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  • Archive for January, 2013

    Case Study in Conservative Cruelty: George Will

    Posted by TM Lutas on 20th January 2013 (All posts by )

    I don’t think George Will meant to be cruel when he wrote his recent article “The Time Bomb in Obamacare?” but he was and it is a recurring conservative mistake. Will focused on the law and the constitution. He found a bomb and he imagines he is a good bomb squad officer by analyzing the bomb and figuring out how it is going to blow up. What he missed, and it is crucial, is the vital step of clearing away the civilians. That is a cruel oversight and hurts the conservative cause. You have to make sure that people understand that there is a bomb and which direction to run so they do not get blown up.

    The immediate threat for ordinary people is not Obamacare’s constitutional status, but what it will do to ordinary american’s access to care. Institutions that are caught in the payment squeeze will triage because otherwise they go broke and close, which would maximize suffering. Triage means that the lack of funds will cause them to try to maximize who they can save and cut off who they can’t afford to save. If you are going to be triaged, you need to know and you need to make alternate arrangements to pay cash, figure out how to live without needed care, or get your affairs in order. The later people figure this out, the more pain, suffering, and death Obamacare is going to cause.

    Nothing George Will said about the law is wrong. By focusing on the Constitution and the law to the exclusion of the upcoming suffering of the people he ended up reinforcing a pernicious stereotype, one conservatives would do well to lose. Ultimately, the conservative focus on the law and the Constitution has the effect of reducing suffering and increasing the happiness of the people. This approach would be greatly increased in effectiveness if conservatives would directly say so instead of assuming people already knew. A great many people do not know and the conservative brand is suffering for it.

    Posted in Conservatism, Health Care, Obama, Predictions, Rhetoric | 33 Comments »

    The Republicans in opposition

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 19th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Bill Kristol (corrected thanks to Joe) has an excellent column today on where Republicans could go in the next four years. I have little confidence that the House GOP can bend Obama to their will on the deficit or spending. He is riding high with the aid of the mainstream press and TV. The public does not understand the spending issue, or at least not enough of us do. The Republicans represent the “Eat your vegetables or there will be no dessert” philosophy and that is not popular right now. What do we do ? Here is one suggestion.

    He quotes UN Ambassador Pat Moynihan in 1975.

    The United States goes into opposition. This is our circumstance. We are a minority. We are outvoted. This is neither an unprecedented nor an intolerable situation. The question is what do we make of it. So far we have made little—nothing—of what is in fact an opportunity. We go about dazed that the world has changed. We toy with the idea of stopping it and getting off. We rebound with the thought that if only we are more reasonable perhaps “they” will be. .  .  . But “they” do not grow reasonable. Instead, we grow unreasonable. A sterile enterprise which awaits total redefinition.

    I feel much the same way. I would have much preferred the GOP to have voted “present” when the “fiscal cliff” matter was before the House. I would like to see them do the same when the debt ceiling issue is voted on. Let Obama have his way but show that we do not agree.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Conservatism, Economics & Finance, Middle East, Morality and Philosphy, Politics, United Nations | 64 Comments »

    The Dream(liner) and the Nightmare (of Social Toxicity)

    Posted by David Foster on 19th January 2013 (All posts by )

    The FAA has issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive against the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The AD requires that the battery system be reviewed and modified as necessary to eliminate the danger of fires such as those that have recently occurred on these aircraft. The changes needed could presumably involve manufacturing processes, sourcing of components, electrical-system design, or some combination of these things.

    The FAA’s action here seems to me like simple and reasonable prudence. It is not uncommon for new aircraft types to encounter problems during their early operational days, and the 787 is an innovative plane in many ways, especially in the use of electrical means to replace functions traditionally done by hydraulic systems and by engine bleed air.  (A nice overview of 787 systems here.) There may well turn out to be simple fixes that can be quickly implemented to resolve the issue; on the other hand it’s possible that the fix will involve signficant redesign and will cost Boeing and the airlines considerable money. Purely as speculation, I’d guess that the worst-case result for the study required by the AD would be the mandated replacement of the plane’s lithium-ion batteries with conventional aircraft batteries, at some sacrifice in the plane’s useful load and some redesign both of the relevant control systems and of some interior spaces.

    But the purpose of this post is not to talk about 787 technical issues, as much fun as that might be.

    After clicking on the Yahoo report about the AD issuance yesterday, I took a look at some of the comments, and a depressing experience it was. Here are some samples:

    Makes you wonder if Boeing did not have the FAA inspectors in their back pocket while certifying this airplane “air worthy”? Maybe a few bucks went along stuffing their respective back pockets as well. Good example of certifying government agencies working too close with the manufacturer.

    For the FAA to say it’s safe and then ground the planes, all credibility and trust in competence is out the window.

    Were they just going to wait until the costs of wrongful death lawsuits surpassed the cost of fixing the problem?

    They do lots of testing but just like windows they release it to the public and then we will fix all bugs in the system

    Parts made in China

    #$%$ batteries made in China and a world-class American airplane manufacturer fell for their cr@p product. Do you think that perhaps Chinese agents were behind deliberately sabotaging our country’s product?

    Dream gone bad. Overseas outscourced components on the cheap, assembled by redneck scabs in South Carolina.

    Just one more example of the FINE work being produced by wonderful, hardworking and dedicated union workers.

    Just more retaliation from Obama for the move to non- union South Carolina.

    no one care anymore all the factory workers just go to work to try to make $$$$$ and this it is hard too the pride in making or to build something does not exist anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Too bad the GOP helped rich buddies ship all the manufacturing jobs to china? Expertise comes with manufacturing. Burger jobs make poor planes?

    Read through several pages of comments like these, and the overwhelming overall impression is one of social toxicity…of people glaring furiously at one another, quick to assume that anything to goes wrong in any aspect of life is due to either malice or incompetence or both. It is a picture of generalized resentment and distrust, coupled with entitled ignorance.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Big Government, Business, Civil Society, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 41 Comments »

    The Brothers

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Franciscan monks at the Western Wall.

    Posted in Photos | 6 Comments »

    History Friday – Renaissance Man

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Among those brawling, restless borderers drawn to Texas like a trout going upstream during the tumultuous decade of the 1830s was a tall, ambitious and somewhat eccentrically skilled young man from Tennessee named John Salmon Ford. Like fellow adventurers, James Bowie, William Barrett Travis, and Sam Houston, his personal life was already fairly checkered, including one divorce. Unlike the first two, Ford would live through the tumultuous affair that was the Republic of Texas. Like Sam Houston, he would survive all the vicissitudes that an active life on the Texas frontier could throw at him, and die in bed at the ripe old age (for the 19th century) of 82. I assume he was mildly surprised by this happy chance. He had survived the usual accidents and epidemics of an age which predated antibiotics and germ theory in general, any but the crudest of surgeries, and routine vaccination for nothing but smallpox. He had also survived service in two wars and innumerable campaigns along the borders and against various hostile Indian tribes, several rounds of frontier exploration, election to public office, and as a newspaper editor in the days when public discourse was conducted metaphorically with a set of brass knuckles.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Diversions, History, North America | 2 Comments »

    Efficiency and Bad Mental Models

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 18th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Back when I was growing up we kept the boxes on all electronics. Up in our attic there was a box for each PC, each TV, our stereo, and anything else of similar worth. You kept the box because these items were valuable and you might want to return them, and if you moved (in and out of college, or between apartments), the boxes might minimize damage to these important goods in transit.

    Recently I bought a new printer, an Epson all-in-one Workforce 545. I bought this printer specifically because it had “iPrint” which allows for immediate printing with no drivers or other installation on all Apple devices, including iPads, iPhones, and my Mac. For your iPad or iPhone if you upgraded to IOS 6 you can see it immediately when you click on the icon. It works great. I have it directly connected to one of our Windows PC’s and it works great as a traditional printer, as well.

    But what do we do with the box nowadays? I keep it around for a couple of days to make sure everything runs reasonably well, and then I throw it out. Why? Because that printer, which has capabilities that would have seemed like science fiction a few years ago in a home device (remotely print across all devices without drivers) cost me about $130. That printer is essentially disposable. This printer, which includes a scanner and actually relatively advanced networking functions, has plummeted in price from what it WOULD have cost to do the same functions (if it were even possible) a decade ago.

    To see the opposite of efficiency, go out for dinner and drinks on a Friday or Saturday night in River North. Entrees, an appetizer salad, a couple of drinks each, and a dessert will definitely cost you north of $100 and likely closer to $200. Every time I go out on the weekend I essentially purchase one of those printers and throw it away anyways.

    This difference between manufactured goods and services (or “crafty” items, like designer lighting or tile) has grown immense. I understand why it is expensive to buy a meal in River North – real estate is punishingly expensive, food is expensive, labor is expensive, you have to pay a raft of fees and taxes of all sorts (likely under and over the table) to run your business, union labor has to be used to build everything (unless you want a giant rat installed in front of your business, which I see a lot in River North). There is little or no efficiency inherent in any of the above items (except for food production), and few incentives to change the business model when you can just pass on these rising costs to people like me who go out on the weekend as long as they are willing to pay for it.

    I still fall for the “mental trap” and sweat over paying a few dollars more for an electronic device buying from one location or another and whether or not to pay more for an upgrade or advanced features. Meanwhile I go out on the weekend and end up paying $200 for a meal for two and that is business as usual (in River North, at least). This is because I haven’t yet shed my upbringing to “keep the box”.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 16 Comments »

    The 2nd Prohibitionists vs Reality – When Gun Control Politics Meets The Free Market

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 18th January 2013 (All posts by )

    We are swiftly coming up on another “mugged by reality moment” regards firearms similar to the one that was created with the Clinton era gun magazine ban.

    Few remember today that the “next big thing” in civilian pistol market in the early 1990’s was how many bullets a pistol magazine could handle. Post Clinton magazine ban, the civilian shooter market wanted the _smallest_ semi-automatic pistol that could hold 10-rounds. And the gun manufacturers responded to the market demand with a host of pistol makes and models that effectively replaced the “.38 Special” as the little hide out gun of choice. Now police across America are under greater threat, from much wider base of stolen, small, concealable, semi-autos in criminal hands, than they ever were prior to the Clinton magazine ban.

    We are again in much the same situation with the Obama gun control executive orders.

    See this July 28, 2012 Forbes piece titled “The End of Gun Control?” on the arrival of metal material vat 3-D printers that are capable of making functional AR-15 receivers. Now consider the implications of the much more widely installed base of plastic material vat 3-D printers for making _gun magazines_. In a few months we are going to see lots of designs for plastic gun magazines, of many sorts, with maybe a spring and a cheap stamped metal lip to fit available firearms. People will soon be selling spring and lip kits for 3-D printed plastic magazines at gun shows and “off the books” person to person gun trading networks. Hell, manufacturers will be redesigning guns to more effectively use 3-D printed magazines before the year is out.

    In the end we will have a much larger base of high capacity magazines in this country, because the price of them is about to drop an order of magnitude, all thanks to Obama’s E.O. Regulations creating a market opportunity for a disruptive technology.

    All of this is easily foreseeable and the people about to cause this turn of events just don’t care. This is not about the safety of ordinary people. The answer to the violent mentally unstable is to identify them by their pattern of behavior and involuntarily drug them to non-violence.

    The fact that gun control is on the table as “The Solution” is because the people in favor of it, these “2nd Prohibitionists”, would rather have the power to oppress ordinary people than the authority to medicate the violent mentally unstable. They get more ego boo from oppressing ordinary people — just like the original Alcohol Prohibitionists — with the added bonus of leaving the violent mentally ill on the streets to give them the chance to go there again and again.

    Posted in Americas, Civil Liberties, Entrepreneurship, Human Behavior, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Uncategorized, USA | 10 Comments »

    “I’m Sorry, But I Simply Can’t”

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th January 2013 (All posts by )

    A great post about dealing with manipulative people with agendas:

    Think of it as a form of rhetorical self-defense. By not offering an explanation, you’re keeping them from getting a grip on you. If you offer explanations and equivocations out of a desire not to seem rude, you’re just opening yourself up for them to take advantage of you. It’s one of the tools that manipulative people use against you.

    Worth reading.

    Posted in Rhetoric | 14 Comments »

    Archive – Imagination and Will

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 16th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Sometime around the middle of the time my daughter and I lived in Athens, the Greek television network broadcast the whole series of Jewel in the Crown, and like public broadcasting in many places— strictly rationing their available funds— they did as they usually did with many worthy imported programs. Which is to say, not dubbed into Greek— which was expensive and time-consuming— but with Greek subtitles merely supered over the scenes. My English neighbor, Kyria Penny and I very much wanted to watch this miniseries, which had been played up in the English and American entertainment media, and so she gave me a standing invitation to come over to hers and Georgios’s apartment every Tuesday evening, so we could all watch it, and extract the maximum enjoyment thereby. We could perhaps also make headway with our explanation to Kyrie Georgios on why Sergeant Perron was a gentleman, although an enlisted man, but Colonel Merrick emphatically was not.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, History, Human Behavior, Lit Crit, Personal Narrative | 5 Comments »

    Political Journeys

    Posted by David Foster on 16th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Two stories of personal opinion change, from:

    Robert Avrech



    Posted in Conservatism, Human Behavior, Leftism, Politics, USA | 3 Comments »

    How About Gun Control for Terrorist-Sympathizing Anti-Semitic National Leaders?

    Posted by David Foster on 15th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Well, it took a few days, but the news about Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi’s anti-Semitic rant (from late 2010..he referred to Israeli Jews as “bloodsuckers” and “descendents of apes and pigs”) has finally been picked up by traditional media outlets. (A video of the speech, with English subtitles, can be found here.)

    We already knew about Morsi’s demands that the U.S. release Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is currently serving a life sentence for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Morsi is considered to be “one of the world’s leading theologians of terrorism.”

    We already knew about Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood connections, about his centralization of power, about his affinity for Sharia law. We already knew about the increasing oppression of Christians in Egypt.

    So why is the U.S. proceeding with plans to give Egypt 20 F-16 fighters and 200 Abrams tanks?

    Hey President Obama–you want to talk about guns?

    The F-16 carries an M61A1 Vulcan gun, which fires 20mm projectiles at the rate of 6000 rounds per minute, in addition to various ground-attack and air-to-air missiles.

    The Abrams tank carries a 120mm smoothbore gun with a muzzle velocity of more than a mile per second…even with an earlier generation of ammunition it could penetrate 22 inches of armor at more than a mile, and this performance has since been improved. The Abrams also carries three machine guns and a sophisticated ballistic computer system.

    So, Mr Obama…do you think Mohamed Morsi can pass the background check to qualify for the ownership of such weapons?


    Posted in Middle East, National Security, Obama, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    Banana Pudding Recipe

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 14th January 2013 (All posts by )


    2 large boxes of Vanilla Jell-O Cook & Serve Pudding & Pie Filling
    1 quart of half-and-half
    six eggs
    1/2 cup (or so) of milk
    1 bunch of ripe bananas
    1 box of vanilla wafers

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Recipes | 3 Comments »

    RERUN–Metaphors, Interfaces, and Thought Processes

    Posted by David Foster on 14th January 2013 (All posts by )

    (I originally posted this in late 2007…I was reminded of it by the recent story about the Obama administration’s propaganda video game featuring space aliens, global warming, and gender issues)

    My post today is inspired by In the Beginning was the Command Line, by Neal Stephenson, a strange little book that will probably be found in the “computers” section of your local bookstore. While the book does deal with human interfaces to computer systems, its deeper subject is the impact of media and metaphors on thought processes and on work.

    Stephenson contrasts the explicit word-based interface with the graphical or sensorial interface. The first (which I’ll call the textual interface) can be found in a basic UNIX system or in an old-style PC DOS system or timesharing terminal. The second (the sensorial interface) can be found in Windows and Mac systems and in their respective application programs.

    As a very different example of a sensorial interface, Stephenson uses something he saw at Disney World–a hypothetical stone-by-stone reconstruction of a ruin in the jungles of India. It is supposed to have been built by a local rajah in the sixteenth century, but since fallen into disrepair.

    The place looks more like what I have just described than any actual building you might find in India. All the stones in the broken walls are weathered as if monsoon rains had been trickling down them for centuries, the paint on the gorgeous murals is flaked and faded just so, and Bengal tigers loll among stumps of broken columns. Where modern repairs have been made to the ancient structure, they’ve been done, not as Disney’s engineers would do them, but as thrifty Indian janitors would–with hunks of bamboo and rust-spotted hunks of rebar.

    In one place, you walk along a stone wall and view some panels of art that tell a story.

    …a broad jagged crack runs across a panel or two, but the story is still readable: first, primordial chaos leads to a flourishing of many animal species. Next, we see the Tree of Life surrounded by diverse animals…an obvious allusion (or, in showbiz lingo, a tie-in) to the gigantic Tree of Life that dominates the center of Disney’s Animal Kingdom…But it’s rendered in historically correct style and could probably fool anyone who didn’t have a PhD in Indian art history.

    The next panel shows a mustacioed H. sapiens chopping down the Tree of Life with a scimitar, and the animals fleeing every which way. The one after that shows the misguided human getting walloped by a tidal wave, part of a latter-day Deluge presumably brought on by his stupidity.

    The final panel, then, portrays the Sapling of Life beginning to grow back, but now man has ditched the edged weapon and joined the other animals in standing around to adore and praise it.

    Clearly, this exhibit communicates a specific worldview, and it strongly implies that this worldview is consistent with traditional Indian religion and culture. Most viewers will assume the connection without doing further research as to its correctness or lack thereof.

    I’d observe that as a general matter, the sensorial interface is less open to challenge than the textual interface. It doesn’t argue–doesn’t present you with a chain of facts and logic that let you sit back and say, “Hey, wait a minute–I’m not so sure about that.” It just sucks you into its own point of view.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Advertising, Media, Politics, Tech | 9 Comments »

    “Sustaining” your Way to Serfdom as a Grand Strategy

    Posted by Zenpundit on 14th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Originally posted at

    Friend of the blog, commenter L.C. Rees, likes to point out that one of the most important part of a grand strategy, particularly one that is maintained despite evidence of being a geopolitical failure, are the domestic political effects that work to the advantage of the faction supporting it.  In my view, grand strategy usually has a political or cultural evolutionary component and, human nature being unchanging, Rees’s cynical observation has merit.

    Last year, a couple of JCS aides/field grade officers wrote a grossly overpraised paper that was pushed by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Thomas Friedman and assorted worthies, that purported to be about a new grand strategy with which America could navigate the world. Mostly it centered on a preference for an America being run by a vaguely EU-like, technocratic, regime under the rubric of “sustainment”, in which the authors wisely folded in a number of  shibboleths popular with the corporate-liberal upper class who write large donation checks to think tanks or make their living in public policy and academia.

    The talk of this nature died down when the election cycle began, but the themes were recently revived by the New America Foundation’s Grand Strategy Project whose director had an op-ed in Foreign Policy to reintroduce this agenda to the chattering classes now that the pesky voters are out of the way until 2014:

    A New U.S. Grand Strategy 

    ….Walkable communities: The first pool of demand is homegrown. American tastes have changed from the splendid isolation of the suburbs to what advocates are calling the “five-minute lifestyle” — work, school, transit, doctors, dining, playgrounds, entertainment all within a five-minute walk of the front door. From 2014 to 2029, baby boomers and their children, the millennial generation, will converge in the housing marketplace — seeking smaller homes in walkable, service-rich, transit-oriented communities. Already, 56 percent of Americans seek this lifestyle in their next housing purchase. That’s roughly three times the demand for such housing after World War II.
    If only Bismarck had included some “walkable communities” for Prussia, Europe might have avoided the tragedy of World War I.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, National Security, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, USA | 18 Comments »

    New Member of NRA

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Life-size metalwork pistolero with spark-plug bandolier

    Posted in Humor, Photos | 2 Comments »

    Parody Has Now Become Impossible

    Posted by David Foster on 13th January 2013 (All posts by )

    A government-funded videogame featuring a black alien female superhero delivered to Earth to fight global warming is about to be released. The game was inspired by the artist’s “sense what we do on Earth impacts the universe − not just pollution destroying the ozone layer, for example, but our thoughts and how we organize gender roles and social systems also have impact.”

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Environment, Media, Obama, USA | 14 Comments »

    The Coming Dangerous Decade

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th January 2013 (All posts by )

    We now have a re-elected president Obama who no longer has to face another election. He has “more flexibility”” as he assured Russian president Medvedev. His cabinet appointments so far give us a good view of what the next four years, at least, will bring. David Ingatius gives us the leftist view of the future in a Washington Post story.

    Thinking about Eisenhower’s presidency helps clarify the challenges and dilemmas of Barack Obama’s second term. Like Ike, Obama wants to pull the nation back from the overextension of global wars of the previous decade. Like Ike, he wants to trim defense spending and reduce the national debt.

    I would hardly call Obama an example of Eisenhower-like determination in national defense. Ignatius seems to believe that Israel is an ally best abandoned.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anti-Americanism, Elections, History, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Terrorism | 17 Comments »

    Weekend Recipe – A Chicken in Every Pot

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Layers of butterflied chicken with onions over sourdough bread

    This is a lovely recipe for a whole chicken, butterflied and baked on a layer of seasoned, sauteed onions and slices of stout artisanal bread – which we will have for supper tonight, with leftovers reserved for another evening. I found it in an old issue of “Cuisine at Home”, where it had been taken from Ari Weinzweig’s “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating”. Enjoy… but take note that the bread has to be very sturdy. My local supermarket bakery does a very nice ciabetta loaf that works well.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Recipes | 5 Comments »

    Our Broken Frame of Reference on Government Spending

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 11th January 2013 (All posts by )

    When I first traveled to Door County in Wisconsin I visited the various lighthouses and was given a tour by local historians. One of the points that stuck with me most of all was that these lighthouses essentially were one of the few elements of the Federal government that were locally present in the region.

    Today our government is ubiquitous at the Federal, State and local level, especially here in Chicago where Cook County is one of the largest counties in the country, with massive hospitals and criminal court facilities.

    I wrote about government influence and how it is all around us in posts aptly titled “We’re Barely Capitalists” here and here based on some (semi-humorous) local insights. It would be difficult to find substantial portions of the economy anywhere in a place like Chicago that wasn’t heavily influenced by government spending and allocations.

    This article in Business Insider reviews recent job growth and notes that 40% of it was subsidized by government.

    Consider our economy right now: about 17% of it is health care; about 6% in terms of GDP is education; and with some overlap, 15-20% is what we call government consumption–government activity, not just transfers. At all levels of government, including state and local. Add those all up, take out the overlap, and it’s a pretty big chunk of the economy, like 20-30%. Those are all sectors where there are massive subsidies, massive distortions of incentives, a lot of bad policy; and it’s hard to measure value.

    State and Local governments are poised to grow in 2013, according to this Bloomberg article.

    After slashing their workforces by about half a million in the past five years, state and local authorities will add employees in 2013… Their payrolls in the fourth quarter will be 220,000 larger than in the same period for 2012.

    Bloomberg then goes on to explain how this state and local government job growth is funded; by Federal US deficits at the trillion dollar+ level that then are passed down to the State and Local levels.

    States get about one-third of their revenues from Washington. The agreement Congress hammered out to avoid more than $600 billion in automatic spending reductions and tax increases –the so-called fiscal cliff — spared states from cutbacks, at least for now. (states received) approximately $519 billion…in aid last year.

    Don’t forget that, in addition to the US Federal debt and borrowings, the state and local governments are also deeply indebted. Not only are we borrowing to fund current needs, we are also accumulating pension and medical obligations that are truly enormous and growing, especially here in Illinois where recent pension reforms failed to get off the ground.

    Our frame of reference on all this government spending and debt, however, is skewed by our comparison group. We continually compare US spending levels to the “Industrialized Powers” which include Western Europe and Japan. Comparing the US to these countries, many of which are economic “basket cases”, is not relevant for a forward looking appraisal of countries where our actual economic competition is coming from – we need to look at China, India, and other rising powers that represent the future.

    One of the oldest shibboleths is the fact that the US doesn’t have a “single payer” health system, like the (broken) comparison group listed above. However, if you get sick in China, Brazil, India or other rising countries, there is a (small) safety net but you essentially have to pay substantially extra or have connections in order to get what we’d consider to be modern and effective medical care.

    Another point of comparison is greenhouse gases and various environmental practices, such as use of “green” power. Our broken “peer group” countries like Spain invested heavily in massively subsidized wind generation, as I document here, which recently collapsed the moment that these subsidies evaporated (which correlated with the country essentially going broke and being re-floated by the EU central bank. China and India continue to invest enormous amounts in coal power, since it is so effective and plentiful and is needed to power their growing economies.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Europe | 5 Comments »

    Great Moments in Wife-Selection

    Posted by David Foster on 10th January 2013 (All posts by )

    There’s an amusing incident in a recent biography of Erich Maria Remarque. Remarque immigrated to the United States in 1939, and in the 1950s he came to a friend with a dilemma: two women were pursuing him.

    “So I said, ‘Oh, really, Erich, that sounds terrible, who are they?’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘one of them is Paulette Goddard and the other is Marlene Dietrich.’ So I said, ‘Well, Erich, my God, you’re in real trouble here.’ But he was deadly serious. ‘Which one do you think I should go for, Douglas? ‘That is a terrible dilemma, Erich, I mean, my God, this is something we have to think about very carefully.’ ‘You know,’ he said, ‘Marlene is very attractive, but Paulette is really good at the stock market. I think I should go for Paulette.’ So I said to him, ‘Well, Erich, the stock market is very important, no doubt about that.’

    As a Remarque fan, I certainly hope he was kidding about this decision process. (Which would tend to belie the title of the linked autobiography: Erich Maria Remarque: The Last Romantic.)

    In any event, he did marry Paulette Goddard, and (unlike his previous marriages and relationships), the marriage lasted. (Given Remarque’s comment about the stock market, I was wondering if there was any data on her long-term annualized rate of return–the comment here about “her talent at accumulating wealth” suggests that it was probably pretty good.)

    And more recently, we have Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos who, when he wrote down a list of attributes he wanted for his future wife, included  “a woman who could get me out of a third-world prison.”

    “It was really just a visualization for resourcefulness,” he clarifies,  “because people who are not resourceful drive me bananas.”

    Jeff married MacKenzie Bezos, a writer, in 1993. I can’t speak to her jail-springing skills, but I’ve read her novel The Testing of Luther Albright…I wasn’t all that impressed with it on first reading, but went back and read it again and thought it was quite good.


    Posted in Biography, Book Notes, Human Behavior, Humor, Media | 11 Comments »

    A Lynching in Wyoming

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th January 2013 (All posts by )

    I’ve said it over and over again, that what really happened in history is very often even more bizarre and dramatic than any fictional account of events, either written or cinematic. A book or a movie has to make sense, after all – and have some kind of logic and believability about it, whereas in reality chance and coincidence do not have to make logical sense in the real world. To put it in short; reality frequently trumps imagination. Going back to contemporary accounts, records and memoirs often turn up all kinds of interesting nuggets, which very often contradict conventional wisdom.

    This is what late amateur historian George W. Hufsmith did with a very readable account of a lynching in the Sweetwater River Valley of Wyoming over a hundred and twenty years ago. Hufsmith originally came to the project as a composer, commissioned to write an opera about it all. But what he found in various dusty public records was sufficient to overturn what had been put out as the conventional wisdom in the wider world beyond Wyoming … and demonstrates very well what happens when an overwhelming interest in a particular subject takes hold of a person. Just so, the topic of the only woman ever lynched in Wyoming gripped Hufsmith, and he was determined to get to the bottom of it – or as close as one could, given the decades that had passed.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Film, History | 8 Comments »


    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 9th January 2013 (All posts by )

    And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family?
    Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?
    After all, you knew ahead of time that those bluecaps were out at night for no good purpose. And you could be sure ahead of time that you’d be cracking the skull of a cutthroat. Or what about the Black Maria [Government limo] sitting out there on the street with one lonely chauffeur — what if it had been driven off or its tires spiked.
    The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!

    Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The GULAG Archipelago

    Posted in RKBA, USA | 60 Comments »

    The Bitter Wastes of Politicized America

    Posted by David Foster on 9th January 2013 (All posts by )

    The expansion of government replaces competition with coercion.  Free people lack coercive power, so they must compete with each other for business opportunities.  Customers must be persuaded.  Employees must be attracted.  It’s messy sometimes, and the process must be policed for theft and fraud, but it’s generally constructive.

    Government power replaces all that with a simple, brutal, zero-sum equation: what you are given must be taken from someone else.  The regulatory process is corrupted by both ideology and special interests.  Even when it avoids outright corruption, the process is expensive, because it’s not constructive the way private competition is.  Wealth and value are lost through forced redistribution.  It’s a smaller, poorer world, in which political influence becomes valuable currency.  Your fellow citizens are not your competitors – they are your enemies.  They become selfish plutocrats or lazy parasites.   Their defeat becomes an occasion for riotous celebration.

    And effective political power requires solidarity – sizable groups of voters acting in concert, to press their common interests upon the State, whose officials in turn benefit from packaged electoral support.  The best way to hold a large group of people together is to make them feel as if everyone else is out to get them.  The most effective political adhesives are distilled from hatred and distrust.  People who disagree with your agenda are “attacking” you or “robbing” you.  How commonly do you hear dissent described in precisely those terms nowadays?

    When the government controls everything, there is no constructive relief valve for all this pent-up tension.  It all boils down to a “historic” election once every couple of years, upon whose outcome everything depends.  They’re all going to be “historic” elections from now on.  That’s not a good thing.

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Civil Society, Political Philosophy, USA | 2 Comments »

    America 3.0, The Future of Manufacturing and Employment

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 8th January 2013 (All posts by )

    In our upcoming book, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century – Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come (available for pre-order here), Jim Bennett and Mike Lotus paint a word-picture of America in 2040, which is less a prediction and more an exercise in hopeful and forward-looking thinking for conservatives and libertarians. We include predictions regarding the impact of distributed manufacturing.

    The recent article in Wired by Kevin Kelly entitled Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs makes similar points. Here are two good quotes from Kelly:

    Right now we think of manufacturing as happening in China. But as manufacturing costs sink because of robots, the costs of transportation become a far greater factor than the cost of production. Nearby will be cheap. So we’ll get this network of locally franchised factories, where most things will be made within 5 miles of where they are needed.
    It is a safe bet that the highest-earning professions in the year 2050 will depend on automations and machines that have not been invented yet. That is, we can’t see these jobs from here, because we can’t yet see the machines and technologies that will make them possible. Robots create jobs that we did not even know we wanted done.

    It is important to remember that technological change destroys categories of jobs, and creates new ones that literally cannot be imagined yet.

    We are going to be facing a tidal wave of creative destruction in the years immediately ahead.

    Our book offers some ideas about why we are well suited to benefit from these changes, and how to navigate the rapids to get from here to there.

    Stand by for very interesting times.

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Conservatism, Libertarianism, Politics, Predictions, USA | 17 Comments »

    He’s Just Not That Into You!

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Or as Glenn Reynolds might say, another rube self-identifies.

    Some people catch on slower than others. In this case one of our foremost legal minds has just figured out that, by golly, maybe Barack Obama isn’t quite the great friend of the Jewish people his Jewish supporters insisted he was.

    Oh, well.

    But let’s not be too hard on Dersh. Anyone can make a mistake. And it’s not like Obama’s animus towards Israel was obvious or anything.

    Posted in Israel, Jewish Leftism, Obama | 8 Comments »