masters of the world. But nowhere in the vast world of Roman politics does there seem a trace of the Cave of Bethlehem. No prophetic shadows are cast visibly on the scene. All things wear a look of stability. The system, ponderous as it is, works like a well-constructed machine. No one is suspecting anything. It would not be easy for the world to be making less reference to God than it was making then. No one was on the look-out for a divine interference, unless it were that here and there some truth-stammering oracle perturbed a narrow circle, whose superstition was the thing likest religion of all things in the heathen world. In the palace of the Csesars, who suspected that unborn Caesar in His Cave?

    “No one was on the look-out for a divine interference … .”

    Least of all as a baby, in a poor place, in a poor and conquered country.

    God’s love invaded the world, stealthily at first. Two thousand years later we still celebrate it.

    Merry Christmas to all Chicagoboyz, and to our readers.

    God bless everyone who cannot be home for Christmas, especially our men and women in uniform around the world.

    Posted in Book Notes, Christianity, Holidays, Religion | 3 Comments »

    How It Ends

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd December 2010 (All posts by )


    Alternative power (wind & solar, primarily) survives because of subsidies that make it competitive with the traditional “base load” power sources of nuclear, coal, natural gas and hydroelectric power. These subsidies have to be passed on, in some form or another, to either the end user that pays the power bill or the taxpayer who funds it on behalf of all citizens.

    Spain, in particular, offered incentives that led to a large investment in wind power facilities. Spain was viewed as a “model” country for alternative power by greens as a result of these policies.

    Today’s WSJ had an article titled “Spain’s Cuts to Solar Aid Draw Fire” that summarized the situation:

    In Spain, solar-PV plants (cost) roughly 10 times the price utilities pay for power produced from conventional sources such as gas and coal.

    Since Spain is having financial problems, these subsidies are expected to be significantly reduced, by up to 30%. The developers of these wind farms are crying foul, saying that Spain is reneging on its commitments and offering up a form of the “expropriation” argument that often occurs over power investments of this type.

    20 billion Euros had been invested in the solar-PV plants in Spain… the tariff changes could force many solar producers in default on their debts.

    It is interesting that debt-holders assumed that citizens would want to pay ten times the rate of coal and gas power for “clean” wind power indefinitely. It doesn’t seem like a bet that is going to pay off for them.


    Another infeasible and indefensible scheme is also beginning to show cracks towards its inevitable collapse. This article describes the situation in the city of Prichard, Alabama.

    The financially troubled suburb of Mobile turned to bankruptcy court… when it simply ran out of money to meet pension obligations… Prichard proposed capping benefits to current retirees at $200 a month, down from monthly payments as much as $3,000.

    The obligations of many, many municipalities are unsustainable. Prior politicians promised benefits that can’t be paid without seriously reducing and impairing existing services. The type of “haircut” that Prichard was proposing seems very onerous but they have to pay for existing salaries and benefits and then the costs of the retired staffing on top of it is apparently impossible.

    At some point a new generation of politician will come into office and have to make the choice of either 1) raising taxes to unsustainable levels (and thus being thrown out of office) to pay for past pension promises 2) find a way to get out of the promises by either going bankrupt or somehow “cramming down” smaller payments.

    It is a good bet that many of the politicians will balk at raising taxes and seriously look at bankruptcy or some other way to reduce these costs simply because raising taxes during a recession when citizens are hard up is political suicide. The same forces (conflict avoidance, pandering) that allowed unions to amass such favorable terms while the fiction of pensions and 10% returns on investments compounded forever existed works exactly in reverse when the situation becomes dire; why would the politician try to sacrifice everything (including current workers) for past worker pensions and health benefits?

    In both these cases the fictions that citizens are willing to bear higher than market costs indefinitely for alternative power or to pay for lifetime pensions for people retiring in their 50’s is going to founder, and these consequences will ripple through the entire financial and governmental sector.

    This is how it ends.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Big Government, Energy & Power Generation | 5 Comments »

    Super Size Me!

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd December 2010 (All posts by )

    Here is a question for you – what size do you think a man a bit under six feet tall and around 200 pounds would wear? And the answer is… SMALL. This was at Eddie Bauer and among a vast stack of winter clothes and shirts. It fits me fine.

    I won’t bore you with statistics that are easily obtainable everywhere on the Internet about how Americans are getting larger, but this is the most overt sign that I have seen yet.

    Dan at his new fighting trim size would probably be an extra small from the waist line perspective, at least.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Health Care, Humor | 7 Comments »

    Martyrdom, messianism and Julian Assange

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 23rd December 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    Martyr and messiah are two of the more intense “roles” in the religious vocabulary, and unlike mystics and saints, both martyrs and messiahs tend to have an impact, not just within their own religious circles but in the wider context of the times.

    Martyr and messiah are also words that can be bandied about fairly loosely — so a simple word-search on “messiah” will reveal references to a third-person platform game with some gunplay and the white messiah fable in Avatar, while a search on “martyr” might tell you how to become a martyr for affiliate networks, just as a search on “crusade” will turn up crusades for justice or mental health – my search today even pointed me to a crusade for cloth diapers.

    1. Martyrdom and messianism in WikiLeaks

    Unsurprisingly, perhaps, both terms crop up occasionally in WikiLeaks, with the Government of Iraq, for instance, banning use of the word “martyr” for soldiers who died in the war with Iran, and US diplomats wiring home a report by an opposition psychiatrist to the effect that “Morally, Chavez [of Venezuela] combines a sense of tragedy and romanticism (a desire for an idyllic world) to project a messianic image.” Indeed, the whole paragraph is choc-a-bloc with that kind of imagery, and worth quoting in full:

    Ideologically, Chavez wants to project an image of a “utopian socialist,” which de Vries described as someone who is revolutionary, collectivist, and dogmatic. In reality, de Vries argues, Chavez is an absolute pragmatist when it comes to maintaining power, which makes him a conservative. Coupled with Chavez’ self-love (narcissism), sense of destiny, and obsession with Venezuelan symbolism, this pragmatism makes Chavez look more like fascist, however, rather than a socialist. Morally, Chavez combines a sense of tragedy and romanticism (a desire for an idyllic world) to project a messianic image. De Vries, however, said Chavez is a realist who uses morals and ethics to fit the situation.

    PM Netanyahu of Israel was using the term “messianic” with a little more precision when he described the Iranian regime as “crazy, retrograde, and fanatical, with a Messianic desire to speed up a violent ‘end of days.'”

    2. Julian Assange in the role of martyr

    The words martyr and messiah, then, carry a symbolic freight that is at the very least comparable to that of flags and scriptures – so it is interesting that both terms crop up in the recent BBC interview with Julian Assange.

    My reading of the interview suggests that it is Assange himself who introduces the meme of martyrdom, though not the word itself, when he answers a question about the impact of the sexual accusations against him, “What impact do you think that will have on your organisation and what sort of figure do you think you, Julian Assange, cut in the face of all this. How will you be regarded? What will it do to you?” with the response, “I think it will be quite helpful for our organisation.”

    In the follow up, interviewer John Humphrys twice uses the word “martyr” explicitly:

    Q: Really? You see yourself as a martyr then?
    JA: I think it will focus an incredible attention on the details of this case and then when the details of this case come out and people look to see what the actions are compared to the reality of the facts, other than that, it will expose a tremendous abuse of power. And that will, in fact, be helpful to this organisation. And, in fact, the extra focus that has occurred over the last two weeks has been very helpful to this organisation.


    Q: Just to answer that question then. You think this will be good for you and good for Wikileaks?
    JA: I’ve had to suffer and we’ve had incredible disruptions.
    Q: You do see yourself as a martyr here.
    JA: Well, you know, in a very beneficial position, if you can be martyred without dying. And we’ve had a little bit of that over the past ten days. And if this case goes on, we will have more.

    3. Julian Assange in the role of messiah

    If the role of martyr implies, at minimum, that one suffers for a cause, that of messiah implies that one leads it in a profound transformation of the world. Both terms are now found in association with the word “complex” – which applies whenever a individual views himself or herself as a martyr or messiah – but a “messianic complex” is presumably more worrisome than a “martyr complex” if only for the reason that there are many more martyrs than messiahs, many more willing to suffer for a cause than to lead it.

    It is accordingly worth noting that it is the interviewer, John Humphrys, who introduces both the word “messianic” and the concept of a “messianic figure” into the interview, although Assange makes no effort to wave it away…

    Q: Just a final thought. Do you see yourself… as some sort of messianic figure?
    JA: Everyone would like to be a messianic figure without dying. We bringing some important change about what is perceived to be rights of people who expose abuses by powerful corporations and then to resist censorship attacks after the event. We are also changing the perception of the west.
    Q: I’m talking about you personally.
    JA: I’m always so focussed on my work, I don’t have time to think about how I perceive myself… I had time to perceive myself a bit more in solitary confinement. I was perfectly happy with myself. I wondered what that process would do. Would I think “my goodness, how have I got into this mess, is it all just too hard?”
    The world is a very ungrateful place, why should I continue to suffer simply to try and do some good in the world. If the world is so viciously against it ,why don’t I just go off and do some mathematics or write some books? But no, actually, I felt quite at peace.
    Q: You want to change the world?
    JA: Absolutely. The world has a lot of problems and they need to be reformed. And we only live once. Every person who has some ability to do something about it, if they are a person of good character, has the duty to try and fix the problems in the environment which they’re in.
    That is a value, that, yes, comes partly from my temperament. There is also a value that comes from my father, which is that capable, generous men don’t create victims, they try and save people from becoming victims. That is what they are tasked to do. If they do not do that they are not worthy of respect or they are not capable.

    4. Julian Assange, martyr and messiah?

    I think it is clear that both Assange and his interviewer are in effect reframing the religious terms “martyr” and “messiah” in non-religious, basically psychological senses — although I don’t suppose Assange is exactly claiming to have the two “complexes” I mentioned above.

    Here’s what’s curious about this reframing, from a religious studies point of view:

    Assange’s implicit acceptance of a “messianic” role undercuts the specific force of the role of “martyr” – one who gives his life for the cause. “Everyone” he says, “would like to be a messianic figure without dying.” Assange wouldn’t exactly object to being a martyr without dying, too.

    Posted in Christianity, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Internet, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Media, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Personal Narrative, Philosophy, Privacy, Religion, Rhetoric, Society, The Press, USA | 9 Comments »

    Delicious Irony

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd December 2010 (All posts by )

    Today while reading the WSJ I came across an article on the impact of some changes to the medical insurance laws.

    Members of the Screen Actors Guild recently read in their health plan’s newsletter that, beginning in January, almost 12,000 of its participants will lose access to treatment for mental-health and substance-abuse issues. The guild’s health plan represents one of a small number of unions, employers and insurers that are scrapping such benefits for their enrollees because of a 2008 law that requires that mental-health and substance-abuse benefits, if offered, be as robust as medical or surgical benefits. By dropping such coverage, providers can circumvent the requirements.

    Changing laws to mandate higher SERVICE requirements on employers (and in this case, guilds or unions) obviously causes COSTS to rise, as well. Since not all costs are borne by the government and thus invisible to the average non-governmental employee, businesses have to take steps to cope with these laws and reduce costs somewhere.

    The irony of all this is that probably no group in the popular imagination is as associated with mental illness and treatment for substance abuse as actors; from reading the popular press you would get the picture that many of them spend some time in “rehab” at some point in their career.

    And even more you can just picture in your minds eye some aging, pompous actor or actress chaining themselves to the fence in favor of this type of mandate with some sort of sign over their head saying “Justice for All” and stating that doesn’t everyone deserve the best coverage?

    But the net result of this sort of mandate is no coverage for anyone, since the plan can’t afford to move from a normal plan to a “gold plated” plan, so they are dropping it entirely.

    And no one needs mental health assistance & rebab more than the deluded actor base on the left coast that funds and agitates for just this sort of mandate in the first place.

    Now that’s irony.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Humor, Leftism, Medicine | 4 Comments »